Commentary: Council to Decide on Change in Employee Assistance Program Provider

In December 2006, we had an extensive article on the proposed change in the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider from the locally owned PRA to the nationally based Cigna.

As is often the case, trying to pin the city down on these types of issues is tantamount to trying to hit a moving target. The original proposal was a Consent Agenda Item schedule for December 5, 2006. Upon being alerted that a councilmember intended to pull the item for discussion at the December 5 meeting, City Manager Bill Emlen announced that this item was being pulled by staff and would be brought back at the next meeting on December 12, 2006. At that point, the majority of members on the council had questions about the item and so it was postponed until this week. Each time the staff report has changed which reveals some new information about the plan.

It has now on this evening’s agenda as a regular discussion item—which it really should have been in the first place. The consent agenda should be limited to items that truly are non-controversial.

The purported “significant fiscal savings” described by city staff appears to come at the cost of a great loss in service provided to the employees. There are currently 51 employees receiving this service from the City of Davis. Because these are people receiving counseling and psychological services, they are unlikely to come forward and complain about the change in their benefits plan. This appears to be yet another example of the city being able to cut benefits to a group that is likely to not attempt to fight back.

One key area of note in the new report is this:

“The proposed EAP contract allows employees up to six visits per incident per year; our current EAP contract allows employees eight visits per year, with no per issue cap. This has allowed employees to use the current EAP provider for long term psychological counseling. The City’s desire is to only offer short term counseling for employees to help them through a traumatic event that is causing problems at work, home or both. The City has no desire to pay for employees’ long term psychological counseling.”

How exactly a shift from eight visits per year to six visits per incident per year, constitutes a shift from long-term to short-term counseling is unclear. That seems a very arbitrary distinction. If an individual met once per week, you are talking the difference between six weeks and eight weeks. In either case, it does not seem to be long term counseling.

But that changes the calculations we performed in our previous article.

The city staff has proposed a shift from the locally based PRA to Cigna based primarily on the differences in their quotes. PRA is quoting $38,500 while Cigna is quoting $14,500–$24,000 less than PRA (and nearly a third of the cost of PRA’s quote). That’s a tremendous difference percentage wise, which leads us to question how exactly Cigna derives that figure. (Again I refer you back to the original article, the numbers are slight different with the now known cut in number of visits).

If we do the math on this, we realize that the city saves a lot of money primarily through a cutback in services.

PRA pays its psychologists $70 per hour while Cigna pays $62 per hour. (This is for psychologists who have a master’s degree rather than a PhD).

Last year the EAP program helped 51 employees. At 8 visits, PRA provided employees with 408 hours of care whereas the new plan would allow only 306 hours.

If we do the math:

PRA: 408 x 70 = $28,560
Cigna: 306 x 60 = $18,972

Now if we compare the profit we notice even with these revisions that while PRA is turning about a $10,000 profit, Cigna would be about $4000 in the hole. Obviously that cannot be accurate since Cigna would not accept a bid where they lose money.

Apparently that is made up for by cutting back on the number of employees that the plan actually helps get treatment. According to PRA’s figures, they serve between 9 and 13 percent of the cities employees. On the other hand, the average large company serves a much lower figure of 2 to 3 percent. That means that Cigna would actually cover on average three or four times fewer employees than PRA.

That represents a large cut in the scope of the service, not just a cut in the number of visits allowed.

As we suggest in great detail in the original article, Cigna makes their profit by creating a burdensome and intrusive referral process whereby a number of employees get weeded out just by making the process for getting treatment exceedingly difficult.

So while the city has spent tremendous amounts of resources on the employee benefit packages of some employees, they have been quietly cutting the benefits of others by changing providers. And of course they attempted to do this through a consent agenda item.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Budget/Fiscal

12 comments

  1. City Employees are covered by fairly good standard health insurance the provides behavioural health services. However, many providers in town do not choose to accept insurance. Instead they accept cash only or are providers through the City & School District EAP programs. Employees may have access to these specific providers only through the EAP program and it is suggested that they are using the program, not for acute care as it is intended, but long-term care that the employee should access to through their health insurance. I believe that there may be provision for continuing care despite the change in certain instances. It may be an easy step to for the providers to continue care by properly registering under the city’s healthcare insurance as a provider.

  2. City Employees are covered by fairly good standard health insurance the provides behavioural health services. However, many providers in town do not choose to accept insurance. Instead they accept cash only or are providers through the City & School District EAP programs. Employees may have access to these specific providers only through the EAP program and it is suggested that they are using the program, not for acute care as it is intended, but long-term care that the employee should access to through their health insurance. I believe that there may be provision for continuing care despite the change in certain instances. It may be an easy step to for the providers to continue care by properly registering under the city’s healthcare insurance as a provider.

  3. City Employees are covered by fairly good standard health insurance the provides behavioural health services. However, many providers in town do not choose to accept insurance. Instead they accept cash only or are providers through the City & School District EAP programs. Employees may have access to these specific providers only through the EAP program and it is suggested that they are using the program, not for acute care as it is intended, but long-term care that the employee should access to through their health insurance. I believe that there may be provision for continuing care despite the change in certain instances. It may be an easy step to for the providers to continue care by properly registering under the city’s healthcare insurance as a provider.

