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If you advise employers about employee benefits, employee assistance programs and work-life services can add value to your service offerings and expand your commissions.

Choosing the right program can produce measurable results for your clients, further strengthening your relationships and differentiating your services from those of your competitors.

EAP and work-life services are becoming increasingly popular not as perks but as means for employers to control costs and fight serious workplace problems, such as:

Employee depression. A leading cause of lost productivity at work, depression costs employers $44 billion annually in lost time and medical treatment.

Lost productivity due to work-life issues. Those who care for both children and elders take off an average of 18.9 vacation and sick days per year to deal with personal and caretaking issues, according to a ComPsych survey.

Employee stress. Stress accounted for 8% of employers health care costsmore than smoking, obesity or being physically unfitaccording to a study by the Health Enhancement Research Organization.

These factors may have an even bigger effect on small companies than on big companies. Businesses with as few as 20 employees would likely have 4 people who develop depression or other mental health issues in a given year, according to a 2002 report from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Employers of all sizes are increasingly realizing the importance of using EAPs and work-life programs to address problems early, before they impact an employees effectiveness and increase health care costs.

Here are 7 ways you can be successful by using EAP/work-life services to your advantage, even if clients already offer some work-life benefits.

1. Break through to a new prospect.

EAP/work-life services can be a door opener, presenting an opportunity to bring something positive to new prospects and giving you something to talk about that your competition isnt.

2. Secure existing client relationships.

You can bring added value to current client relationships by discussing EAP and work-life services as a positive add-on benefit for their employees. These programs can help your clients get more out of their employees and also can be a solution to “people problems,” reducing the employers liability for potentially dangerous situations such as workplace violence or suspicion of substance abuse.

3. Use EAP/work-life benefits to offset employees increasing share of health coverage costs.

Most health benefit plans have experienced 12% to 15% inflation in the past year, if not more. To counter that trend, employers are reducing benefits, increasing employees premium contributions and requiring employees to pay higher out-of-pocket amounts.

By offering employer-paid EAP/work-life benefits, your client can show employees the organization is trying to keep up the total value of their benefits packages in the face of rising medical plan costs.

4. Encourage clients to shop around.

Consultants often place the EAP program with the health plan carrier “because its easier.” In some cases, the carrier might have a good, reasonably priced EAP. But, even if that turns out to be the case, comparing the health plan EAP with plans from outside vendors can demonstrate your objectivity and can make sure that your clients are getting quality, cost-effective benefits.

5. Propose integrating your clients EAP, work-life and managed mental health benefits.

When EAP/work-life programs are integrated with managed mental health, the EAP and work-life programs serve as “gatekeepers,” managing minor employee issues before they escalate into costlier mental health claims, but ensuring that employees who need professional help get it.

An effective EAP/work-life program can cut mental health care costs by about 30% and overall health plan costs by about 2%.

6. Upgrade clients who have underused EAP or work-life programs.

Many employers are paying for EAPs that arent well communicated or well used. Where applicable, you can offer to assess their current program utilization and compare it to industry benchmarks. If utilization is below 5% to 7%, you have an opportunity to advise clients about ways to improve their programs, including partnering with a vendor that actively promotes the services to the employees.

7. Propose a cost-saving solution to clients.

In your mid-year review of your clients plan costs, be sure to highlight the savings that setting up an effective, integrated behavioral benefits plan can generate. These savings can affect the cost of disability insurance, health coverage, workers compensation insurance and employee turnover.

is vice president of strategic relationships at ComPsych Corp., Chicago, a provider of employee assistance programs, behavioral health programs, and crisis intervention and work-life services. Rockett can be reached at info@compsych.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, August 5, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.