Understanding the “Black Box” of Employer Decisions about Health Insurance Benefits: The Case of Depression Products
In a randomized trial of two interventions on employer health benefit decision-making, 156 employers in the evidence-based (EB) condition attended a two hour presentation reviewing scientific evidence demonstrating depression products that increase high quality treatment of depression in the workforce provide the employer a return on investment. One-hundred sixty-nine employers participating in the usual care (UC) condition attended a similar length presentation reviewing scientific evidence supporting healthcare effectiveness data and information set (HEDIS) monitoring. This study described the decision-making process in 264 (81.2%) employers completing 12 month follow-up. The EB intervention did not increase the proportion of employers who discussed depression products with others in the company (29.2% versus 32.1%, p > 0.10), but it did significantly influence the content of the discussions that occurred. Discussion in EB companies promoted the capacity of a depression product to realize a return on investment (18.4% versus 4.7%, p = 0.05) and to improve productivity (47.4% versus 25.6%, p = 0.06) more often than discussions in UC companies. Almost half of EB and UC employers reported that return on investment has a large impact on health benefit decision-making. These results demonstrate the difficulty of influencing employer decisions about health benefits using group presentations.
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