May 19, 2021 - Health

Survey: Employers expect to add new benefits in response to the pandemic

Fastest growing employer-provided insurance benefits
Data: Willis Towers Watson; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

The pandemic is driving more employers to offer benefits such as extra protection against major hospital bills and even pet insurance, according to the Emerging Trends in Health Care Survey from Willis Towers Watson.

Why it matters: In the wake of a year that brought plenty of worst-case scenarios, this analysis shows employers responding to employees' desire for security.

Details: Overall, 94% of the 238 employers who responded to the survey indicated they expect voluntary benefits — benefits that are available but largely unsubsidized — to hold great importance over the next three years.

  • That's up from 36% in 2018.
  • Some of the fastest-growing voluntary benefits provide coverage against unforeseen health costs, including hospital indemnity coverage, expected to be offered by 65% of the employers by 2022 and critical illness coverage (76%.)

What they're saying: "Frankly, we sort of expected maybe people would enroll less frequently and would want more money in their checking and savings accounts just because incomes could be a bit less stable. But we're really seeing the opposite," Lydia Jilek, who leads the voluntary benefits practice at Willis Towers Watson, told Axios.

What's next: The vast majority of employers also expect to be offering financial planning and counseling over the next two years, and nearly half of employers are also looking to expand benefits for either backup childcare (48%) and eldercare (44%).

  • 69% expect to offer access to pet insurance.
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