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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

Illinois issues indoor mask mandate, orders vaccines for educators

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced a statewide indoor mask mandate and vaccine requirements for state workers, including teachers and school staff.

Why it matters: The Democratic governor's latest restrictions come as COVID-19 cases across the state are on the upswing, largely driven by the Delta variant. "Unfortunately, we are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds," Pritzker said at a news conference Thursday.

Aug 26, 2021 - World

Pfizer, BioNTech sign deal with Eurofarma to boost vaccine supply in Latin America

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Thursday a deal with Brazilian pharmaceutical company Eurofarma to manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine for distribution in Latin America.

Why it matters: Latin American countries have struggled to vaccinate their populations due to a low supply of doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. The new deal would boost local manufacturing and distribution of doses.

Updated Oct 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Pfizer booster has 95.6% efficacy, large study shows — FDA authorizes mix-and-match for booster shots — J&J expects $2.5 billion of vaccine sales this year.
  2. Health: Cases and deaths keep falling — White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11 — The global coronavirus vaccine gap — Gates Foundation to send $120 million of antiviral pills to lower-income countries.
  3. Politics: Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID — Puerto Rico leads U.S. vaccination rates — Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.