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Cost of healthcare benefits expected to increase by 9.1% in Singapore in 2019

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Employers in Singapore offering healthcare benefits to staff can expect to fork out more next year. According to a survey of medical insurers by Willis Towers Watson, healthcare benefits cost is expected to increase by 9.1% in Singapore in 2019.

The 2019 Global Medical Trends Survey showed that many markets across Asia Pacific can expect to see similar steep growth in costs, with markets such as India, China and Malaysia seeing an upward cost increase of more than 10% in 2019 – 10.6%, 10.7%, and 13.1% respectively. This is despite the modest increases globally (7.6%).

On average, across APAC, costs are expected to rise by 7.8%, with nearly half of insurers (47%) expecting the outlook for medical costs to continue increasing over the next three years.

When asked for the most significant cost-driving factors outside the control of employers and vendors, nearly two-thirds (60%) of the insurers cited the high cost of medical technology, followed by providers’ profit motives (37%).

Interestingly, 83% ranked overuse of care due to medical practitioners recommending too many services as the most significant factor driving costs related to employee and provider behavior. while just 53% cited overuse of care due to employees seeking inappropriate care.

When it comes to medical conditions that cause the highest number of claims, insurers in Asia saw an increase in cancer and cardiovascular ailments. Almost a quarter of insurers also expected mental and behavioural disorders, e.g. stress, to be a top three condition over the next five years.

Cedric Luah, head of health and benefits, Asia and Australasia at Willis Towers Watson, said: “To better control costs, many employers are taking a close look at how they design and deliver health care benefits. There are also fundamental concerns over how medical treatment is being provided and consumed, and the cost implications of innovative future treatments, all of which can fuel sharp cost increases down the road.”

In terms of cost management initiatives, he noted: “While traditional cost management programmes continue to be the main action taken, insurers and employers are also looking closely at telemedicine, second medical opinion services and other innovative design programmes that can help to control costs and meet the needs of their employees to help them make smarter health decisions.”

Health care benefit cost growth (highest to lowest)

#1 Vietnam
2017: 11.0%
2018: 15.0%
2019: 16.3%

#2 Malaysia
2017: 9.0%
2018: 11.4%
2019: 13.1%

#3 Philippines
2017: 8.8%
2018: 10.3%
2019: 11.5%

#4 Indonesia
2017: 11.1%
2018: 10.9%
2019: 10.8%

#5 China
2017: 9.0%
2018: 10.1%
2019: 10.7%

#6 India
2017: 7.6%
2018: 9.2%
2019: 10.6%

#7 Taiwan
2017: 7.2%
2018: 7.8%
2019: 9.3%

#8 Singapore
2017: 8.3%
2018: 8.8%
2019: 9.1%

#9 Hong Kong
2017: 7.0%
2018: 8.0%
2019: 8.6%

#10 Thailand
2017: 6.4%
2018: 7.0%
2019: 8.5%

#11 APAC average
2017: 7.1%
2018: 7.0%
2019: 7.8%

#12 Global average
2017: 6.7%
2018: 7.1%
2019: 7.6%

#13 New Zealand
2017: 6.9%
2018: 5.4%
2019: 5.4%

#14 Australia
2017: 4.9%
2018: 4.6%
2019: 4.6%

#15 South Korea
2017: 6.0%
2018: 1.4%
2019: 3.4%

Photo / 123RF

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