Singapore 2018 healthcare cost inflation hits 10%, 10 times the economic inflation rate: Mercer report

Globally, the top three health risk factors influencing medical cost remain metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk and emotional/mental risk.
Globally, the top three health risk factors influencing medical cost remain metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk and emotional/mental risk.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE'S medical trend rate - which measures medical cost inflation - was 10 per cent in 2018, 10 times the Singapore economy's estimated 2018 inflation rate of 1 per cent, according to Mercer Marsh Benefits' 2019 Medical Trends Around the World report.

The economic inflation figure was obtained from the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Database in January 2019. Singapore's headline inflation officially came in at 0.4 per cent.

Singapore's medical cost inflation was slightly lower than the Asian average of 10.4 per cent, with Singapore coming in sixth highest out of 11 Asian countries surveyed.

Vietnam was top with a 14.5 per cent increase, neighbouring Malaysia increased 13.4 per cent and at the lowest end of the table, South Korea's medical trend rate increased by 6 per cent.

Medical inflation in Singapore is also expected to rise to 10.1 per cent in 2019.

The American human resource consultant's report surveyed 204 insurers from January to March across 59 countries (excluding the US due to different research parameters), asking them for information on the rising cost of medical care in each market as well as the types, costs and frequency of medical conditions that were claimed for by company employees in 2018.

"Health and wellness solutions among corporations in Singapore continue to be under-penetrated or poorly designed," said Neil Narale, Singapore business leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits. "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."

He said employers could move towards more proactive integrated healthcare offerings which adopt preventive wellness measures, condition management and early intervention measures.

This "will also help employers improve the health and productivity of employees while controlling future increases in medical costs", Mr Narale said.

Globally, the top three health risk factors influencing medical cost remain metabolic and cardiovascular risk, dietary risk and emotional/mental risk.

In Asia, environmental risks were the second-biggest factor due to the effects of high pollution levels in many of the region's major cities.

Mercer said the number of insurers investing in initiatives to enable quality-focused care that better guides members to the right care options quicker, has more than doubled.

Globally, 63 per cent of insurers are helping members make smarter healthcare choices by providing education, tools and incentives to drive positive behaviour.