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Tyler Zalucki
Trion Group
What's Wrong With Corporate EAP Offerings And How To Fix Them
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Tyler Zalucki is a health care consultant in Trion’s Conshohocken, PA office. He joined Trion Group, a Marsh & McLennan Agency’s team in 2019. Tyler chose his path in Benefits early on; he majored in Risk Management with a focus on Employee Benefits. Prior to his consulting role, he spent over 5 years in Account Management and was responsible for the design, management and communication of benefit programs for 15 mid-market employers. Tyler has spent the majority of his time focused on the needs of the manufacturing, healthcare and not-for-profit sector, participating in various webinars at Trion. He understands how to construct benefit strategies that align with their core business initiatives.

In addition, Tyler serves as the Emerging Leader Director for the Pennsylvania State Council of SHRM. His role involves providing resources that drive engagement and meet the evolving needs of professionals beginning their Human Resources career.

In this episode

Learn how to turn an EAP offering from a cost of employment to generating a $3 return for every dollar invested with the proper design of the program.  Anyone who has worked in the corporate world is familiar with an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) offering. They are marketed as part of a company’s benefits package to deal primarily with mental health issues to complement the physical health focus of traditional health insurance. Unfortunately, most of these programs are designed to tick the box. In reality, due to cost, they have long wait times and a limited number of visits which aren’t sufficient to solve the underlying problems.

In Centricity's The Best Kept Secret show, Tyler Zalucki, an employee benefits consultant with The Trion Group a Marsh & McLennan Agency, laid out his Provocative Perspective on why EAP offerings are largely ineffective at dealing with mental health problems and how to turn them from a cost of employment to generating a $3 return for every dollar invested with the proper design of the program.

What's Wrong With Corporate EAP Offerings And How To Fix ThemTyler Zalucki
00:00 / 23:21

A glimpse of what you'll hear

01:42 EAP offerings are ineffective at fully addressing mental health recovery

03:30 The truth about how EAPs really work for users and employers

04:50 How companies need to use EAPs

07:09 The return on investment to an employer from a well designed EAP offering

09:39 What employers need to do to make EAP offerings work

13:36 Learn about Tyler. Email Tyler

Episode Transcript
(Note: this was transcribed using transcription software and may not reflect the exact words used in the podcast.)

Intro  0:04

Welcome to the best kept secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the Co-Founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay Kingley.

Jay Kingley  0:43

I want to welcome today, one of my all time favorite Centricity members, along with every other centricity member, Tyler, and that could be Tyler Zalucki. Tyler is a healthcare consultant with Trion Group, which is part of Marsh McLennan. And they're an employee benefits provider based in one of my favorite cities, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, which is outside of Philadelphia. Tyler, welcome, welcome.

Tyler Zalucki  1:14

Thank you for having me, Jay.

Jay Kingley  1:18

All right. It's great to have you know, Tyler, I've been around the block for a while now. And every company that I know of any size has what they call an EAP. program, employee assistance program. Great in concept, I have struggled to find one that I thought was effective in its implementation. I know you have a lot to say on this topic. So Tyler, what are people getting wrong? About EAP programs?

Tyler Zalucki  1:49

Jay, I hear that a lot. And what we'll say and what we're seeing is, the majority of employers they're touting or they have an employee assistance program, what's recently come to light is they're largely ineffective at fully addressing mental health recovery.

Jay Kingley  2:07

So Tyler, what makes them so ineffective?

Tyler Zalucki  2:11

So I think it's better to work through story and the patient experience, right? When we think about insurance, we think of programs and it just thinks it's out there. Right? So let's take you through the typical experience of someone that utilizes your EAP. Let's say, Jay, you are the prospective employer on the employee, use EAP. I call them up. Okay, call them up the average wait time. So first and foremost, I'm going to get a list of providers that accept my insurance. So now I am stuck with how do I know based upon what I have depression, anxiety, bipolar, whatever it may be substance abuse, how am I triage and myself to put be put in the best scenario, I don't know if they have experience in that second part of that the average wait time Jay 21 days, so I could be having this specific ailment and triggered to get help. And then I'm not even seeing anyone for 21 days later.

Jay Kingley  3:13

And Tyler, I mean, that's unbelievable. In 21 days, you know, you could be in a much worse place, with the recovery required being 10 times more difficult. But tell me once that 21 day passes, and they get into the EAP program, how well taken care of, would someone like me be.

