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Expand chart
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.

Go deeper

Updated 17 mins ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storms lash Southeast

A car drives in the rain in Galveston, Texas. Photo: Zeng Jingning/China News Service via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes," per AP.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."