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EAP helps employees navigate health care


CIGNA Behavioral Health Inc.

11095 Viking Drive, Suite 350

Eden Prairie, Minn. 55344

952-996-2000; Fax: 952-996-2659

For the average employee, staying on top of health insurance changes, issues and trends can be confusing and stressful.

So says CIGNA Behavioral Health Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Dixon, whose company is six months into a major transformation that merged employee assistance program services, those that typically dealt with mental health and substance abuse, and CIGNA Corp.'s nursing hotlines, which deal with general health questions, to better serve clients.

"When we listen to our customers, we hear that their employees are often confused, scared of the health care system. If someone calls an EAP, we can't say, well, you called the wrong number," said Mr. Dixon. "We need to be able to help people with issues that are broader. We have said to ourselves, 'what are the boundaries between physical and mental health?' There are none."

The movement, Mr. Dixon said, has much to do with health care's shift towards consumerism: Giving employees the responsibility of steering themselves through the health care maze.

"Employees need guidance on going into the health care system and employers are increasingly interested in providing guidance," he said. "What employers are asking us to do is provide that guidance."

Operators of "nursing lines have said that 85% of people they were talking to had issues related to mental health: fears, stress, communication issues," he said. "You can only imagine the stress level when you are dealing with maternity issues, when a child is born with disabilities, for example."

Since the merger, telephone operators for both CIGNA Corp.'s nursing hotlines and CIGNA Behavioral Health's EAP have been engaged in re-training across medical disciplines.

As a result, employers are now beginning to brand their EAP offering as "People Help," and other catchier titles that make the EAP sound less like a port for mental health issues and more like a one-stop shop for overall health care concerns and questions, according to Mr. Dixon.

It's this sort of evolution that helps CIGNA Behavioral Health stand out, he said.

"Our EAP service is undergoing continuous evolution and we embrace continuous change," he said. "This is what works to make CIGNA a better company. We keep innovating."

CIGNA Behavioral Health was voted the best EAP provider in Business Insurance's 2007 Readers Choice Award poll for the third consecutive year.