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Employee Benefits in 2013: The good, the bad, and the uncertain

People protest for and against Obama's Affordable Care Act in front of he U.S. Supreme Court, on June 28, 2012. Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell says this is the year that companies will have to start taking the Affordable Care Act seriously.

Every month the government tells us how many jobs are created and what the unemployment rate is. But even as the job market has improved, employee benefits have gone in the other direction, as companies try to cut costs. Have we finally reached a point where we'll start to see our benefits come back? 

Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell has some good news and bad news about the year ahead. 

The good news is that a lot of companies have been maintaining and even restoring some benefits. "Take the 401(k)," he says, "during the tough times ... some companies eliminated the match. ... Or they reduced it. Instead of being a 6 percent match, they cut it down to a 3 percent match." Now, he adds, companies are starting to restore that match. 

The bad news is that even though workers will start seeing their employee benefits come back, they're going to have to pay more for them. "One forecast [by] Rand Corporation says that within a decade, half of all health care plans are going to be high deductible health care plans," Farrell says. 

On top of that, if workers do get sick and need to use those pricier health care plans, they might not have as much time off as they used to. Companies have started taking vacation days, sick days, and personal time and putting them into one big bank. Farrell says companies are taking advantage of the shift by cutting down on total vacation time and limiting the number of days that can be carried over to the next year.

There is a wild card to look out for in 2013 though, adds Farrell: "This is the year when companies have to take Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, seriously." 

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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