Healthcare cost inflation for Singapore workers was 10 times the economic inflation rate in 2018: Mercer report

Metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk as well as emotional and mental risk were identified in the report as the top three factors that continue to push up medical costs.
The Straits Times

Singapore’s medical trend rate – otherwise known as inflation in medical cost – exceeded the country’s economic inflation by 10 times in 2018, as the cost of health benefit programmes continued to rise, according to a report.

The Mercer Marsh Benefits 2019 Medical Trends Around the World report, released on Monday (June 10), revealed that Singapore’s medical trend rate was at 10 per cent last year, and is expected to rise by 0.1 per cent in 2019, with insurers forecasting further increases a year on.

The report, which surveyed 204 insurers from 59 countries (excluding the US which was studied using different parameters), involved an assessment of the effects of health conditions, supplier factors and consumer habits on medical costs and an examination of how insurers respond to the changes.

It identified metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk as well as emotional and mental risk as the three major factors that continue to influence the rise in medical cost.

In Asia, environmental risk played the second biggest role in affecting costs due to high pollution levels in many of the region’s major cities, the report said.

Mercer Marsh Benefits international leader, Herve Balzano, said: “The future of work demands healthy and engaged employees. As the cost of providing medical benefits continue to rise, employers should assess how to make the most of plan design, including giving access to quality-based care to drive better outcomes.”

“Plans should be reviewed with both cost optimisation and employee engagement lenses,” added Balzano.

The report noted that the number of insurers investing in initiatives to facilitate quality-focused care and better guide members to appropriate care options more quickly has  doubled.

It added that 29 per cent of insurers globally have named this particular type of investment as a top strategic priority, with 63 per cent providing education, tools, and incentives to promote positive behaviour and help members make smarter healthcare choices.

Neil Narale, Singapore business leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, said health and wellness solutions among corporations in Singapore continue to be “underpenetrated or poorly designed”.

“This highlights the potential value of interventions especially among high-risk groups, such as health and wellness programmes to reduce the incidence of disease, and screening for earlier detection of disease,” said Narale.

He also said that having integrated healthcare offerings that adopt wellness measures, condition management and early intervention measures would do well to improve the health and productivity of employees while keeping future increases in medical costs in check.

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