Total health benefit costs for active employees in Minnesota increased 4.7 percent this year to an average of $11,883 per worker, according a national survey released Thursday.
The consulting firm Mercer reported the data as part of an annual report that found average total health benefit cost per employee increased 2.6 percent across the country this year to $12,229.
Minnesota's numbers look different from those for the nation, but the difference stems from the greater share of high-deductible plans here.
New York-based Mercer surveyed more than 2,400 employers with at least 10 workers, including 108 firms in Minnesota.
"In contrast to the turmoil in the individual health plan market, employer health plans sponsors extended their run of low annual cost increases," Mercer said in a news release.
Nationally, cost growth has averaged 3.3 percent annually over the past five years, Mercer says, compared with 6.2 percent during the previous five-year period.
Nationwide, employers expect costs to increase 4.3 percent in 2018, with consultants projecting a similar rate of increase in Minnesota. Reports earlier this year from consulting firms Aon and Willis Towers Watson forecast similar national increases.
The Mercer report found that enrollment in certain high-deductible health plans was nearly flat in 2017 at 30 percent of all covered employees. Most employers with at least 500 employees provide workers with online resources to help compare the price and quality, in some cases, of health care providers.
The share of employers this size offering "telemedicine" services — meaning access to health care providers by the phone, internet or online video as a covered benefit — increased from 59 percent to 71 percent. Telemedicine visits typically cost less than $50, the report found, compared with office visits that cost $125.
"Employers with telemedicine programs in use in 2016 reported an average utilization rate of 7 percent," Mercer said "This is expected to rise, considering that many telemedicine programs were only in their first or second year of operation."
Christopher Snowbeck 612-673-4744