Thursday, December 30, 2010

EAPs Can Help Alcoholic Employees on Disability and Others

If you work for a company of any appreciable size, there is probably a disability insurance policy in case employees get sick or injured to the extent they can’t work for an extended period of time. Some organizations are progressive with their disability insurance, while some still live in the dark ages. 

The most progressive insurance plans cover physical injuries and illness, emotional disabilities, and yes, acute chronic alcoholism. The state of South Carolina, for example, covers alcoholism or any condition caused by alcoholism or alcohol abuse for a maximum of 24 months. 

By the way, did you know that prior to the ADA, the federal government recognized acute alcoholism as a disease without restrictions on alcoholism, but after the ADA and its language covering alcoholism, many changes were made that were actually detrimental to the acceptance of alcoholism as a disease? 

Go to the American Society of Addiction Medication,, website and read the policy statement and response to the language of the ADA and how adamantly opposed this organization is to the EEOC interpretation of the law, which increased discrimination against alcoholism in its belief. 

The ADA did not help alcoholics, they claim. It made discrimination worse in many ways. You will stunned at the insight afforded by this statement.  

For example, did you know that the Federal government, Office of Personnel Management issued regulations that "required" use of the EAP for employees suspected of having alcohol problems prior to the institution of any disciplinary action. If the EAP was not used, the disciplinary action would be considered illegal and void. That changed after the ADA.

Sorry for the digression --- Many physically ill patients retire on disability with acute illnesses associated with acute chronic alcoholism. The smartest organizations with disability insurance that cover alcoholism and mental disorders seek to aggressively document that the patient is participating in required treatment to arrest the illness and manage it successfully. You EAP can play this role and possibly save the employer a fortune. You'll have to feel your way into the benefits policies and administration to see if there is a role for you to play in this regard, but it can boost utilization and make your program more valuable. 

The EAP can play a key role in helping these employees who get sick or are injured, and qualify for disability insurance. Only an EA professional is proactive enough to assist employees in dealing with the psychosocial aspects of illness or injury effectively. This could conceivably assist these employees in getting back to work or in having meaningful lives. If you make headway in this area, let me know! I will make a post about it and it could encourage other EAPs to do the same and be more valuable.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I was afraid this would happen.

Depressed employees drive up costs for EAPs. Huh? An official document issued by the American Psychiatric Association states that depression in the workplace takes a financial toll on the work organization. Specifically, "in addition to claims for behavioral health care, costs due to behavioral health problems significantly impact other costs such as productivity, employee assistance programs (EAPs), disability, general medical, and other pharmaceutical claims. While most employers have developed strategies to reduce behavioral health costs, few employers make use of strategies to manage behavioral health treatment quality.

In other words, the EAP is a cost-center and behavioral health problems burden it. This statement is tantamount to saying the fires drive up the costs of fire departments, so we should find a way to put out fires better to save the costs to fire departments.

Let's be more illustrative. If you view an EAP as simply an employee benefit like a gym membership, this statement is completely consistent with how EAPs are more and more being viewed by the business world thanks to a continuing stream of published literature that has redefined them from their original intent. No longer, it appears, are EAPs viewed as management tools to address behavioral risk issues and improve productivity via supervisory and self-referral.

This view of EAPs should change or a different model for the delivery of the Core Technology (which ain't going away) should be created, and then THAT--whatever it is called--should be sold to rescue workers and management and employers from the burden costs associated with troubled employees.

The Report, from the 4th Quarter document "Mental at Work" published by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health has, in my opinion, a worrisome view in its context of what the benefits industry sees as an EAP. Tell me I am wrong, and I will love you forever.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Value Proposition or Value of Customer Expectations?

There is a lot of talk these days in marketing circles about clarifying the "value proposition" of what we sell. Simply put, this means selling the message of what we believe the value of our wares to be. We want the customer to listen. And if they 'finally' hear what we are saying, they will wake up and sign on to an EAP.

But wait. 80% at least of America's employers have EAPs the research says. So where is the market we are trying to coax into the value proposition?

EAPs have long sought to sell the "value proposition". But there is another side of the coin. The customer's needs. Managed care won this sale. To be more specific, the other side of the coin is selling to the value of the customer's expectations, and not the value proposition we possess necessarily. Mark Hunter, a marketing guru talks about this in an article entitled "Value of Customers Expectations" that he sent me.

If you are still with me on this post, let me ask, should EAPs be doing this more? If so would this cause us to shift our focus to different customers who are not using EAPs now? I think yes.

And these customers happen to be in the property casualty insurance industry spectrum. These big boys don't know about EAPs. But my belief is that they could use whatever they could possibly squeeze out of an EAP that would help them reduce risk and exposures associated with the things they insure against. This is not health insurance. It's everything else -- from employment practices liability lawsuits, suits for wrongful termination, discrimination, workers comp, property damage, the works. Imagine full-bore EAPs reducing these payouts. Hey, the average wrongful termination lawsuit is $150K out of court. It's over $500K in court and companies lose 70% of the time. Imagine an employee who didn't sue the company because his behavior or that of the supervisor was mitigated by EAP involvement. That's sounds like the beginnings of a new profession to me.

Mark Hunter is a sales pro. He speaks to thousands of sales people per year. Here's what he says, "We've all heard the rule of listening to what the customer has to say, and there's not a salesperson who thinks they don't listen to the customer.  Reality, however, is quite the opposite.  I find time after time when I'm working with salespeople across any number of industries that the failure to listen is a huge issue."

Hunter adds, "Too many salespeople believe because they know the products they represent much better than the client, they know exactly what the customer will see as real value.  Yes, you as the agent are going to have a general indication of what a typical customer wants. However, when it comes to interacting with a specific customer, you can't rely on a "general indication" of value."

Here's the thing. Businesses wanted lower costs on health insurance. Managed care sold them their solution. EAPs, unfortunately, got in the way without the ability to collectively say "halt".

And, EAPs still aren't doing much to collectively and "officially" point out diminished models of quasi-EAP products that insist on the full title to the word "EAP". I don't see this changing in the new EAP Strategic Plan. I may have read it wrong. If so, I will post my correction if someone lets me know.

Unless this becomes a targeted goal--rejecting products that do not adhere to the spirit and intent of the core technology, along with an ongoing survey and confrontation of freelance writers posting misguided articles about EAPs in over 30 HR and Benefits periodicals, I believe problems will continue. That translates to more suppression of life-saving, risk reducing, fully functioning, loss preventing EAPs in the world of work.
I referenced Mark Hunter above. You learn more about him here: "The Sales Hunter," is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit You can also follow him on (TheSalesHunter), on (Mark Hunter), and on his Facebook Fan Page,