U.S. employers expect their health benefit costs will rise by 4.3 percent on average next year, the highest increase since 2011, according to a new national survey by Mercer. That per-employee increase in costs would be incurred after employers make planned changes such as raising deductibles or switching carriers, Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans found. The projected underlying cost growth from 2017 to 2018 is 6 percent, which is the increase that employers would expect if they made no changes to their medical plans. According to the survey, 46 percent of employers said they will take steps to reduce cost growth in 2018. High drug prices contributed to cost growth. Respondents reported that spending on specialty drugs for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and hepatitis C rose by about 15 percent at their last renewal, pushing up growth in the overall cost of prescription drugs to more than 7 percent.