Working well

Companies that cost-effectively address behavioral health benefits

These three companies enjoy the value of better integrating behavioral health and general medical benefits to clearly demonstrate their value of people and the importance of human systems that most directly impact their bottom line.


1. Highsmith, Inc., Ft. Atkinson, Wis.

220 employees

Rural medium-size educational supplies distributor

“The smartest little company in America” – INC magazine

When this medium-size rural Wis. employer faced a 53 percent increase in health insurance premiums, the company instituted programs that integrate behavioral health into a comprehensive approach to encourage healthy lifestyle choices; its blended program to support employee development and productivity is delivered for $175 per employee per year.

Management credits this program with holding premium costs to levels dramatically below national averages. Those premium levels rose by only 4.9 percent, versus a national increase of 12. percent (3-year average 2002-2004, as reported by Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans).

Additionally, employee loyalty was tested in April 2002 during a workforce reduction affecting 31 employees. A month later, the EAP conducted a resiliency survey finding that faith and trust in company management remained solid.

Average length of employee service is 13 years with minimal turnover—in contrast with turnover in the Madison/Milwaukee corridor averaging 22 percent from 1999 to 2002; Highsmith’s turnover was in the single digits.


2. Weingarten Realty Investors, Houston, Texas

266 employees

Publicly traded Fortune 500 firm

This Fortune 500 corporation delivers profitable growth and long-term value for shareholders —while offering equality in insurance coverage for behavioral health and general medical benefits for its employees, and has done so since 2001.

This policy was put in place, in part, in response to a staff survey revealing employees were not seeking behavioral health treatment or paying for it out-of-pocket.

Driving their decision: stigma in seeking mental health services. Results of two years of insurance plan data for Weingarten Realty Investors show average annual increase in behavioral health benefits was less than 1 percent of total medical plan expense.

“These are not illnesses of choice … they are biologically-based imbalances in the brain,” notes Weingarten Chairman Sanford Alexander in support of his corporation’s equal coverage for behavioral and general medical benefits.


3. Mercy Medical Center Mason City, Iowa

2800 employees

Multiple-site health care network

Award-winning employee wellness program called “Kailo” focuses on stress, depression, exhaustion, relationships, domestic violence and other psychosocial issues.

Two-year depression campaign had statistically significant reductions in depressive symptoms of 58 percent improvement.

Moreover, Mercy estimates cost savings of $154,728 to $262,080 in lost productivity and health care claims for 42 individuals who eliminated depressive symptoms.

To learn more, contact Kelly Putnam, MA, Health Promotion Coordinator, Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa, or 800-433-3883; or visit online.

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