Policy Impact Series Examines Mental Health Initiatives and Federal Health Care Reform

October 23, 2020

American Health Policy Institute Members and staff explored health care reform proposals, the ongoing mental health crisis, and the importance of employer engagement in improving employee mental health in light of the pandemic and oncoming election.  American Health Policy Institute Chair and Marriott CHRO David Rodriguez set the context, saying "early voting turnout suggests that voters are highly motivated amid the pandemic with concerns about health and health care policy."

“Employer engagement will be essential to help move the needle on these necessary systemic changes” said AHPI Executive Vice President Colleen McHugh in opening the mental health portion of the call.  Lines have been blurred between work and home life during the pandemic, she noted, and employees are increasingly looking to employers for help on issues that previously may have been avoided at work.  Engaging with the “whole person” at work will require new ways to support the well-being of employees.

Mental health practice initiatives help detect behavioral health issues early:  Darcy Gruttadaro, Director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health at the American Psychiatric Foundation, and Dr. Charles Lattarulo, Global Director of Healthy Minds at American Express, outlined the ways employers can improve employee mental health.  They specifically recommended training managers on the importance of mental health, recognizing the signs of mental health distress, and how to talk to the individual about concerns and connect them with the proper resources.  The Notice. Talk. Act.™ at Work e-learning module, developed by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, provides 20 downloadable resources for employers.

Health care reform hinges on election outcome:  AHPI President Mark Wilson outlined the potential health care reforms ranging from updates to the Affordable Care Act to a public option.  Regardless of who wins the presidency, he observed, we are likely to see an end to surprise medical billing, increased price transparency, and an increase in value-based payment reform, among other things.  Wilson was joined by James Jones, Vice President Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer at Emerson, Bill Tompkins, Former Senior Vice President, Total Rewards, Nordstrom and Kara Townsend, Director of Policy and Federal Affairs, HCA Healthcare.

Outlook:  Which party holds the Senate majority will determine the type of health care reform we see in the next year.  Intraparty disputes in both parties regarding the correct approach to reform will likely lead to more incremental changes rather than an immediate overhaul of the current system.