Magazine article Personnel

Companies Want to Know How to Buy Mental Health Care

Magazine article Personnel

Companies Want to Know How to Buy Mental Health Care

Article excerpt

Specialized managed care has become latest entry in the mental health care field as a way to control skyrocketing costs and to weed out below-par clinical practices.

The challenge for HR is to select the managed care vendor that provides services consistent with its particular strategy for human resources development.

This is not a task to be taken lightly. Mental health care has become an important and controversial component of benefits packages. There is a growing desire for services by the population at large. At the same time, there are increasingly more effective methods-through employee assistance programs (EAPs), for instance--of getting employees the help they need.

Including the cost of inpatient care, the result has been a rate of mental-healthcare inflation approaching 50 percent over the past three years.

Spiraling costs

For the average corporation in 1991, 4 percent to 6 percent of the employees and their dependents will seek or require mental health care. Including inpatient expenses, the cost will be more than $300 per employee for the year. That tallies up to more than 10 percent of a company's total healthcare costs.

While nearly all corporations believe a mentally healthy workforce is essential to remain competitive in a world market--and have EAPs to prove it--many have come to question whether the services need to cost so much.

It is in response to that question that the managed mental-health-care industry has emerged.

In 1991, about 130 managed care firms will offer services designed to manage the costs and maintain the quality of mental health care. Some have had dramatic success. As a result, many corporations have "carved out" standard mental-health benefits and replaced them with a managed care approach. Typically this has meant requiring pre-certification of inpatient services, limiting services to preferred provider networks and subjecting all care to concurrent review for quality and efficiency.

How to buy

In 1991, some form of management is essential if you have any concern for either cost or quality. The mental-health-care industry is so volatile that unmanaged services are likely to be deficient in both areas. The question then becomes what kind of management best fits the needs of your organization.

The needs of your organization depend on your overall human resources plan and the place of the mental-health-care benefit within it. This means looking at your workforce and past utilization patterns and determining what you want to support and encourage in the employee's use of the benefit. …

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