Four Solutions to Support Employees’ Mental Health During COVID-19

This article is third in our series examining how the self-insured industry can respond to the long-term effects of COVID-19 on member health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every part of our daily lives, including physical, financial and emotional health. As the pandemic continues to worsen, we are gaining greater visibility into emerging mental health issues among the U.S. population. Consider these recent statistics:

  • According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) health tracking poll in July, 53 percent of U.S. adults say COVID-related stress has negatively affected their mental health – up from 39 percent in May.
  • Census Bureau surveys have found up to 40 percent of U.S. adults struggling with anxiety, depressive disorder or substance abuse since the pandemic hit.
  • More than half of behavioral health organizations are seeing higher demand for services, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health – but capacity is diminishing.
  • In addition, KFF found most U.S. adults think the worst of the pandemic is yet to come.

Mental health claims within our ecosystem are significantly on the rise, and clients are reporting increased concern about pandemic-related effects on their employees – adding new life to discussion about modifying care delivery models. The healthcare industry is acknowledging the significant correlations between physical and mental health, traditionally cared for as separate conditions. Integrated care solutions that treat the whole person could deliver improved outcomes with less expense.

To that end, in the face of continuing upheaval and stress from COVID-19, what resources can self-insured employers offer to support their employees? Here are four solutions to consider:

1: Use data to identify members at risk.

Employers are increasingly turning to data to identify employees at risk and proactively offering them the resources they need. Today’s technologies are providing new insights by leveraging real world data (RWD), which refers to health-related information collected and reported by diverse sources on patient health status, population trends and the routine delivery of care.

Within an ecosystem like ours, RWD come from multiple sources including electronic medical and health records, claims and case management databases – even from employees themselves. We anticipate self-assessments, social media and health-related wearables as emerging data sources that will soon be added into the mix to more precisely predict those in need of behavioral health services.

2: Offer a care management program with personalized support and navigation.

Poor mental health and behavioral choices make physical health and chronic care conditions more challenging and expensive to manage. To meet the patient’s physical and mental health needs, comprehensive care management involves the active monitoring of behavioral health to help prevent serious health events and navigate care across multiple providers and settings.

A full-service care management program with a nurse navigator as a central point of contact can personalize its services for employees who may benefit from more comprehensive attention. As they coordinate care and guide patients to an individualized treatment plan for better behavioral health, nurse case managers can help relieve anxiety and make at-risk patients feel more in control and proactively managing their health.

3: Ensure networks provide access to mental health services with telehealth options.

Demand for behavioral health services is expected to stay high for the foreseeable future. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), however, many people do not have the same access to mental health specialists as they do for other medical providers – nor do they have as many available options. When they can find a mental health professional, they may be forced to go out of network to receive treatment.

This leads to higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care compared with other types of primary or specialty care. When people face increased expenses, it may lead to seeking less care — or going without any care at all. Access to mental health services, clearly communicated to employees, is key to seeking and receiving treatment, which in turn improves productivity and retention.

A coordinated care team is better able to meet both the mental and physical health needs of the patient with improved outcomes.  Along those lines, the American Medical Association has established the Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) Collaborative with seven other physician associations to promote the integration of behavioral and mental health care into primary care practices. Such steps are critical for greater access and a robust telemedicine plan that addresses the issue of fewer available mental health providers by incorporating primary care into the solution.

4: Include an Employee Assistance Program in your benefits package.

People are struggling more than ever in the wake of COVID-19. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides confidential support for numerous concerns, including mental health issues and personal, family or work problems. Counselors and other specialists can assist with stress, depression, substance abuse or financial issues. Identify an EAP that responds quickly when employees reach out.

The benefits of an EAP make such a program a worthy investment. NAMI estimates that untreated mental illness costs the United States up to $193 billion annually in lost productivity.

When employees are able to successfully manage their health, employers can expect to see improved job performance, productivity, engagement and retention; while minimizing the impact to their bottom line due to turnover, absenteeism, increased mental health services and higher insurance costs.

