Many U.S. 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, according to a national survey of employer-sponsored plans by Mercer. Correspondingly, the survey found that for 2019, fewer than half of the responding employers (44 percent) said they will be passing costs along to their employees in the form of higher cost-sharing or reduced benefits.

Based on the first 1,566 responses to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Mercer projects that health benefit cost per employee will rise by 4.1 percent on average in 2019.  

Technology has enabled companies to zero in on specific health problems. For instance, the survey of nearly 2,400 employers found that more than half (58 percent) of midsize and large employers with 500 or more employees 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.

Also, technology helps improve accessibility. Eighteen percent of mid-sized and large employers said they make all or most of their benefit offerings accessible to employees on a single, fully integrated platform, and another 19 percent said they are working towards full integration.

Additionally, technology is making it easier to mine data for actionable insights. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of employers with 500 or more employees 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 percent) are further ahead, using predictive analytics to identify future opportunities to improve health plan performance – or even health outcomes.

“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.”