What is an Employee Assistance Program?  

An employee assistance program is a benefit that companies provide to their workers. EAPs provide support to employees as they manage life outside of work. 

Key Takeaways

  • EAPs help employees navigate a variety of personal concerns, ranging from mental health to financial management. 

  • EAPs can be administered through insurance companies or another vendor. Several digital health companies are offering EAPs in a business-to-business setting. 

  • EAPs are considered part of employee benefit packages. 

What is an Employee Assistance Program

What does an EAP offer?

While offerings vary by program and company, here are a few examples:

  • United Healthcare, Aetna and Cigna: insurance carriers offer EAPs separately from traditional employer-sponsored insurance plans. EAP services are billed and coded in a specific way to differentiate them from fee-for-service insurance visits.

  • Lyra Health: mental health services through talk therapy, coaching and medication management. Lyra’s EAP package offers a minimum of 12 sessions per year. 

  • Wellthy: caretaker support. Offers guidance on a variety of topics, from legal questions to housing research.

  • Hinge Health: telehealth sessions with physical therapists and health coaches to mitigate and manage musculoskeletal conditions.

Why might an employer consider an EAP?

The logic of an EAP is similar to why schools may also staff social workers or psychologists. Schools understand that students sometimes need additional support outside of academics, and these professionals can help. Likewise, employers understand that employees may have challenges outside of work, but they may not be equipped with the tools to help. Instead, they may implement an EAP to guide their employees through difficult questions to help them achieve their goals – whether through mental health support, financial planning, childcare or another type of assistance.

Are there any limitations of EAPs? 

EAPs are usually temporary offerings that are limited to a few sessions or a definite amount of time. For these reasons, companies should disclose how EAPs will be available and what services employees can expect to receive from them. 

Another limitation is billing complexities for employers coordinating with large health insurance providers (e.g. United Healthcare) rather than individual companies (e.g. Wellthy). Even if a provider is in-network with UHC, they may not necessarily accept EAP benefits due to specific billing and coding requirements. For this reason, it is important for employers to share a list of approved services and providers with employees in advance, as well as for providers to be informed if they should add any particular modifiers to their codes to ensure proper processing.


Outside the Huddle


Reviewed by Geetika Rao, MPH | Edited by Nidhi Mahagaokar, MPH | Fact checked by Chris Yang