The Hazelden Foundation, a non-profit provider of substance abuse counseling services, said that more than half of this country’s 74 million workers with job-sponsored health insurance would prefer to ask about insurance coverage for treatment of a disease, rather than face retribution for merely asking what kind of coverage is available for treatment of problems with alcohol or other drugs.
Of those, 20 % believed they’d be penalized at work if they sought coverage for substance abuse treatment.
Older employees are less hesitant to seek coverage; only12% of those over 55 would be reluctant. This is in contrast to the 24% of those unwilling between the ages of 18-34, even though this group has the highest incidence of drug and alcohol use.
Economically, it makes sense for employers to encourage answers about substance abuse programs, the foundation said. Every $1 spent on addiction treatment can save an estimated $7 in health costs, according to Hazelden.
Also, compared to their non-abusing coworkers, employees with drug or alcohol problems are:
- Ten times more likely to miss work
- Three and-a-half times more likely to be involved in on-the-job accidents
- Five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim
- 35% less productive
The survey offered three solutions for employers to combat employees’ fear.
- During new employee orientation, clearly describe available insurance benefits for substance abuse services, and emphasize that employees’ rights to confidentiality are strictly enforced;
- Choose an appropriate time to annually reiterate to employees the company’s substance abuse insurance benefits;
- Human resource managers and employee assistance program staff should educate employees of how to use the company’s insurance system for substance abuse services.
The results are based on a telephone survey in September of 1,101 households carrying employer-sponsored health insurance.