Data-driven solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to find new solutions for improved health and access to the right care delivery. Through the mental, physical and financial implications of this global health crisis, Valenz remains committed to delivering on our core promise of smarter, better, faster healthcare – so our clients and their employees are strong, vigorous and healthy.

 

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Amy Gasbarro is Chief Operating Officer of Vālenz™, one of the nation’s leading data-driven, medical cost containment and care management organizations offering an ecosystem of expanded data and service solutions to support the self-insured industry.

Portrait of Randy Dorshorst, Vice President, Ecosystem Success at Vālenz Portrait of Patty Onion, Vice President, Claims Operations at Vālenz

Vālenz Appoints Dorshorst, Onion to Leadership Team

New Vice Presidents Poised to Enhance Data-Driven Solutions, Cost Savings and Operational Excellence

PHOENIX, Ariz. (December 4, 2020) — Vālenz™ is pleased to announce the appointments of Randy Dorshorst and Patty Onion to the leadership team.

Dorshorst has joined Valenz as Vice President, Ecosystem Success, to advance the innovation behind the company’s health administrative ecosystem, combining data analytics with care service delivery to minimize claims costs for the self-insured industry and promote quality care.

“We are thrilled to welcome Randy to our senior team to oversee the continuing success of our product, data and client program solutions,” said Rob Gelb, Chief Executive Officer. “Randy offers 30 years of expertise in driving growth, technology and value through custom solutions, which makes him an outstanding fit to lead Valenz in the purposeful expansion of our ecosystem.”

Most recently, Dorshorst served as Vice President for AViDEL Medical Management in Irving, Texas. With his comprehensive leadership and management skills, he directed the successful launch of AViDEL as a sister company to Service Lloyds Insurance Company, where he was Vice President for Medical Management Service. Dorshorst also has held executive positions at HealthSmart Casualty Claims Solutions, Web TPA and CorVel Corporation.

Onion, who has more than 30 years’ experience in workers’ compensation, medical cost containment and managed care, joins Valenz as Vice President, Claim Operations.

“Patty’s proven success in setting strategic direction and implementing managed-care platforms and services makes her uniquely well-positioned for this role,” said Amy Gasbarro, Chief Operating Officer of Valenz. “She brings tremendous expertise in claim operations and process improvements that will help us go even farther to drive results for our clients and offer the highest possible level of service.”

Onion most recently served as principal for Milana Health Systems in Kansas City, Mo., specializing in workers’ compensation managed-care consulting. She was CEO of Berkley Medical Management Solutions and has held executive roles with numerous health-related companies including Coventry Health Care, Premera Blue Cross and Mercy Health Plan.

“I have been fortunate to know Patty and Randy for years, and most recently we have benefited from their guidance and counsel as consultants to Valenz,” Gelb said. “Today, I couldn’t be happier to have them on board full time, as they both bring outstanding leadership and deep expertise that will empower us to further deliver on our promise of smarter, better, faster healthcare.”

 

About Valenz

Through a complete health administrative ecosystem, Valenz connects cost and quality data on a single-source, end-to-end analytics platform for smarter, better, faster healthcare. Valenz solutions integrate data from comprehensive care management services (Valenz Care), high-value provider networks (Valenz Access), claim flow management (Valenz Claim), and solutions for payment integrity, revenue cycle management and eligibility compliance (Valenz Assurance) into the ecosystem. More information is available at valenzhealth.com. Valenz is backed by Great Point Partners.

 

About Great Point Partners

Great Point Partners (“GPP”), founded in 2003 and based in Greenwich, CT, is a leading healthcare investment firm, currently with approximately $1.8 billion of equity capital under management and 28 professionals, investing in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Learn more at www.gppfunds.com.

Searching State Exclusion Lists: Why It Matters for Assured Compliance

If your profession involves compliance management, you know the Office of Inspector General’s List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (OIG LEIE) is the federal database for all Medicaid sanctions – and no doubt your team checks it regularly for sanctioned providers. However, many investigations are conducted by state Medicaid offices and do not always include federal participation. Is your compliance team checking for sanctions and exclusions at the state level as well? If not, they should be.

