As group health plan sponsors, employers have a unique opportunity to help combat the opioid epidemic.
“Employers can educate and build support systems for employees, particularly those at-risk,” said Dr. Doug Nemecek, Cigna’s Chief Medical Officer. “This not only improves the health of employees, it strengthens the culture of health at the organization.”
What actions can employers take?
Be a resource for your employees: Employers can help shift the stigma on addiction by treating addiction like any medical condition, empower the use of alternative treatment options, share information on addiction resources, and support those individuals and families struggling through addiction by offering plan and community resources.
Establish benefit strategies with carriers: Employers are the decision makers when it comes to health plans for employees. Plans that will best help address addiction offer collaboration with providers and dentists; coordinated medical, behavioral, and pharmacy programs to better flag at-risk individuals; pain management programs, options and services; and pilot programs specific to chronic pain management and proactive outreach.
“Having the ability to truly integrate medical, behavioral, pharmacy, and even disability benefits really focuses on the whole-person approach,” said Dr. Nemecek. “These connection points are really important. When we can see how a person is navigating the health system, we can provide better treatment plans.”
When considering health plan options, employers should look for health incentive programs that offer rewards and incentives for managing chronic care through alternative treatments. They should also request designated substance use treatment providers and ensure behavioral health benefits are in parity with medical benefits. But critical to all of this is making sure employees know that these programs exist.
“Individuals need to know that they are not going through this alone and employers, who have frequent contact with employees, can provide resources and assistance,” said Terri Cox Glassen, Clinical Program Director at Cigna. “Publicize it, let your employees know that the help is there.”
For more on how Cigna is helping in the fight against addiction, watch replays of Cigna’s webinars:
Part 1 – Legislative and regulatory efforts to address a U.S. health crisis
Part 2 – Plan-level strategies and best practices of pharmacy and medical benefits
Part 3 – Utilizing medical and behavioral benefits to better serve employees at risk
Part 4 – Ideas to strengthen a culture of health with education and support