That Free EAP May Be Very Costly

Every year employers review available options for employee benefits trying to find the best programs within their budgets.  Brokers can be an invaluable asset in that they research plans, negotiate with insurers and bundle packages that meet the employers need for a respectable offering at a relatively realistic price.  While brokers are well-educated on the features of medical, dental, disability, and worker’s compensation insurance, they may be less informed about employee assistance programs. 

Compared to other benefits, an EAP is inexpensive.  So, brokers may add a free EAP to the benefit bundle as a bonus to the purchasing employer.  Similarly, some insurers will combine an EAP with their medical, dental, disability or worker’s compensation plans as an incentive to buy.  Purchase one of the major plans and get the EAP included. The employer is pleased because now there is no need to look for an EAP or pay for an additional program.  Good deal?  Maybe not…  Place yourself in the following true scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Suicidal Employee

You are the human resources representative for a manufacturing plant located in a rural community.  A supervisor has walked a 30-something male employee into your office stating, “He has been talking suicide all morning.”  The supervisor returns to the production line and you are left with the employee who is undeniably despondent.  The

employee says his wife left him and has taken the kids.  He has nothing to live for.  The employee tells you further that he has a loaded gun at home and he is going to shoot himself.  You convince the employee to wait in the office with you while you contact help.

Your company recently negotiated an employee benefits package with an insurance broker that includes a free employee assistance program.  Relieved that you have someone to call, you urgently dial the EAP.  You explain the situation and are stunned to learn that your EAP covers only issues related to worker’s compensation cases and is unable to assist.  What do you do now?

Scenario 2 – Fatal Accident 

A long-term and beloved employee of a family business is killed in a car accident.  Employees are shocked and grief-stricken.  As general manager, you contact the EAP bundled into the company’s benefit package to request a grief counselor come onsite to support employees.  You learn that the EAP is located several states away and does not have trauma/grief counselors readily available in your area.  It may take them 3 to 5 days to arrange for a counselor to come onsite.  The hourly rate you are quoted is exorbitant. You must find affordable help for your employees right now.  What do you do?

 New Avenues Steps In

In both cases, the employers contacted New Avenues.  In Scenario 1, New Avenues had a mental health counselor on the telephone within minutes advising the human resources representative, speaking with the suicidal individual and arranging for him to be evaluated at the nearest hospital.  

In Scenario 2, New Avenues had a trauma counselor at the worksite within 2 hours.  New Avenues’ fees in both scenarios were reasonable but higher than the employers would have paid had they utilized these services as part of a contracted EAP package.  Consider the costs, financial and otherwise, had the employers not contacted New Avenues.   What would you have done?

An EAP is an EAP – Or Not

How is it that the employer in Scenario 1 had an EAP restricted to worker’s compensation claims?  And why was the EAP in Scenario 2 unprepared for what is commonly referred to in the EAP world as a “critical Incident?”   The short answer is that all EAPs are not equal.  Employers, benefits managers and insurance brokers sometimes assume that all employee assistance programs provide the same services and have the same resources.  So, the focus becomes solely on price. It isn’t until there is a serious problem and the EAP fails to meet expectations that significant differences are exposed.    

 Calculating the Risk

If you are very fortunate, that free or low cost EAP may be all you need.  But should you experience a sudden and unexpected situation like our scenarios or should sticky employee relations issues develop, these will undoubtedly cost dearly in the long term.  Wouldn’t it make sense to invest in a comprehensive EAP that could be integrated into your workplace to help you deal with behavioral health challenges as they arise?

 Learn More

To learn more about the inherent value of an EAP and the corresponding return on investment, contact: New Avenues at 1-800-731-6501 or 574-232-2131.

New Avenues, Inc. is a leading provider of behavioral health management and employee assistance programs. Headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, New Avenues has been serving client companies throughout the United States for nearly 40 years.