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Medical costs in Hong Kong up 9.3% annually


The challenge of factoring in an affordable healthcare component to an employee benefits package will remain a tricky balancing act for HR professionals in Hong Kong.

According to a just-published comprehensive global survey by Mercer March, Mercer Marsh Benefits 2019 Medical Trends Around the World report, medical costs rose by almost 10% in Hong Kong in 2018.

They were actually down slightly from the average increase in Asia (10.4%) and slightly below Mainland China’s increase (9.7%), but still represented a fairly hefty cost increase.

Singapore came in at an even 10% increase, while of the Asian countries surveyed, Malaysia and the Philippines had the sharpest increases, registering 13.4% and 13.0% respectively.

Australia recorded the lowest increase at just 4%.

One of the key findings of the report was that there has been “no reprieve in medical inflation”.

The report recommends that among the measures employers can take to offset the increase in medical costs is to “plan ahead for design, delivery and financing cost-containment measures, prioritising solutions that enhance access to quality healthcare. In the absence of aggressive short and long-term interventions, employers will need to consider budgeting for high costs”.

Another key finding was that lifestyle factors continue to drive increasing medical costs.

“Make health a business imperative. Develop a holistic health and wellbeing strategy that supports employees across their physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing,” the report said.

The report stated that a similar global rise in medical inflation is line for 2019 with the possibility of even higher rates for 2020.

Worldwide, the top three health risk factors influencing employer sponsored group medical cost continue to be metabolic (such as diabetes) and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk and emotional or mental risk.

The picture was slightly different in Asia, with environmental risks (52%) and occupational risk (52%) figuring prominently – with metabolic and cardiovascular risk (88%) still the highest.

Some of the things HR can do to create affordable healthcare are: review the plan design and shop around if necessary, personalise the employee experience, and embrace disruption by collaborating with medical insurers, employees and other stakeholders to improve healthcare delivery.

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