Although Americans expect that their employer’s health insurance will cover alcohol or drug addiction treatment, more than one in five insured employees believe that if they sought coverage for that treatment, they would face negative consequences at work. Fears range from being fired outright to losing a license or failing to get a promotion, according to the results of the September 2002 “Workplace Recovery Benefits Survey” released today by Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation.
Hazelden’s new survey also reveals that more than half of this country’s 74 million workers with job-sponsored health insurance would prefer to ask a boss about their company’s insurance coverage for treatment of a disease like diabetes, rather than face retribution or punishment for merely asking what kind of coverage their company has for treatment of problems with alcohol or other drugs. Whether it’s from embarrassment, fear of job loss or other work-related disapproval, more than one in six workers say they’d be reluctant to seek their employer’s insurance coverage for drug treatment for themselves or a family member.
Hazelden’s survey reveals that a majority of respondents (77 percent) still believe that employer-paid health insurance should be required to cover treatment for problems with alcohol or other drugs. “Alcoholism and other drug addictions are chronic, potentially fatal diseases if not treated,” states William Moyers, Vice President of External Affairs for Hazelden. “Millions of employees desperately need substance abuse services but don’t seek them because they’re afraid of negative on-the-job consequences. It’s critical for managers to tell workers, ‘You have nothing to fear. We’d rather have you use our health insurance coverage for substance abuse services than jeopardize job performance or safety.’”
Moyers adds that strictly enforced federal laws protect the identity of employees who access insurance benefits for any medical service, including substance abuse services. “Employers must communicate—and demonstrate—that workers won’t be discriminated against if they seek alcohol or drug addiction treatment,” he stresses.