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AstraZeneca Enhances Mental Health Coverage & Improves Productivity
Many companies are making important changes and enhancements to their mental health and prescription drug coverage as advances in research dictate. “The direct correlation between mental health and employee productivity, absenteeism, and short-term disability is now irrefutable,” stated Penny Stoker, Vice President, Human Resources, at AstraZeneca. “Beyond the fact that providing more comprehensive coverage to employees is simply the right thing to do, companies can no longer afford to overlook the impact of mental illness from a cost perspective.”
Stoker continued, “It is our absolute responsibility as a company to ensure that our employees have complete access to the medical care and coverage they need to lead longer, more productive, and satisfying lives.”
Based on this vision of better quality of life and overall improved workplace stability and support for their employees, AstraZeneca has introduced several enhancements to its existing mental health and substance abuse coverage.
Starting in January 2007, AstraZeneca instituted a 50% reduction in co-pays and deductibles and a 50% reduction in out-of-pocket maximums, in some cases reducing employee out-of-pocket costs by as much as $500. It also instituted an unlimited number of outpatient visits when employees see clinicians in the network.
Personal Story Triggers Change
AstraZeneca employee Sandy Leonard was an instrumental trigger in bringing about the company’s policy changes.
A senior manager of government relations in the company’s Washington, D.C., office, Leonard was confronted with a monumental challenge in June of 2006 when one of her seven-year-old twin sons began to express unusual behavior. It was the beginning of what would become a journey filled with roadblocks.
“Every psychiatrist who was recommended was out-of-network and did not accept our insurance,” recalls Leonard. “The in-network psychiatrists I researched did not have any openings. When my husband and I finally broke down and took our son to the emergency room of a hospital with a specialty in pediatric psychiatry, there was no psychiatrist on staff; the social worker let us know that the only option was to transfer him to an inpatient psychiatric unit. For us, that was not an option.”
Exhausting Search for Help
What followed were many weeks of futile and exhaustive research, a lot of time away from the job for Leonard, and an intensive outpatient program for her son that resulted only in an inaccurate diagnosis of depression and unnecessary prescription medication.
Finally, the Leonards found a psychiatrist who ran a series of neurological tests and properly diagnosed their son with a learning disability, despite the fact that his symptoms presented as mental-health-related. The disorder is extremely frustrating and overwhelming for the child but can be treated through the application of coping mechanisms and minor adjustments to the learning process.
Company Responds to Need
The Leonards were finally on the right path, but they faced concerns about how the care their son needs would be covered—they had already depleted a significant portion of their mental health benefit dollars. Leonard’s personal experience caught the attention of AstraZeneca’s Mental Health Brand Team and Human Resources Department, who recognized the immediate need for revisions to the benefits plan.
“The changes are huge,” said Leonard. “Cost is no longer a barrier to making the right choices for my son. AstraZeneca has provided my family with tremendous support—not only in ensuring that we have the healthcare coverage we need, but also in fostering a corporate culture where I can be honest. I was able to make doctor calls and appointments during work hours without feeling that my career was in jeopardy, and now I can work from a home office, which allows me to be closer to my son if an issue should arise at school. Now, I’m a better mother, a better wife, and a much more productive employee.”
According to Jared Cohen, Marketing Manager at AstraZeneca, the company is intimately familiar with the more holistic patient issues surrounding mental health, such as the connection between physical and mental health, work-life balance, and family-life stability. “Perhaps the company’s understanding of mental health has put AstraZeneca in the forefront of recognizing the union between mental health coverage and employee productivity,” he said.
AstraZeneca, a research-based pharmaceutical company, employs 12,000 people across the U.S. In January 2007, Fortune magazine named AstraZeneca one of the “Top 100 Best Companies to Work For.”
Last Updated: January 2007