In fact, OIG Best Practices state that you should also search every state sanction and exclusion list that corresponds with your business or service delivery location(s) – meaning, all states where you operate or have a physical business presence. Some organizations are required to check all 41 state Medicaid sanction lists, but if yours is not one of them, our compliance experts recommend at least checking border states and any other state where the providers in your network or health system have practiced in the past.

Why? Because state actions may appear before federal listings, and in some cases, the states and federal databases do not fully synchronize their entries. But, to be clear, if a person or organization you do business with is excluded by your state, you will face the full threat of repercussions, for hiring and reimbursing them, even if they do not appear on the federal exclusion list.

What do those repercussions look like? In addition to the loss of your reimbursement funds plus interest, civil monetary penalties may apply – not to mention reputational damage and potential legal liability. When it comes to non-compliance, the risks and penalties can be great, so the time and costs associated with checking every applicable sanctions and exclusion list, including state lists, is well worth it.

Also worth noting: To screen thoroughly, you must search lists from state licensing and medical boards, as well as state and county disciplinary action lists and abuse registries (including state/local consumer affairs, addiction recovery lists and more). Checking all lists, not just the major ones, helps ensure compliance by alerting you to providers who may have had fines imposed or faced certain allegations but have not formally been sanctioned.

If you don’t have the internal manpower to ensure no stone is left unturned, good news: Affordable outsourcing options are available. At Vālenz Assurance, we offer a range of compliance software and support solutions to meet your needs and budget. To learn more about how we take the complexity out of compliance, call 888-395-9029.

Building an Effective Compliance Management Program: What You Need to Know

To help prevent fraud and abuse – and all the punitive setbacks that come with broken health care laws and unmet regulations – having a robust compliance program is key. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to compliance management, however, and it is most effective to tailor your program to your organization’s structure and type. The following FAQs are designed to help you understand the basics and formulate next steps for your compliance program.

What is a compliance program, and why do I need one?

A compliance program is a set of internal policies and procedures that helps your organization comply with the law in its daily operations. A proactive plan helps you maintain compliance with today’s regulations, as well as providing a framework for implementing future requirements.

What are the basic components every compliance program should include?

Effective compliance programs include these essential components:

  • Written policies and procedures
  • Effective training and communication
  • Internal monitoring and auditing
  • Enforcement and discipline
  • Prompt action/response times for issues detected

Why should I customize my organization’s compliance program?

Every organization is structured differently, has unique staffing and contracting programs, provides a different mix of services, and has a specific profile of patient demographics and payer mix. While the basic essentials apply to any compliance program, the specifics will vary based on your organization’s unique operations, structure, and areas of risk.

What resources are available to help me customize my compliance program?

To help you develop a compliance program that is most impactful for your organization, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has developed a set of principles, called Compliance Program Guidance (CPG). These guidance documents are geared toward different segments of the healthcare industry, including:

  • Hospitals, Nursing Facilities, Physician Practices, Home Health Agencies, Hospices
  • Medicare+Choice Organizations
  • Third-Party Medical Billing Companies
  • Public Health Services (grants)
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturers
  • Clinical Laboratories
  • Ambulance Suppliers
  • Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supply Industry

Use the CPGs as a starting point, and then tailor them for your organization. The OIG provides many additional compliance resources to encourage effective internal controls to monitor and manage adherence to applicable statutes, regulations, and program requirements.

Also, remember that a compliance program is never done – it evolves with your business and with changing regulations. It is forward-looking, and focused not only on risk containment, but also on best care and management practices.

This sounds like more than my small team can manage. Can I outsource my compliance program instead?

Yes! At Vālenz™, we offer a range of compliance software and support solutions to help assure you are not the “last to know” about a sanctioned provider or other compliance issue. With three tiers of service to accommodate any need and every budget, we take the complexity out of compliance and deliver peace of mind. To learn how we help you protect your organization from the risks of non-compliance, call 888-395-9029.