Expansion of consumer-directed health plans and investment in health management programs produced the lowest average annual employer cost increase since 1997, according to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, conducted annually by Mercer.

Growth in the average total health benefit cost per employee slowed from 6.1% last year to just 4.1% in 2012. Cost averaged $10,558 per employee in 2012. Large employers – those with 500 or more employees – experienced both a higher increase (5.4%) and higher average cost.

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