Employer health-care costs are expected to rise at a slower pace in the year ahead, as more workplaces offer wellness programs and consumer-driven coverage options, according to Aon Consulting.

Based on a survey of more than 70 health-care insurers, the Chicago-based consulting firm estimates that that health-care costs will increase by 10.6 percent over the next 12 months, a 0.3 percent drop from last year and the lowest rate since the study was launched in 2001.

Rising prescription drug costs are also expected to ease, dropping by 0.3 percent for last year to 9.2 percent.

The study attributes the lower costs to an upturn in workplace wellness programs and consumer-driven coverage.

According to John Zern, the firm's health and benefits director, employers could be doing more to combat rising health-care costs, in addition to wellness programs.

"This includes greater senior management support for these programs, better employee communications and more consistent cooperation from the medical community," he said in a statement.