High unemployment may seem to give the advantage of the folks doing the hiring, but more and more companies see the benefit to offering an enticing benefits package to attract and retain talented employees. Health insurance, of course, is a big part of any employee benefit package, but some companies offer offbeat health-related benefits that go way beyond HMO and PPOs.


Of course, when the company pays 100 percent your health insurance premium that may be enough. That perk is offered by 14 of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For including software giant Microsoft. The company that gave the world Windows is also the first major corporation to offer a benefit for autism therapy.


Search engine Google — the #1 company to work for, according to Fortune – doesn’t pay all employee health premiums, but it does offer the convenience of seeing a doctor on-site. Physical therapy, chiropractic services and a bowling alley are also available.


A variety of alternative medical treatments are available to the employees of American Specialty Health, a San Diego-based health services company. The health benefits there include massage, acupuncture and chiropractic. Employees also get cash rewards of up to $400 a year for reaching physical activity goals measured by a wireless accelerometer or a Polar heart rate monitor.


American Specialty Health, like many companies, has an on-site fitness center. Few compare, however, with the $4 million fitness complex featuring exercise rooms and basketball courts cited by Fortune in placing data storage company NetApp at #6 among the 100 best companies to work for.


Running on a treadmill is OK, but employees of the Nantahala Outdoor Center in western North Carolina have access to miles of on-site hiking and mountain biking trails. NOC is known worldwide as the Harvard of paddling schools and employees get free paddling instruction, as well as free use of kayaks and canoes.


Employees of outdoor gear retailer REI get free gear rentals for personal use from any REI store and a 50 percent discount on REI gear and apparel, making it easy to hike, bike, run or other sweaty-good-for-you-activity.


Home-improvement retailer Lowes established a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to offer heart surgery procedures at no cost to full-time employees and dependents enrolled in its self-insured medical plan. Lowe's covers all medical deductibles and coinsurance amounts, as well as travel and lodging expenses for the patient and a companion. The company also has two mobile-health units crisscrossing the country to provide more than 70,000 employees with free basic health screenings. Each unit is equipped with a staff of trained medical professionals who screen for blood pressure, total cholesterol, body mass index and other important health indicators.


Know of other offbeat or unusual employee health benefits? Let us know in the comments below.


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7 companies with unique employee health benefits
High unemployment may seem to give the advantage of the folks doing the hiring, but more and more companies see the benefit to offering an enticing benefits pac