Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters...

“When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all”
So go the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel’s 1970 hit. And it’s probably fair to say that all of us have bad days, or weeks, or even months. But we don’t have to “go it alone.”
EAP’s (Employee Assistance Programs) have been around for years. But they’re kind of under the radar for most folks. They’re part of a group of insurance-related products that people tend to take for granted (like hearing tests, or wellness programs). And that’s a shame, because these programs can be a vital part of one’s well-being.
An EAP seeks to “assist employees and family members with substance abuse, mental health, family, and other problems that negatively affect their job performance.” They’re usually part of a group insurance plan that covers employees and their dependents. Most are embedded in the plan; that is, they’re automatically available to any covered family member. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a “nurse-line;” others include substance abuse regimens.
According to CorpCare (an EAP firm in Atlanta), about 1 in 5 of their cases involved marital or family problems [ed: gee, there’s a surprise!]. The most prevalent issue, though, is stress: ComPsych, an EAP based in Chicago, says that 40% of their stress cases cited workload, while another 34% had “people issues.” Once can imagine that there will be a spike in EAP claims based on the recent Katrina experience.
So, why don’t we hear more about EAP’s? Well, part of the reason is that most of the time, when looking at group medical plans, they take a backseat to the more commonly used benefits, such as doctor visits and prescriptions. But that’s changing, too: more companies are using EAP’s to help train their employees in more advanced “people skills:” conflict resolution, job performance reviews, and workplace behavior. With the rise of EPLI (Employee Practices Liability) claims, such as sexual harassment and the like, such issues become even more urgent.
Rest easy…
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