Bank of America has announced that will consolidate health and insurance benefits for its associates under one carrier. The bank is taking steps to improve service, reduce paperwork and costs, and give its associates more flexibility in the way they choose and pay for healthcare.

The bank will simplify its medical plans, give the majority of plan participants new company-funded healthcare accounts to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses and offer improved financial support for new parents, child care and ongoing education beginning in 2009.

Aetna will be the primary provider of health and insurance benefits for Bank of America beginning January 1, 2009, and will manage delivery of medical, dental, vision, leaves of absence, disability and life insurance programs for active and eligible US-based associates and expatriates.

Bank of America will offer most associates earning less than $100,000 a year a new health care account that provides an additional $600 to $1,200 a year to pay for health care expenses not covered by their medical plan. More than 130,000 of the bank’s associates will be eligible to participate.

The accounts are in addition to the bank’s annual contributions to associates’ healthcare coverage – which pay the majority of the cost of care – and can be used to pay for current expenses or rolled over from year to year and saved, even into retirement.

The company said that the associates must be covered by a bank plan to qualify for the accounts and the amount received depends on how many family members are covered under the Bank of America medical option chosen by the associate.

The company will also provide an additional four weeks of paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave and extend eligibility for an enhanced child care reimbursement program, Child Care Plus, to an additional 44,000 eligible associates. Nearly 150,000 associates in all will have the opportunity to participate in Child Care Plus in 2009 and reimbursement rates will increase 35%.

Bank of America has conducted an extensive review of its benefit programs, talked to associates about their needs, studied market trends and analyzed benefit usage habits before making the design changes. Associates will enroll in the new plans during annual enrollment in October 2007 before the effective date January 1, 2009.