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Wellness benefits can ease comp claims


Companies with robust benefits plans that include such perks as employee assistance and leave programs have a better handle on the risk of complicated workers compensation claims that include stress and anxiety, according to disability experts.

“These are absolutely connected,” said Bryon Bass, San Francisco-based senior vice president at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., of the link between benefits programs that focus on worker wellbeing and good outcomes in workers comp at session Monday at Riskworld, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Atlanta.

Co-presenter Kimberly George, Chicago-based global head of product development and innovation at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., listed several factors she called “stress and anxiety influencers” that impede recovery for injured workers: pain, financial problems, the stigma of being injured, family issues, fear and life change.

“If you don't acknowledge what is going on with that individual, then you're not able to understand the barriers to recovery, and you may not be able to help that injured worker,” she said.

The solutions often can be found in group health benefits, said Mr. Bass, who encouraged attendees to provide more information to claimants on what is provided by employers under other programs that are often underutilized.

As many as 98% of employers offer employee assistance programs, but only a small amount of employees — 2% in some cases — take advantage of them, Ms. George said.

Some EAPs are designed around reintroducing into the workforce an employee who has been out for a long illness — a collaboration that can work seamlessly with workers comp, Mr. Bass said. 

“They actually engage the EAP in the process, and the EAP engages with the team to begin to work on a way to show acceptance of that individual coming back into the work environment,” he said.

“They can collaborate to ensure that that person has the support that they need to return to work. We wouldn't typically think about using EAP for those types of resources.”