Mercer Expects Move to Defined Contribution Design for Health Care

May 23, 2011 ( – A new Mercer Perspectives report says that while most employers will continue to offer health benefits to active employees, some are likely to limit their liability and move to a defined contribution subsidy for coverage.

Mercer expects they will more aggressively manage health care and productivity costs using new benefit design, new provider networks, new care management programs, and more financial incentives.  

According to Mercer, one potential path to optimizing the value of health benefits starts with offering a low-cost “core plan” that is the benchmark for the employer’s cost sharing. The plan design value and required contributions could be set at the minimum levels required by health reform to avoid the Shared Responsibilities penalties. Employees could choose to buy up to more generous plans.  

To keep all plans affordable, Mercer expects that employers will utilize targeted health management programs with incentives for healthy behaviors. Employers might also select more limited provider networks for one or more options and also make use of on-site facilities and patient-centered medical homes.  

The report said the case for a defined contribution design is built on these advantages: 

  • It will generate savings over time, 
  • It can be easily administered, 
  • It aligns with pay and other benefits, and 
  • It provides transparent value – the specific premium contribution for the medical plan coverage – that can be easily understood by employees. 


The Mercer Perspectives report is available for download at