(Omaha World-Herald) -- Omaha.com reports that "employer group health costs continue to rise faster than inflation," according to a new survey by Mercer, a Kansas City-based benefits consultant. The article notes that "employers in Nebraska and Iowa are spending 5.5% more for employee health benefits this year than in 2015." At the same time, "employers' annual health benefit bills in Nebraska and Iowa are averaging $11,357 per employee this year, Mercer said, compared with $11,920 nationally. Next year's costs would average $11,779 for Nebraska and Iowa and $12,409 nationally." The average monthly employee contribution for employee-only coverage in the two states is $116 for a traditional preferred provider plan and $95 a month for a high-deductible plan, according to the survey. The story also reports on steps employers are taking to control costs, such as emphasizing consumer-directed health plans paired with health savings accounts.