  4. City Employees are covered by fairly good standard health insurance the provides behavioural health services. However, many providers in town do not choose to accept insurance. Instead they accept cash only or are providers through the City & School District EAP programs. Employees may have access to these specific providers only through the EAP program and it is suggested that they are using the program, not for acute care as it is intended, but long-term care that the employee should access to through their health insurance. I believe that there may be provision for continuing care despite the change in certain instances. It may be an easy step to for the providers to continue care by properly registering under the city’s healthcare insurance as a provider.

  5. Has anyone out there had an experience with EAP at work? I have some friends that work for the county in Sac and managers tried to use it against them when they needed help with some personal matters.

    Health care provides for this already? If the program works and employees are happy they should not make the changes. The small savings now may not be so small in the long run when and if employees are absent due to their problems for which they cannot receive assistance.

  6. Has anyone out there had an experience with EAP at work? I have some friends that work for the county in Sac and managers tried to use it against them when they needed help with some personal matters.

    Health care provides for this already? If the program works and employees are happy they should not make the changes. The small savings now may not be so small in the long run when and if employees are absent due to their problems for which they cannot receive assistance.

  7. Has anyone out there had an experience with EAP at work? I have some friends that work for the county in Sac and managers tried to use it against them when they needed help with some personal matters.

    Health care provides for this already? If the program works and employees are happy they should not make the changes. The small savings now may not be so small in the long run when and if employees are absent due to their problems for which they cannot receive assistance.

  8. Has anyone out there had an experience with EAP at work? I have some friends that work for the county in Sac and managers tried to use it against them when they needed help with some personal matters.

    Health care provides for this already? If the program works and employees are happy they should not make the changes. The small savings now may not be so small in the long run when and if employees are absent due to their problems for which they cannot receive assistance.

  9. At the council meeting last evening,it was “revealing” to hear Asmundson state that THE REASON why she was voting against the local provider was because of a State licencing question. City Manager Emlen then publicly informed the council that this issue had not yet been fully explored and should not be a consideration in their decision. Ruth Asmundson then voted with Saylor and Sousa in favor of Cigna. The Davis voter is left with no rational explanation why Ruth Asmundson voted with Saylor and Souza to give the contract to Cigna that evening rather than further exploration with the current local provider(for the past 23 years) and more understanding of this licencing issue.
    The arguments made by Saylor and Sousa that there have been no employee complaints about changing providers also insults the intelligence of the Davis voter. Were there any complaints about the current provider’s services? Should the city employees who are having problems(which are of a strictly confidential nature) really be expected to come forward and publicly identify themselves by advocating for the current provider of psychological services? The current council majority’s rhetoric about supporting local business and the value of keeping $$ circulating in the local economy is just that… so much hot air.

  10. At the council meeting last evening,it was “revealing” to hear Asmundson state that THE REASON why she was voting against the local provider was because of a State licencing question. City Manager Emlen then publicly informed the council that this issue had not yet been fully explored and should not be a consideration in their decision. Ruth Asmundson then voted with Saylor and Sousa in favor of Cigna. The Davis voter is left with no rational explanation why Ruth Asmundson voted with Saylor and Souza to give the contract to Cigna that evening rather than further exploration with the current local provider(for the past 23 years) and more understanding of this licencing issue.
    The arguments made by Saylor and Sousa that there have been no employee complaints about changing providers also insults the intelligence of the Davis voter. Were there any complaints about the current provider’s services? Should the city employees who are having problems(which are of a strictly confidential nature) really be expected to come forward and publicly identify themselves by advocating for the current provider of psychological services? The current council majority’s rhetoric about supporting local business and the value of keeping $$ circulating in the local economy is just that… so much hot air.

  11. At the council meeting last evening,it was “revealing” to hear Asmundson state that THE REASON why she was voting against the local provider was because of a State licencing question. City Manager Emlen then publicly informed the council that this issue had not yet been fully explored and should not be a consideration in their decision. Ruth Asmundson then voted with Saylor and Sousa in favor of Cigna. The Davis voter is left with no rational explanation why Ruth Asmundson voted with Saylor and Souza to give the contract to Cigna that evening rather than further exploration with the current local provider(for the past 23 years) and more understanding of this licencing issue.
    The arguments made by Saylor and Sousa that there have been no employee complaints about changing providers also insults the intelligence of the Davis voter. Were there any complaints about the current provider’s services? Should the city employees who are having problems(which are of a strictly confidential nature) really be expected to come forward and publicly identify themselves by advocating for the current provider of psychological services? The current council majority’s rhetoric about supporting local business and the value of keeping $$ circulating in the local economy is just that… so much hot air.

  12. At the council meeting last evening,it was “revealing” to hear Asmundson state that THE REASON why she was voting against the local provider was because of a State licencing question. City Manager Emlen then publicly informed the council that this issue had not yet been fully explored and should not be a consideration in their decision. Ruth Asmundson then voted with Saylor and Sousa in favor of Cigna. The Davis voter is left with no rational explanation why Ruth Asmundson voted with Saylor and Souza to give the contract to Cigna that evening rather than further exploration with the current local provider(for the past 23 years) and more understanding of this licencing issue.
    The arguments made by Saylor and Sousa that there have been no employee complaints about changing providers also insults the intelligence of the Davis voter. Were there any complaints about the current provider’s services? Should the city employees who are having problems(which are of a strictly confidential nature) really be expected to come forward and publicly identify themselves by advocating for the current provider of psychological services? The current council majority’s rhetoric about supporting local business and the value of keeping $$ circulating in the local economy is just that… so much hot air.

Leave a Comment