Mercer Releases 2015 Health Plan Survey Results

Are employers successfully holding the line on health care costs?

February 3, 2016

Now in its 30th year, the survey has long been a preeminent source of timely, reliable health benefit information, used by employers, policymakers, the health care industry and the media. Unlike other surveys conducted by benefit professionals, Mercer’s survey is statistically representative of all U.S. health plan sponsors with 10 or more employees – which means we can provide precise health plan benchmark data for employer groups based on industry, size and location.

The Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans tracked health benefit costs for both small (1-499 employees) and large (500+ employees) employers to help determine the effects of rising health care costs, wellness efforts, plan variations, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSA).

During 2015, overall inflation declined, while employee earnings rose by 2%. The annual change in total health benefit costs per employee was held to an average increase of 3.8% with a projected rise of 4.3% in 2016.

Costs rose most sharply among small employers: 5.9% vs. 2.9% for large employers. Part of the reason for this disparity may be attributed to the ability of larger employers to add Consumer Driven Health Plans (CDHPs) to their mix. 59% of all large employers offered these less-costly plans and by 2018 they could be offered by as many as 75% of large employers. In the case of “jumbo” employers (20,000+ employees), they were offered by 73% in 2015 and could be offered by 85% in 2018.

HSA - Based CDHPS Reduce Excise Tax Exposure 

  • Cost is approximately 18% less per employee than PPOs or HMOs in 2015, including employer contributions to HAS accounts.
  • More than 25% of all employers are estimated to hit the excise tax threshold as early as 2018, assuming no changes to their current plans.
  • More than 10% of plans estimated to be subject to excise tax cost threshold currently have actuarial values of less than 80% (among larger employers).

Cutting Costs and Supporting Employee Wellness

  • Large and Jumbo employers are adding telemedicine services to help reduce employee absenteeism
  • Large and Jumbo employers are promoting a wide range of programs to support employee health and well-being
    • Wearable tech to track physical activity
    • Health engagement mobile apps
    • Sleep disorder diagnosis and treatment programs
    • Resiliency/Stress management programs
    • Financial well-being programs

Contact a Marsh & McLennan Agency benefits representative for more detailed information, or visit to buy the full survey.