Mercer Annual Survey Finds Health Benefit Cost Growth Will Hold at 4.1% in 2019

High-tech/high touch point solutions, integrated platforms, and
predictive analytics are just some of the ways employers are deriving
higher value from health benefit offerings

LAS VEGAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Highlighting the many ways that health technology is transforming
employer-sponsored health benefit programs, Mercer unveiled early
results from its industry-leading survey at this year’s HR Technology
Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. Based on the first 1,566 responses1
to the Mercer
National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans
Mercer projects that health benefit cost per employee will rise by 4.1%
on average in 2019.

This increase is in line with recent low single-digit annual increases.
Mercer notes that the underlying medical plan cost trend has cooled from
6.5% to 5.3% heading into 2019 (the underlying trend is the estimated
increase in medical plan cost if employers made no changes). In past
years, common employer cost-control tactics included raising deductibles
and offering less generous plans. For 2019, however, fewer than half of
the responding employers (44%) will be making these types of changes.
But many employers are adopting new technology-enabled tools and
solutions to address the root causes of the high cost of health care
without cutting benefits or increasing the financial burden on employees.

“The improvement in the underlying medical plan trend is encouraging
because those savings are not solely coming from shifting cost to
employees,” said Tracy Watts, Senior Partner and Mercer’s Leader for
Health Reform. “It suggests that there is a ‘quiet revolution’ going on
in organizations as they deploy more innovative health benefit
strategies – and that these have started to pay off.”

In its work helping to design health benefit plans for employers of all
sizes, Mercer has found three technology strategies are key in driving
higher-value health care:

Target specific health problems. More than half of midsize and
large employers with 500 or more employees (58%) now offer one or more
“point solutions,” — high-tech, high-touch programs designed to help
members with specific health issues ranging from insomnia to
infertility. A targeted program for diabetics, for example, might offer
both coaching and an interactive glucose monitor that can transmit data
to a provider. Success is measured in quality of life improvement and
fewer trips to the emergency room.

Make it easy to engage. Today 18% of mid-sized and large
employers make all or most of their benefit offerings accessible to
employees on a single, fully integrated platform. Another 19% say they
are working towards full integration. Like the modern, online shopping
experience, an integrated platform helps employees more easily engage
with health and well-being vendors and find the resources they need.

Mine health plan and employee data for actionable insights. Most
employers with 500 or more employees (77%) already use a data warehouse
or get the data they need from plan vendors to inform their health plan
strategy. But some of these employers (16%) are further ahead, using
predictive analytics to identify future opportunities to improve health
plan performance – or even health outcomes. For example, claims data can
be continuously scanned for clusters of services that indicate a plan
member might be heading toward a back surgery, such as multiple trips to
a chiropractor followed by a low-back MRI. Timely outreach could help
this member avoid unnecessary back surgery — or undergo surgery in a
high-quality, cost-efficient setting.

“Employers have realized that it’s up to them to solve the problems of
high cost, inconsistent quality, and low satisfaction that plague the US
healthcare system,” said Renya Spak, Leader of Mercer’s Center for
Health Innovation. “Without question, technology is going to be part of
just about every meaningful solution.”

1The complete survey results based on responses from
nearly 2,400 employers will be released later this year, and will look
at the full range of strategies employers are using to manage cost

About Mercer

delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations
meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce.
Mercer’s more than 23,000 employees are based in 44 countries and the
firm operates in over 130 countries. Mercer is a wholly owned subsidiary
of Marsh
& McLennan Companies
(NYSE: MMC), the leading global
professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people.
With nearly 65,000 colleagues and annual revenue over $14 billion,
through its market-leading companies including Marsh,
and Oliver
, Marsh & McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly
dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit
Follow Mercer on Twitter @Mercer.


Bruce Lee, +1 212-345-0553

Sky Optics Media drone video