When evaluating a potential workplace, the perks are always a crucial aspect to consider. You may wonder whether they provide comprehensive medical insurance or include coverage for vision and dental care. But what about psychedelic therapy?
Although this form of mental health treatment has not yet become commonplace for most insurance plans, many workplaces are considering it as an employee benefit. In fact, around fifty companies have already signed letters of interest with Enthea, a new third-party administrator (TPA) of health insurance plans. Enthea is currently the only health insurance provider to offer psychedelic healthcare as a benefit, but according to a year-long analysis at Dr. Bronner’s soap company, the perk has many advantages in the workplace.
Almost one-fifth of workers in the U.S. rate their mental health as fair or poor. And although some workplaces offer mental health benefits like traditional therapy and medication, these treatments are not always the most effective for some forms of mental illness. Many studies have found that antidepressants may only work slightly better than placebos. For instance, in one clinical trial, only 15% of participants had a significant antidepressant effect beyond the placebo (1). In comparison, several forms of psychedelic-assisted therapy have demonstrated long-lasting, substantial improvements in mental health conditions with minimal adverse effects. Psilocybin-assisted therapy and MDMA-assisted therapy have been granted breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA and are awaiting FDA approval, while a prescription nasal spray version of ketamine has already been approved by the FDA in 2019 as a medication for treatment-resistant depression. Currently, Enthea only covers ketamine therapy. Though the company does not yet offer coverage for psilocybin-assisted therapy or MDMA-assisted therapy, they plan to do so in the future once the substances become approved by the FDA.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic with some psychoactive effects. The therapy has been found to decrease the symptoms of depression in approximately 60 to 70% of patients. In 2021, Michael Bronner, president of Dr. Bronners, turned to ketamine to treat his severe depression that would not subside from the traditional antidepressants he was taking. Following five treatment sessions, Bronner was deeply impressed by the positive effects of ketamine therapy, inspiring him to include ketamine therapy in the company’s list of employee benefits. Bronner and his company have been long-time supporters of drug decriminalization and advocates for psychedelic medicine. Since 2015, the company has donated over $23 million to drug advocacy and research organizations.
When Bronner first rolled out these benefits, his goal was to give his employees more mental health support, considering that traditional treatment options may not work for everyone. Bronner understood that ketamine therapy was not for everyone, but he wanted to give his employees the same opportunities that he had. Without coverage, one session of ketamine therapy can range from around $400 to $800. To alleviate symptoms of depression, it is recommended to have six to eight sessions. Under Enthea’s TPA plan, Dr. Bronner’s benefit covers 100% of the cost of therapy sessions for eligible employees and dependents.
“The health and well-being of our employees is the primary driver in how we think about benefits and compensation. Offering coverage for ketamine-assisted therapy is in the interest of providing tools to our workforce to have the best quality of life and best options for mental health care,” said Bronner. “Our family and company are no strangers to depression and anxiety. We are deeply concerned about the mental health crisis society is facing, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering all our advocacy on this issue, this employee benefit is the next logical step.”
In January 2022, the program was officially launched to Dr. Bronner’s employees. A year after its introduction, the company analyzed the program to determine its impact on its workers. Although only 7% of Dr. Bronner’s 320 employees took advantage of the ketamine coverage program, many saw positive results from the novel therapy. According to anonymous surveys, 86% of employees saw a reduction in their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, 67% had improved major depressive disorder symptoms, and 65% had lessened symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Reflecting on these positive outcomes, David Bronner said, “While not everyone experiences such deep healing, many of our team members have reported dramatic improvements in their lives due to ketamine-assisted therapy. We hope to inspire other companies and organizations to also partner with Enthea and offer this benefit to their staff.”
The improved mental health of Dr. Bronner’s employees is just one of the several claimed benefits of offering psychedelic healthcare as a workplace benefit. Enthea suggests that companies that cover psychedelic healthcare can expect a multitude of favorable outcomes for their organization, such as higher employee retention rates, reduced turnover, higher workforce productivity, and diminished medical expenses.
By offering psychedelic-assisted therapy as a new treatment option, many companies won’t only see improvements in employee well-being but also in company productivity and savings. A 2015 study found that employees with depressive or anxiety disorders had 70% higher healthcare costs. Employees struggling with mental health disorders may have lessened productivity and are susceptible to experiencing four times the amount of unplanned absences due to these challenges. Furthermore, 48% of individuals searching for jobs prioritize mental health benefits when seeking new employment. As mental health conditions have seen a significant increase in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are desperate for solutions to alleviate their symptoms. And consequently, employers who care about their worker’s well-being are actively seeking more effective options to mitigate these concerning rates in their workforce. Though psychedelic therapy may not be the answer for everyone, it presents a promising avenue among the spectrum of existing treatments. Its potential to improve mental health outcomes in some employees emphasizes the growing importance of integrating a progressive approach toward employee benefits. By doing so, companies not only benefit from an enhanced workforce but also reflect a compassionate stance towards the health and wellness of their valued employees.