The pace of business has never been quicker. To make sure customers are satisfied and goals are met, employers know they need to hire topnotch personnel and enable them to be as productive as possible. That means getting workers back on the job as soon as they are able following a disability.
One of the strongest attractions for any company is a solid benefits package, including plans for both short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) insurance. Few companies know this better than MetLife, the second-largest group disability carrier in the industry (according to the 2004 U.S. Group Disability Sales and In-force Survey by LIMRA International), serving approximately 10,000 companies and seven million employees nationwide. To help companies provide competitive benefits, MetLife offers a comprehensive, integrated portfolio of disability products and services that emphasize rehabilitation and return-to-work. MetLife’s solutions focus on:
- Helping employers control their disability costs
- Minimizing the impact of disability on employees
- Encouraging earlier returns to productive work
- Providing accurate, prompt, and consistent delivery of disability benefits
"MetLife's financial strength and stability are especially important considering the long-term nature of disability claims," says Dr. Ronald Leopold, vice president and national medical director of MetLife Disability.Turning Claims into Opportunities
Talented workers can be difficult to recruit and to retain. In addition, a high percentage of employees filing disability claims can negatively affect productivity, profitability, and morale. Surging health insurance premiums remain a primary concern for employers across the U.S. The statistics are sobering: according to MetLife data, 10 percent of a company’s employees file STD claims in a given year. Yet those 10 percent account for 50 percent of all medical costs for the employee population.
MetLife is exploring new ways to help employers turn their disability claims experience into opportunities to create successful health care initiatives. By tapping its extensive claims database, MetLife can help provide data that may allow employers to identify unique cause-and-effect patterns of STD.
For example, if a company is experiencing a disproportionately high incidence of breast cancer STD claims, it might consider implementing a companywide breast-cancer awareness campaign. A higher number of claims for stress and anxiety might lead an employer to benefit from creating a "tranquility room" at the workplace for shift workers. Higher incidence of depression similarly could spark a reexamination of a company’s pharmaceutical benefits on antidepressants.
Return-to-work and rehabilitation incentives are keys to MetLife’s claims model. "MetLife’s best-in-class service model can help disabled employees get the care they need when they’re out of work, and get them back to work sooner," says Dr. Leopold.Implementing Solutions
MetLife has a team of in-house specialists that work side-by-side to determine the best plan of action for caring for each employee’s needs. This team consists of a nurse consultant, vocational rehabilitation consultant, psychiatric clinical specialist and physician consultant.
Nurses are involved in 75 percent of all STD claims and 90 percent of all LTD claims, helping to ensure the right resource is used at the appropriate time in the life of a claim to effect return-to-work potential. Based on the claimant’s diagnosis, disability claims are routed to the appropriate specialist to review and facilitate a plan that gets the person back on the job as quickly as practicable.
MetLife also provides vocational rehabilitation services that focus on helping disabled employees through job accommodations, job modifications, retraining or placement in a new job.
MetLife focuses on an employee’s ability to earn an income, rather than an inability to perform specific job functions. This is an important distinction. By focusing on what employees can do vs. what they can’t, barriers that prevent employees from returning to work can be removed, while direct and indirect costs may be minimized.
MetLife matches the right resources at the right time to provide effective claim decisions and management. When employees are disabled, MetLife’s clinical team develops plans for treatment and rehabilitation based on the person’s diagnosis. Once the plan is implemented, MetLife continues to assess it and make adjustments as needed. "We recognize that the sooner a person returns to work, even in a limited capacity, the greater the likelihood that he or she will return to full-time employment," notes Dr. Leopold. To accomplish this, MetLife builds back-to-work incentives into group contracts to allow employees to receive disability benefits or partial benefits while attempting to return to work..
MetLife also provides employers with innovative tools, such as A Year in the Life of a Million American Workers, a comprehensive, reader-friendly publication that segments information by industry, job type and demographic factors - making it useful for employers to benchmark their experiences against similar companies. It aids employee-benefits managers in understanding how benefit programs and productivity are affected by disability trends in the workplace. Decision-makers can use the insights and findings in the book to strategically design plans and focus on overall costs. The free book can be ordered at www.metlifeiseasier.com/disabilityalmanac.
With a claims database exceeding four million covered lives, along with extensive data-capturing and reporting capabilities, MetLife is uniquely qualified to identify and benchmark the direct and indirect costs of employee absences. "We analyze the employer’s claims experience and refer to our overall claim experience to share valuable insights about what primary conditions are impacting employees the most. This is the first step toward finding solutions to manage disability and health-related costs and increase productivity," says Dr. Leopold.
By understanding how their company’s absences compare with industry norms, employers can identify risk-reduction programs to correct problem areas. As a result, the employer can use valued healthcare dollars where they can have the greatest impact, including preventative medical care such as mental health services, physical rehabilitation services, and cardiacwellness programs.
With its resources, experience, and technology, MetLife is well-positioned to help employers control disability program costs.