Last week, Manulife announced it’s increasing employee coverage for mental-health services to $10,000. The move followed a decision by Starbucks last year to boost mental-health coverage to $5,000.
With society putting a great focus on supporting people with mental-health issues, do the moves signal a trend towards greater employer coverage?
Prior to the change, Manlife covered up to $1,000 annually for several professional services provided by licensed practitioners. But under its redesigned plan, Manulife separated its mental-health coverage and allocated a larger amount for employees and their family members.
Manulife sought to remove the financial burden of seeking mental-health support from employees, according to Stephani Kingsmill, executive vice-president of human resources at Manulife. She says the company’s efforts are in part due to a benefits review that showed mental-health claims represent 35 per cent of its short-term disability and 44 per cent of long-term disability claims.
Last year, Starbucks Canada boosted mental-health benefits to $5,000 from $400 per year for employees who work 20 or more hours a week and their dependants.
Increasing coverage for mental-health services is a great strategy for employers that want to address disability costs, says Lizann Reitmeier, health practice leader at Conduent.
“We tend to look at the mental-health benefit as isolated from the disability benefit when really, this additional benefit can have an incredible impact on a long-term disability and short-term disability experience of a plan, resulting in long-term savings for an employer,” she says.
Increased coverage also encourages employees to seek treatment as many may refrain from doing so under their current plan because “they recognize that $500 won’t get them very far,” says Reitmeier.
So with two large employers increasing their coverage for mental-health services, do the moves suggest a general trend among employers or is $5,000 or $10,000 too expensive at a time of rising costs overall? Have your say in this week’s poll.
Last week’s poll asked whether the trend of improved solvency rates for pension plans will continue in 2017. Among respondents, 27 per cent said continued economic improvements should bode well for pension performance; 13 per cent aren’t as optimistic and think there’s a good chance the markets will start to fall soon; and 60 per cent said the situation is uncertain given the volatile environment and the coming inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president.