How workplace health and benefits programs can support employees during a pandemic
By Jocelyn Sivalingam, M.D., F.A.C.P., Medical Director, Health Advocate
The current COVID-19 pandemics affects everyone. Employees may be unsure where to turn for credible sources of help for questions related to physical or mental health. There are a growing number of resources available to help people through this period, but it is important to consider how to make the most of existing programs.
As an employer, you should encourage employees to take advantage of their existing health and well-being benefits programs to help address concerns related to the ongoing pandemic. Here are just a few to keep in mind:
- Telehealth – While most people are encouraged or required to stay home right now, telehealth, nurse lines and other similar services provide a great resource to connect with medical professionals about questions or concerns without having to travel. Additionally, telehealth can help providers see appropriate patients in person or remotely, maintain stewardship of healthcare resources and keep patients safe. In addition to programs offered through third party services, many primary care and specialist providers in groups and clinics may offer virtual or online care options, so patients can have direct access from home.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – During this incredibly difficult and stressful time, the EAP is an invaluable resource to help address mental health concerns. In addition to counseling services, many EAPs provide online workshops, webinars and other tools specifically related to addressing the current situation. Many EAPs also offer telephonic or video options for counseling to provide employees with expert support for emotional well-being.
- Wellness Program – While isolated at home, staying active is critical. Many wellness programs offer online components, including workshops, videos and other ideas to facilitate fitness. If your organization’s wellness program includes wellness coaching, coaches can provide employees with tips to stay active at home as well as help them continue to reach their health and well-being goals during this uniquely challenging period.
- Mail Order Pharmacy – Just about anything can be delivered at the moment, including medications. Having access to an adequate supply of maintenance medication is recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and preparedness organizations. Employees can minimize trips, save money, and ease concerns by having prescription medications delivered directly.
It is also important for employees and their family members to understand how pandemic-related healthcare services are covered by their insurance during this time. While the situation continues to change, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures testing and the visit for diagnosis of COVID-19 will be covered at no cost to the patient (more information from the Kaiser Family Foundation is available here). Health insurance plans will cover treatment for those confirmed to have the virus, but cost-sharing may be required – it is important to check with individual insurers for additional details about their policies as the situation is evolving.
Health Advocate’s experienced team of doctors, nurses, counselors and other specialists continue to work hard to support our members through this difficult time. We can help you and your employees to cut through the overwhelming noise to guide to and provide trusted information when you need it most.