Em­ploy­ers spice up ben­e­fits, of­fer help with pets, debt

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Tom Mur­phy AP Health Writer

Would you like some pet in­sur­ance to go with the health cov­er­age your em­ployer pro­vides? Or maybe you need help pay­ing stu­dent loans or sav­ing for your kid’s col­lege.

Com­pa­nies have been broad­en­ing their menu of ben­e­fits to meet the chang­ing de­mands of younger em­ploy­ees and to make up for health in­sur­ance that cov­ers less. In the next month, many busi­nesses will start giv­ing em­ploy­ees a chance to sign up for cov­er­age or change ben­e­fits plans for next year. It’s worth tak­ing a look at all op­tions avail­able to you. Some em­ploy­ers help pay for these ex­tras, oth­ers don’t.

Key points to con­sider.

What’s on that menu?

Pop­u­lar ex­tras — called vol­un­tary ben­e­fits — in­clude ac­ci­dent and crit­i­cal ill­ness poli­cies. Gen­er­ally, these plans pro­vide a lump sum to help cover ex­penses if you wind up hos­pi­tal­ized with a bro­ken leg or if you are di­ag­nosed with a se­ri­ous con­di­tion like can­cer. Ben­e­fits ex­perts say com­pa­nies are of­fer­ing these more to help work­ers han­dle big­ger med­i­cal bills that they pay now be­cause their in­sur­ance cov­ers less.

Em­ploy­ers also are of­fer­ing pro­grams that mon­i­tor for iden­tity theft or com­pen­sate for losses from it. Some also will help with mort­gage pay­ments or pro­vide in­sur­ance that cov­ers un­ex­pected vet­eri­nary bills.

Next year, the health in­surer Aetna will start match­ing em­ployee stu­dent loan pay­ments, pay­ing up to $2,000 an­nu­ally

with a $10,000 life­time max­i­mum.

Ben­e­fits con­sul­tant Wil­lis Tow­ers Watson says that only 4 per­cent of its cus­tomers of­fered that cov­er­age last year, but that could rise to 26 per­cent by 2018.

found that 11 per­cent of its mem­bers made a 529 col­lege sav­ings plan avail­able to their work­ers. But only a small slice of those em­ploy­ers ac­tu­ally con­trib­ute to the ac­count, said Evren Esen, the group’s di­rec­tor of work­force an­a­lyt­ics.

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