Employer-provided medical costs in Singapore expected to rise by 10% in 2020: Report

Patients waiting outside consultation rooms at the accident and emergency department at Changi General Hospital. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Employer-provided medical benefit costs in Singapore are expected to jump by 10 per cent in 2020, outpacing general inflation of 1.4 per cent, and higher than the Asia-Pacific (Apac) average of 8.7 per cent.

This is according to the 2020 Global Medical Trend Rates Report by British insurance company Aon.

However, projected medical trend rates vary significantly across different locations, Aon said.

Within Apac, costs are expected to increase the most in Malaysia (14 per cent) and Thailand (13.9 per cent), while China and Hong Kong are projected to see an average increase of 7.5 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively.

Said Aon: "Due to the adoption of advanced technology, the prices of medical goods and services are increasing at a level two to three times that of general inflation. The penetration of mobile applications for online claims management has also contributed to the increase in claims reported by supplemental medical plans in China.

"In Hong Kong, the medical trend rate is driven by increasing levels of stress and respiratory infections," it noted.

Mr Tim Dwyer, Aon's chief executive officer of health solutions in Apac, said: "Cost containment strategies are no longer enough to address medical inflation. Organisations in the region must introduce comprehensive programmes that address the physical, emotional, social and financial well-being of their employees. A proactive people strategy focusing on all these factors will lead to a healthier, engaged, and more productive workforce."

Aon's report also noted the increasing impact of non-communicable diseases on healthcare costs globally. In Apac, cardiovascular, cancer, musculoskeletal, ENT (ear, nose and throat) and gastrointestinal conditions were the most prevalent health conditions driving healthcare claims.

According to Aon, the growing prevalence of risks in Apac was also due to high blood pressure, obesity, ageing and unhealthy personal habits such as physical inactivity and bad nutrition.

Mr Tim Nimmer, Aon's global chief actuary for health solutions, said: "Many of the risk factors lead to chronic conditions with long-term medical costs that make them difficult to treat, and result in long-term medical cost increases.

"As a large portion of our waking hours are spent on the job, the workplace is a logical place to create a healthier culture and change behaviours. Our goal is to guide employers as they become more critical in helping individuals and their families to take a more active role in managing their health, including participating in health and well-being activities and better managing chronic conditions."

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