Survey: Employers held down health costs in 2012

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"Moving even a small number of employees out of a more expensive plan into a CDHP can result in significant savings for an employer," the report stated. "Many employers sees these plans as central to their response to healthcare reform provisions that will raise enrollment."

Sharon Cunninghis, a senior partner at Mercer, added in the report, "If we're not already at the tipping point for CDHPs — and we may well be — at this rate of growth it's coming soon."

Mercer went on to call wellness programs "employers' top long-term strategy for controlling health spending." For the third straight year, the survey found a sharp increase in the use of incentives or penalties to encourage employee participation in wellness programs.

Mercer also noted that incentives to participate in wellness programs have become "more substantial," the most common being a reduction in the employee's premium contribution.

The survey has a margin of error of three percentage points. Results represent about 800,000 employers and 104 million employees.