With the economic uncertainty, employees are turning to "Voluntary Benefits" to fill the gaps in insurance coverage that their employers are struggling to afford:

A new MetLife study found that while most employers are not cutting back on employee benefits, they are largely not increasing the available benefits even as employees say they would be willing to pay more for those benefits.

In Westchester, though, business advocates and representatives of employee-benefits services say there has been a "tremendous increase" in the number of firms looking into and implementing voluntary benefits for their employees.

The increased interest in voluntary programs comes as Westchester employers - and small business owners in particular - are moving toward less expensive medical options, said Norman Michaels Jr., president of Michaels & Associates, an employee-benefit consulting and brokerage firm with offices in Armonk and Wappingers Falls.

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