Mercer, a consulting firm, is reporting that the average increase in total health benefits costs per employee fell to 6.1% this year, from 6.9% in 2010.

But David McCann writes in an article for CFO that, even though cost growth has moderated, employers are more vigilant about controlling benefits costs than they might have been if the economy were looking better.

Mercer found that overall health plan enrollment has increased an average of 2% this year, mainly because of a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) that requires employers that offer health coverage for dependents to extend access to children up to age 26.

Other PPACA provisions slated to take effect in 2014, including provisions requiring employers to auto enroll new employees and extend coverage eligibility to all employees working at least 30 hours per week, could lead to another increase in enrollment, McCann says.

“Retailers and other employers with large part-time populations are likely to be the most affected,” McCann says.

Read the story.

-alb