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59% of APAC insurers surveyed expect higher healthcare costs over the next 3 years

59% of APAC insurers surveyed expect higher healthcare costs over the next 3 years

The average cost of medical care in the region jumped from 7.2% in 2022 to 9.9% in 2023, a figure it is expected to maintain in 2024.

According to a survey conducted by WTW, health insurers in the APAC region indicate minimal to no change in medical costs in 2024 (9.9%).

WTW’s Global Medical Trends Survey saw a jump from 7.2% of the average cost of medical care in APAC in 2022, to 9.9% in 2023. Globally, an increase was also observed — going from 7.4% in 2022 to 10.7% in 2023. 

Here is a breakdown of the medical trends from 2022 to 2024 globally and within APAC: 

 202220232024 projection
Global7.4%10.7%9.9%
Asia Pacific7.2%9.9%9.9%
Australia4.17%9.37%9.53%
China7.38%

7.50%

8.35%
Hong Kong7.53%8.27%8.36%
India10.51%9.38%10.50%
Indonesia10.00%11.50%12.74%
Malaysia10.99%12.07%13.36%
New Zealand3.00%12.50%8.50%
The Philippines15.50%13.67%13.94%
Singapore8.44%10.33%10.67%
South Korea9.00%10.67%11.67%
Taiwan5.75%5.75%6.25%
Thailand8.30%10.67%9.27%
Vietnam5.40%10.25%11.33%


Market-specific trends 

The report highlighted some key findings in selected markets: 

China 

The decrease in medical costs in China is attributed to economic stabilisation following a period of high inflation. Healthcare organisations, including those in China, have implemented rigorous cost-control measures in various areas such as labour, purchasing, and transportation. China's national health insurance system is undergoing reforms, expanding access to individual medical savings accounts for family members and centralising drug procurement to reduce costs.

However, private insurers may face challenges covering a broader range of drugs and dealing with increasing claim costs due to changes in the national healthcare system.

Hong Kong 

Insurers in Hong Kong anticipate a stable medical trend in 2024, primarily driven by sustained demand for hospitalisations resulting from early detection of chronic illnesses. To manage rising medical costs, insurers are implementing pre-authorisation requirements and promoting outpatient surgery to reduce unnecessary hospitalisation expenses.

While many employers consider reviewing insurance providers and negotiating better pricing, there is a growing trend of insurers being less willing to offer competitive pricing compared to the pandemic period. Insurers, having paid significant claims in the past two years, are now prioritising long-term sustainable pricing for their clients.

India 

Healthcare costs are projected to rise in 2024 and beyond, outpacing the general inflation rate. Factors contributing to medical inflation include increased demand, technological advancements, rising medical tourism, and higher costs of raw materials. The extended average length of hospital stays has also contributed to elevated per-patient costs.

Factors such as increased expenses for hospital supplies, staff compensation, consulting fees, and other operational costs further drive the rising cost of hospitalisation. Insurers are expected to implement premium increases, but potential future legislation, such as a proposed bill in India to establish a national commission to control medical inflation, could play a significant role in shaping the future of the healthcare sector in the country.

Singapore

The medical inflation rate in Singapore is anticipated to remain stable in 2024, after a significant increase from 2022 to 2023. Key contributors include medical tourism, high real estate costs, the rising expense of talent, and a growing number of elective surgeries. Post-COVID return-to-work scenarios and global economic uncertainty have heightened workforce stress, leading to exacerbated chronic conditions. In June 2023, the government released new benchmark fees for private hospitals, reflecting increased operating expenses.

While not mandatory, these benchmark fees, such as a 12.1% rise in surgeon fees, 9.9% increase in anesthesiologist fees, and 5.7% uptick in doctors' in-patient attendance fees, serve as informative pricing tools for insurers. Despite these changes, medical inflation is not expected to decrease at this time.

Malaysia 

The medical trend is expected to rise in 2024, driven by continued high utilisation post-pandemic. The increase in costs is compounded by the fluctuating and weakening Ringgit, having depreciated up to 15% against the US dollar in the past one to two years. This depreciation significantly impacts the costs of medications, surgical supplies, and other imported medical equipment. Interest in telemedicine has surged, particularly in the pharmacy sector for long-term medication needs.

Insurers and employers, through partnerships with large pharmacy chains, are increasingly promoting direct online purchase of medications, resulting in average cost savings of 30%, with a focus on convenience and delivery to members.

Vietnam

The medical trend in Vietnam is expected to significantly increase in 2024, primarily due to a mandated cost rise of around 30% at state-owned hospitals since August 2023. Post-pandemic, there is a growing demand for medical treatments, with elective procedures at private hospitals on the rise, contributing notably to a high loss ratio. The return to work after the pandemic and global inflation have heightened workforce stress, potentially leading to the emergence of chronic conditions and worsening health outcomes.

 

Methodology 

A total of 266 leading health insurers representing 66 countries/territories participated in the 2024 Global Medical Trends Survey, conducted in July 2023. To lessen the effect of market size and currency issues, the regional and global trend rates have been weighted using GDP per capita.


ALSO READ: 9 of the 12 locations globally with the highest real salary increases for 2023 are in APAC


Lead photo / 123RF

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