Tyler Zalucki  3:37

So here's the thing you are in the EAP program, meaning they're vetting providers for you that accept your insurance, they also participate in your specific EAP. The EAP program doesn't want you to utilize, right, they're not incentivized. They don't get paid more, they get paid a lump sum, so they're not marketing it to you. They're not trying to get push you through this headway. So let's say you do get access, the typical plan structure is you get three to five visits, and then you're paying for it on your own. So depending on your plan, if you have a high deductible health plan, this could be an additional $150 to $300 a week, which is unpalatable for most Americans.

Jay Kingley  4:23

And I'm guessing Tyler that three to five visits for your typical condition that would cause an employee to want to use the EAP program isn't going to get it done?

Tyler Zalucki  4:33   Absolutely not. It is only you're still at the initial stages of addressing what is physically and mentally wrong and where you would need more support and what to work through. So we haven't even got to the middle of a meet where you're seeing meaningful changes in your everyday life.

Jay Kingley  4:51

So given how utterly ineffective Tyler seems like these EAP programs are how should companies be thinking about decision.

Tyler Zalucki  5:02

Companies should be thinking about it as far as you cannot solely rely on the EAP to get it done. So you need to come to terms with that fact, instead of just trying to market it and get it in front of them, you have to understand that this is just a piece of the pie. Okay. And then and fundamentally, you want to look at two things right away, you want to look at a Geo access report, the Geo access report essentially says, based on my zip code in my house, do I have a provider 15 minutes away that can treat me for what I do. The second step, and this is what's most sorely missed, going back to the point about the 21 days accessibility. So they're all accepting this gap. There's a lot of providers, you're competing for time. Okay, so you need to run an analysis to see, can they accept patients? Or are you on a six month waiting list? Or are you going to get those three visits and then have to deal with rescheduling? So that's the second party analysis that you need to do when you're reviewing a third party solution or looking at your health insurance program, reimbursement levels to allow allow for more accessibility.

Jay Kingley  6:16

And Tyler, what do you do about this three to five visit limitation.

Tyler Zalucki  6:22

So it can remain, it can certainly remain. And I've seen it both ways you can fully subsidize it, meaning you can change the payment level and make it a copay level. You can make it so that there's a whole other program alongside similar to any AP, that latches on your health insurance plan, and it's at an affordable rate. Right. So the employer is saying, by going in utilizing this program, they get the data in the aggregate and now the employee or their family member, they have a qualified, it's affordable, it's accessible, and the program, vets the providers, so they actually will look at it or you can is your condition being managed appropriately and then more So? Are you becoming more productive? Are you being able to challenge your life because a big part of the mental health problem is presenteeism and productivity. So 62% of disability claims are attributable to mental health.

Jay Kingley  7:22

So Tyler, I'm sure many of our listeners who have their own company, or in an executive HR role, are thinking sounds like an expansion of an EAP program is going to increase my cost in really do nothing more for me, except cause me to pay out more money. So talk to me about the full range of benefits. And I don't mean that in terms of the HR benefits, but from an employer standpoint, what are they going to gain by making this investment in a more effective EAP program?

Tyler Zalucki  7:58

Yeah, so let's talk about the return on investment, because that's really what it is, it's no longer an operating expense. Because right now today, that's what the business owners interpreting that I get more costs. This is a significant issue impacting my employees, by influencing the way your employees and their family members interact and access care, there's actually studies to suggest you get a three to one return on your dollars. And the way to think about it in terms of your savings, it's going to come in buckets. So there's going to be a health claims bucket, the claims within that specific category, and the comorbidities, meaning the physical health attribution, that you can connect to mental health, that's both going to decrease. And now, as I mentioned, you're 62% of your claims are due to mental health causes. Your life and disability bucket is now going to decrease. So now you have to hard claim categories where you can physically track it and measure it over time, and see how you're improving. And then there's the soft costs of, you're more productive at work. So unless you you can meaningfully interact and track if you do productivity, so if you're a manufacturer, you can look at the line CMD days off. Again, that's another balance sheet item that you can physically track and now it's an asset that you're improving as opposed to an operating expense.

Jay Kingley  9:25

Tyler, you know, I really like how you're thinking about really quantifying those benefits, not just doing arm waving, but putting on the green eyeshade, and tracking numbers, three to one return. That's should be a no brainer to people on something that also from an emotional standpoint, allows you to really touch and improve the lives of your workforce while benefiting yourself. So given such an impact compelling case, what is it that employers should be doing to make this kind of change in their EAP program?

