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Treat EAPs Like a Real Plan
Bret Brummitt9/29/22 3:00 AM6 min read

Treat EAPs Like a Real Plan

Treat an EAP Like a Real Plan

An EAP is an Employee Assistance Program. If your employees don’t know it exists or they think they aren’t enrolled, it won’t assist anyone. Treat an EAP like a real plan, so they can reap the benefits.

And, you may need to do some digging to see if you even have an EAP, as there are many programs out there sold as free add-ons or perks that accompany other benefits.

But, first, let’s talk about what an Employee Assistance Program can do.

An EAP is a mental health benefit you didn’t know you had

For two decades I’ve said the words “three face-to-face visits and unlimited telephonic counseling”.

And that is exactly the core of many Employee Assistance Programs. As a benefits consultant, I can open any number of product fliers and I’ll see that statement in any number of fliers labeled “Living Well”, “Life Balance”, or “Resources for Living.”   And they actually do provide these services, but they are overwhelmingly under-communicated and underutilized.

If you offer a Long Term Disability benefit to your employees, there is a chance you already have an EAP plan provided for all of your employees at no cost. Or, if you offer three or more products from one vendor that happens to sell insurance in the Life, Disability, or Accident flavors of benefits, they often automatically throw in an Employee Assistance Program for free. And in some cases, we see EAP programs attached to a medical insurance plan.

Here at Generous Benefits, we actually have two EAP programs.  One is provided through our Health Insurance vendor and one is provided by our disability vendor.  For us, we can double dip and get six in-person counseling sessions for free! And just to lead by example, I’m on session four myself as I’ve transitioned from our health vendor’s EAP benefits and am now using our disability’s three sessions….all while retaining the exact same counselor.

Encourage your employees to use it like their free annual checkup

Benefits and Human Resource professionals often tout the free preventive health exam provided by a health plan annually. And our team regularly encourages all of our plan members to use this free yearly visit to make sure you have an established Primary Care Physician in order to remove a barrier to care when you are actually ill or injured. It is hard to have a meaningful new patient appointment with a primary care provider if their first encounter with you is a sick visit. Just remove the barrier so you don’t have to delay care.

The exact same thing is true for a mental health visit with your EAP benefits.

Use your free visits to become an established patient with a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

Heck, use all three free visits to get the feel of three different providers.  And then pick the one you are most comfortable with sharing your deep dark secrets.

Why?  Well, if you ever thought it was hard to get scheduled with a Primary Care Physician when you were ill, you should see the waiting times for a counselor or psychologist. Especially for pediatric providers. We’ve personally called 30 practices in one day to help members get scheduled for care, and we regularly hear that practices have over an eight-week wait for new patients. They currently aren’t taking new patients or they’ve stopped accepting insurance and only accept cash. And even then, they still have a multiple week wait for new patients.

None of those options is a good outcome if you have an urgent need for yourself or a family member.  You must establish a patient relationship in advance.

Oh, and one trick to help reduce that wait time: Have your Primary Care Physician call the mental health provider’s office on your behalf. Often this can assist with moving that timeline forward. But, you have to have an established Primary Care Physician.

Don’t overlook the financial counseling and debt resources

As an employer, you know you are going to lose productive work time when your employees are dealing with major life transitions or stress.

Employees going through a divorce or major relationship change, employees with aging parents that need living assistance, and employees who get into financial issues are all in a precarious situation that requires time and effort to resolve. Also, many of them face the stress of feeling as if there is a negative stigma attached to these normal life experiences.  Thus, they will often hide or disappear from the sight of co-workers to handle any of these inconveniences that occur during work hours.

But, whatever big life event is occurring for your employees, educating them about the financial resources available through the EAP offers a way to normalize the bumps and pitfalls that accompany big life changes.  The more you can use a story and talk about a scenario where reaching out to the EAP would be of potential help, the more your employees will consider utilizing the benefit for this and other aspects of the program.

Oh, and most programs have support for preparing a Will and Advance Directives

This is a process that the majority of working-age adults avoid addressing. As a matter of fact, if you have workers under the age of 50, less than 40% have a will according to a 2020 Gallup Poll.

This is a huge opportunity to make that one big impact on the family beyond just your employee. We all know someone that had an unfortunate event and left behind loved ones too soon. With a free will preparation service, the EAP has removed that financial barrier.  You may even want to take it one step further and offer a half-day of PTO for anyone who utilizes the service and produces a will.  One easy way to incentivize usage.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the impact of an Advance Directive. These documents allow your employee and their spouses to help ease the burden and guesswork surrounding the difficult decisions that occur when family and extended family or friends start to express concerns about treatments taken or not explored during the end-of-life stages. And sadly, the treatments Americans would choose near the end of life are often different from the treatments they receive.  According to the NIH, which even found that if the treatment or outcome of treatment created a significant burden on their caregivers that upwards of 70% of patients would opt to avoid life-saving treatments. Yet, less than one-third of Americans have an advance directive or living will to express their desires when they are no longer able to speak for themselves.  And yet, you likely have a free service you already offer that isn’t utilized.

Treat an EAP like a real plan

So, when you are rolling out your benefits for the year, treat your EAP like a real plan.  Explain the benefits and how to navigate them.  This will allow your employees to fully recognize the benefits and maybe just make their life a little better.


Bret Brummitt

In 2019, Bret launched Generous Benefits, leveraging 20 years of experience in Employee Benefits. His mission is to transform communities through innovative benefits solutions. Bret envisions benefits beyond traditional offerings, aiming for a lasting impact by stretching, tailoring, and curating packages. He coaches insurance agencies with Q4intelligence, actively participating in communities like Health Rosetta and the Free Market Medical Association. Based in Austin, he balances his professional pursuits with running alongside Gilbert's Gazelles and playing baseball with the Austin Blue Jays.

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