Asian countries face biggest rises

 

According to the Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) "Medical Trends Around the World" report, medical costs continue to outpace general inflation by close to three times, with the global average of 9.7% in 2018. A similar increase is expected for 2019 and an even higher increase is predicted in 2020.

From January to March 2019, MMB surveyed 204 insurers in 59 countries, excluding the USA.  Some places show larger increases in medical costs than others:

  • Asia 10.4%
  • Malaysia 13.4%
  • Philippines 13%
  • Singapore 10.2%
  • Vietnam 14.5%

Insurers have more than doubled their investment in initiatives to enable quality focused care, to better guide customers to the right care options for them more quickly.  They are providing education, tools and incentives to drive positive health behaviours. Most insurers are now considering, or already support, virtual health consultations to contain cost and improve service.

As the cost of health benefit programmes continues to rise globally, employers have the opportunity to contain cost through smarter plan design and employee access to quality focused healthcare.

Globally, the top three health risk factors influencing medical cost remain metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk and emotional/mental risk. On a regional level, there is variation in the top risk factors:

  • Latin America: dietary risk (85%)
  • Europe: emotional or mental risks (61%)
  • Middle East and Africa: occupational risks (59%)
  • Asia: environmental risks (52%) - as the effects of high pollution levels in many of the region’s major cities impact health

Insurers ranked the risk factors that most influence group medical costs:

                              

Rank   

  Global

 Asia  

Europe

  Latin     America

Middle East,   Africa

Metabolic and cardiovascular risk

1

91%       

88%       

92%         

97%        

88%       

Dietary risk

2

56%

41%

51%

85%

71%

Emotional/Mental risks

3

44%

29%

61%

45%

12%

Occupational risk

4

43%

52%

42%

18%

59%

Environmental risk

5

30%

52%

19%

18%

24%

Tobacco smoke

6

22%

17%

27%

24%

24%

Childhood and maternal under nutrition

7

6%

5%

5%

0%

24%

Alcohol and drug abuse

8

5%

11%

3%

0%

0%

Traffic, violence and safety

8

5%

8%

0%

12%

0%

Globally, cancer and circulatory problems account for the most claims, followed by gastrointestinal diseases and respiratory conditions.

The next highest claims categories vary by region, with a high frequency of osteomuscular diseases in Europe, endocrine and metabolic diseases in Latin America, with infectious disease a problem in Asia and the Middle East.

Rising costs, more demanding customers and outside factors will shape the future of health insurance. Many insurers are moving to integrate healthcare and wellness into insurance. with preventative wellness measures and condition management.

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