Tyler Zalucki  10:00

Yeah, I think that when when you're considering this change, you need to understand what's underneath the hood. And what's underneath the hood is your demographics. So your demographics typically have commonalities and their need sets. So based upon your demographics, and then the claims which are reported by your insurance carrier, back and give you the business case to support, okay, I need to make a more meaningful investment. Because on its face, I think what we've come to realize in terms of return with today's EAPs aren't effective, right? So how much could I gain by making this investment in your employees? And you need to look within so who's covered? What are the costs, the pharmacy costs and medical costs? And then like I said, you can save on your life and disability avenues. So look at that, look at your look at your loss runs, meaning your disability claims over the past year, over the past three years. Is there any historical trends that now Okay, this is an avenue that we could radically improve?

Jay Kingley  10:58

So Tyler, after I do all the analytical work and put the business case together? Am I now meeting to work with my insurance providers and brokers? Do I go out and have to find dedicated EAP providers that are going to be forward thinking enough to work with me on this type of a more customized approach? How do I handle the post analysis phase?

Tyler Zalucki  11:23

The post analysis phase, once you've substantiated that there's a there's meat on the bone, there's a business case here, you need to utilize a consultant. Okay, you cannot utilize, you can't utilize the insurance company. And you certainly cannot use an EAP provider. Because if they could fix it, they would have fixed it themselves, right. So you need to look at a third party professional that can add or adequately look at your investment. As far as here's the things you need to check the box business case. Now you need to make sure that they can do that accessibility analysis, and that geo access report. And you need to look at their quality metrics. So how do they get into whatever network of providers that they're utilizing? How do they get in? And how do they maintain? And what reporting Do you get back to make sure that they're doing the right things to make sure that your employees and their family members are productive, and their quality of life is improved, and they're making meaningful adjustments, because that's the biggest thing. You need that consultant to make sure that you're partnering with a provider that can do all this. Because if you make this investment again, and they don't have this in a row, you're basically operating under an empty assumption that they're doing the right things, right. Sounds like an EAP. So you really need to look at that piece, and put in performance guarantees in that whatever RFP or however you do procurement, typically, we put in some performance guarantees to make sure that you can measure to

Jay Kingley  12:56

Tyler, one of the things that I'm struck listening to you is that EAP is probably close, if not at the top of the list of HR benefits that I think historically have been ticked the box. And people have completely missed the incredible ROI that's associated with doing it right. And what's also clear to me is, there is a really methodical approach and process you take. And you're not just guessing, you're not just saying, I'm going to be the good guy, there is solid business case, and a very clear way of implementing this type of an approach. And I would just encourage my listeners that given the value of which it's a key here, you'll find few people that are better than Tyler to reach out to and continue this discussion which Tyler's a really nice segue. You know, let's talk about you for a few moments. Tell me as part of Trion, what are the things that you help your clients with? What are those issues and pain points that you address as an employee benefits consultant?

Tyler Zalucki  14:07

Yeah, no, I think that there's been an evolution. So a lot of the professionals that are out there, CHROs, HR directors and chief financial officers, a lot of times HR holds the umbrella of employee benefits. And there was a major evolution in that throughout this new normal, they're dealing with new CDC guidance or dealing with new OSHA prevention and regulations. People aren't we're afraid of physical health, and then there's the mental health aspect. So this influx of needs created more responsibility from the human resources or chief people operations of how to support those needs, right? So it's, it's very hard for them to deliver that support. So that's that's one of their chief issues in dealing with employee burnout and exhaustion, in which You could fundamentally look at triad or any any good consultant would fundamentally look at your communication strategy. And then also the warning signs of burnout and what you can do to deliver on not just the physical health, but all the components of well being. And then make make it so that they're streamlined support for the Human Resources professional, because it's impossible to get right when you're doing it alone. But if you have the key components to understand and also meaningfully communicate, you're a lot more effective.

Jay Kingley  15:34

I don't want to miss the obvious point here. But would you also help them pick the right insurance carriers design the right health insurance plans, so that they are adding sort of the most value and having the most impact on their employees health and well being?

Tyler Zalucki  15:56

Yeah, that's always the starting point, right. So health plan and 401k are the most touted in terms of this is why you stick with a job or this is why you would leave a job due to the affordability of that. So that is what I refer to as blocking and tackling. You're not making it down the field unless you get those two pieces, right, meaning it is an affordable health plan. And two, you can access what you need. So that's, that's that's just, that's what I like I said, like I mentioned blocking and tackling, you need to fundamentally get that

Jay Kingley  16:27

Tyler, what is it that you know, when you get feedback from your clients, they're telling you makes you in the triang group better and great at what you do.

