November 30, 2023
American employers are taking action to improve the health and wellness of their employees. That is among the findings of a forthcoming report that explores what employers are doing to address the mental health challenges that confront too many in America. In a forthcoming survey, 94% of large employers (500 or more employees) reported that they have strengthened their coverage for mental health care, increased support, or put in place new programs or systems to help in the last three years.
Mercer, a business consultancy with expertise in health benefit design, recently fielded the survey of American businesses to better understand how they’re thinking and acting on a host of health policy issues that affect their health and welfare benefit programs. More than 300 companies from across the country took part in the survey, answering questions related to mental health and substance abuse disorders, among other topics.
The findings are striking: the mental health of employees is a priority for the overwhelming majority of American businesses. Since the pandemic, demand for mental health services has dramatically increased, and the employer health system is responding.
One of the ways to break down barriers to mental health services is by facilitating access to treatment via telehealth, and 72% of large companies in the survey reported that they have added virtual behavioral healthcare networks or telehealth options for their workers. About two-thirds (68%) have added or enhanced supports like employee assistance programs, classes, or access to apps to help promote mental health, and 28% have expanded mental health coverage within their existing health plans. In addition, employers are also putting in place workforce training to support those with mental health needs and making changes in the office to promote mental wellness at work.
One of the strengths of the employer sponsored insurance (ESI) system is the ability to innovate offerings, adapt benefits, and respond to the evolving health needs of a workforce. ESI provides quality coverage for more than 160 million Americans and remains the backbone of the U.S. health system. Its flexibility and dynamic benefit design are part of why employees report sky-high satisfaction with the coverage they get at work.
The survey also asks businesses to identify obstacles to facilitating access to mental health services. We know that despite the commitment of employers to support the mental health of their workers, too many still find it difficult to access care. The top response in the survey, with 65% citing it as a challenge, is the issue of too few qualified mental health professionals practicing in America. While employers are taking steps to enhance access to these critical services, meeting the needs of communities will continue to be a challenge until we are able to develop a more robust workforce of mental health providers.
The survey offers an important window into how American employers are responding to America’s mental health challenges, and it provides important context for a debate taking place among policymakers. Employers are showing they are committed to the wellbeing of their workers and to being part of the mental health solution in America.
About the authors
Protecting Americans’ Coverage Together (PACT)
The Protecting Americans’ Coverage Together (PACT) is a coalition of leading business voices that are dedicated to strengthening the support of ESI for families that depend on this system for the physical and mental well-being. Its members include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, Council for Affordable Health Coverage, and Vermeer Corporation.