Employers might be in a better position to add behavioral health to disability and absence management programs if they knew what was going to happen with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Analysts at the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), San Diego, talk about the effects of PPACA jitters on behavioral disability risk management programs in a summary of results from a behavioral risk survey.
The analysts conducted the survey by using the Internet to send questionnaires to 1,063 members of DMEC and four other benefits groups.
PPACA, of course, is at the Supreme Court. If the law survives the current court challenges, as a whole or in part, it could face more challenges during the fall general elections and in the courts.
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Members of DMEC love the idea of taking steps to keep depression, alcoholism and other behavioral health problems from leading to absence and disability themselves, causing or aggravating disabling acute care health problems, or interfering with efforts to recover from acute care problems.
Behavioral health problems are the fifth leading cause of short-term disability and the third leading cause of long-term disability for U.S. employers, the DMEC analysts say in their report.
“Stress continues to be the name of the game in 2012,” the analysts say. “The economy is just beginning to improve, albeit slowly; therefore, employees’ concerns over job safety and financial security are only just starting to diminish.”
One participant reported seeing “an increased amount of stress among our employees…a leaner workforce combined with complex social factors.”
But uncertainty about the effects of PPACA may be adding to the list of factors keeping companies from expanding behavioral risk management efforts, the DMEC analysts say.
The federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) already requires employers that offer behavioral health benefits to use similar rules for the behavioral health benefits and general health benefits. But MHPAEA does not say anything about whether employers have to offer behavioral health benefits in the first place.