EBRI Testimony

T-186: Long–Term Disability Benefits and Mental Health Disparity

Sep 21, 2023 11  pages


My name is Bridget Bearden, Research and Development Strategist at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Thank you for inviting me to testify before the ERISA Advisory Council (“the Council”), on the topic of mental health disparity and long–term disability insurance benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic and its mental health aftermath has put a spotlight on the need for employer-provided mental health benefits as well as the flexibility for traditional workplace benefits to incorporate the rapidly increasing prevalence of mental illness more fully.

EBRI’s mission is to produce and communicate independent, objective, nonpartisan data, research, and other information about employee benefits. Our work supports employers, policymakers, service providers, and others in developing innovative solutions and making policy and design decisions.

This testimony draws upon multiple data sources, including publicly available data from the National Compensation Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Community Survey from U.S. Census Bureau, proprietary survey sets including the EBRI/Greenwald Workplace Wellness Survey and the EBRI/Greenwald Retirement Confidence Survey, and new qualitative research with employers and benefits brokers. We hope the Advisory Council finds this mixed-methods approach helpful in their deliberations on the topic.

This testimony is structured as follows: First, I will address the prevalence of disability among Americans and among the employee population. Next, I will address the state of mental health in the workplace, and then access to and uptake in employer-sponsored long–term disability insurance programs. I will conclude with the intersection of mental health and disability insurance benefits based on qualitative research conducted in preparation for this testimony.