Tyler Zalucki  16:41

So I think, again, it's that evolution of HR, in that they're tasked with more. And then what they've realized is you have performance management over here, you have recruiting over here, and then you have benefits over here, integrating so one of the things that my my clients have come to me with is I make it I'll make it hard, hey, I get these papers from x insurance carrier, I get these papers, I have to fill it out to my employee, I have to track them manually, just another task in my head. And then I have to scan it into their specific screen. And then I have to do this extra task for all my dental my vision. So how do you integrate the technology? And how do you make it more efficient so that I get rid of manual tasks. So when we look at all the things that nadvi to accomplish, be at hiring, open enrollment, communicating those there's important benefits, enhancements, and also the value adds through the year because you want to consistently remind people of their benefits and how to access them. It's going through and unbundling everything and looking at this specific piece in this specific piece. And how do we create some basically equity in the approach where you're doing your own in an equal playing field. And now you're you're that much more strengthened because your benefits piece now speaks all the way to your recruiting piece. And it's full cycle as opposed to creating

Jay Kingley  18:12

It's pretty clear to me and I do know you a bet that you have got not just expertise but passion for what it is that you do. And I think we'd all be interested in understanding how you got to this point. What are the things that have happened to you, personally, professionally, that have put you where you are today?

Tyler Zalucki  18:34

Yeah, no, I think I'll start with a personal note, right? Because I think a lot of times we hang our hat on like how good we are professionally, but we don't want or we don't reveal who we are inside. And our real personal story. So I was driving back from upstate Connecticut going going through a red light and was hit by a truck hit by a truck spawn and I ended up going to hospital. We were all okay, everything was good, right? The hospital was five minutes away. You had to take an ambulance, right? Because you you know you're hit by a car. Go through the CT scans go through everything. I was hit with a $30,000 bill. Right. And then on top of that the driver who hit me did not have insurance. So now goes directly to your car insurance after your car insurance is very quickly exhausted. You're on the hook for that. Right. So I think that for me, that was a very formative experience. Because if my employer didn't take care of me and have a strong health plan in place, and have someone where I could actually even though I work in this day in and day out having someone I can reach out to for billing support and negotiate on my behalf and do all those little things that you don't you don't involve yourself when it just revealed just the necessity and need and really how that's that's a subject a circumstance, right? It just happened. I was there on that day at that time. I'm doing that thing. And that's that's what employees do. Right? They live their lives. So it made it it made it very real for me how quickly your your finances could be impacted, and how quickly health insurance claim cost, because

Jay Kingley  20:13

I'm glad things worked out as they have. Tyler, I'm sure a lot of our listeners in the HR and finance function, small mid market companies that you focus on, how is it that they should get in touch with you to continue the discussion?

Tyler Zalucki  20:34

Yeah, no, I think that you can always use LinkedIn. Tyler Zalucki as a starting point. And then from there, it's an email or a phone call, right So whatever you're most comfortable with, I have resources and content there.

Jay Kingley  20:45

But certainly putting our phone call away and phone number in the show notes make it easy for people to reach out to you. Now Tyler, we're now at the favorite part of the show for me, because this is where I get to inform you that I want all my guests to give a present, and a little gift to our listeners in return for paying attention. So Tyler, not to put you on the spot. What can you do for our listeners of the podcast?

Tyler Zalucki  21:23

Yeah, so if you reference this is the caveat, if you reference the podcast in your ask, you can have not one but two presents available to you. Okay, the first one would be competitive intelligence present. So if you want to know exactly how your plans stack up against your competitors, and what they're doing, we can run it through and show you line by line and your costs compared to your industry and what you're looking for. The second piece, which I think would be a nice gift, if you're interested in the mental health aspect is we can show you strategic Mental Health Solutions based on just a census, you run a census, and you can take this directly to your leadership team, and show the support areas that you need to focus on. So instead of trying to do all this analysis, on your end, there's two free gifts, you get the ball rolling.

Jay Kingley  22:14

Clearly have tremendous value. So I encourage everybody to reach out to Tyler let's overwhelm a bit with some great questions and great opportunities. I suspect Tyler, that you will be more than up to the task. I want to thank you so much for being a guest on our best kept secret podcast. Until the next time, please reach out to Tyler, I look forward to continuing the discussion. Take care folks.

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