By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A survey finds that health care costs are expected to rise a bit less next year.

The annual survey by human resources consulting firm Mercer asks more than 2,000 companies what they expect to pay for health benefits next year. The preliminary 2012 figure is 5.4% more with some changes in their plans, and 7.1% without.

“We are looking at the lowest cost increase that we’ve seen in 15 years and we hope that employees will feel that next year when they look at their payroll deductions for health care. But in the end, it’s still than inflation, it’s still higher than earnings and it’s still a problem,” says Beth Umland, Mercer’s Director of Health and Benefits Research, about the 5.4% figure.

Umland says the poor economy and higher out-of-pocket payments keep costs down, but new technology and pharmaceuticals and an older population push them up.

Reported by John Ostapkovich, KYW Newsradio

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