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Asia Pacific healthcare benefit costs to increase by average of 7.6% in 2022 says Willis Towers Watson

December 2, 2021

Costs by markets, however, will be marked by price volatility due to the uneven global trajectory of the pandemic
Health and Benefits
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ASIA PACIFIC, December 2, 2021 — Employer-sponsored healthcare benefit cost trends are expected to increase by 7.6% on average in Asia Pacific (APAC) in 2022, according to a survey of medical insurers. Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company, conducted the 2022 Global Medical Trends Survey.

The projected healthcare benefit costs declined in 2020 before rebounding to 7% in 2021. Notably, the survey disclosed sizeable variation in cost trend increases by markets. With COVID-19 surging in different countries at various times in 2020 and 2021, survey results showed the pandemic’s asymmetrical arc created considerable volatility in healthcare utilisation and costs around the world.

When comparing specific markets in APAC, insurers expect cost trends to be as high as 16.2% in Malaysia and 23.5% in India next year, while in China, Singapore and Vietnam, the increase are projected at 8.3% and 9% respectively according to the research. Looking ahead, medical insurers expect healthcare cost trends to accelerate beyond 2022, with six in ten projecting higher or significantly higher costs over the next three years.

Healthcare benefit cost growth in Asia Pacific

Global medical trends: Healthcare benefit cost growth, 2020 – 2022
2020 2021 2022 projected
Global+ 4.8% 8.1% 8.1%
Asia Pacific 5.4% 7.0% 7.6%
Australia 2.8% 5.0% 4.3%
China 5.5% 7.2% 8.3%
Hong Kong 6.5% 6.8% 8.2%
India 18.5% 25.0% 23.5%
Indonesia 6.2% 7.0% 7.4%
Malaysia 9.5% 7.7% 16.2%
New Zealand 2.0% 9.4% 6.9%
Philippines 6.4% 16.4% 14.4%
Singapore 7.7% 8.6% 9.0%
South Korea 3.7% 0% 2.7%
Taiwan 5.8% 5.8% 6.8%
Thailand 9.0% 11.3% 9.2%
Vietnam 5.3% 7.0% 9.0%

+Global and regional trend rates are weighted based on GDP per capita. (Due to the hyperinflationary nature of the Venezuelan economy, Venezuela has been excluded from Latin America regional and global totals.)

“COVID-19 has produced the biggest impact to global medical trend variation the industry has seen, and we expect the resultant repercussions and volatility to extend into 2022 and beyond,” said Cedric Luah, Head of Health and Benefits, International, Willis Towers Watson. “Markets and employers are feeling the impact differently. Some have experienced the recovery’s demand for regular medical services in 2021, while others will see it next year or after. The pandemic, combined with the changing face of work, has had a significant effect on healthcare needs, delivery of services and the future drivers of medical claims, which in turn will have impact on medical inflation trends.”

The pandemic, combined with the changing face of work, has had a significant effect on healthcare needs, delivery of services and the future drivers of medical claims, which in turn will have impact on medical inflation trends.”

Cedric Luah | Head of Health & Benefits, International Willis Towers Watson

The leading driver of medical costs continues to be overuse of care (64%) due to medical professionals recommending too many services or overprescribing. Excess of care by insured members (59%) is the second leading driver. The underuse of preventive services (38%) is also a significant cost driver and increased year-over-year due to, in part, the avoidance of medical care during the pandemic.

Insurers in APAC named cancer (76%), cardiovascular (62%) and musculoskeletal (48%) as the top three conditions by cost, identical to last year’s findings. They have also ranked musculoskeletal, and mental and behavioural disorders as two of the fastest growing conditions by cost they expect to see over the next 18 months.

“COVID-19 has caused volatility in the trend numbers and in the leading causes of claims. The sedentary lifestyle that often accompanies working from home has also increased the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. For the first time ever, we are seeing musculoskeletal conditions as the leading claim incidence globally. As most employers can attest, mental health claims are also on the rise,” said Cedric.

The mental wellbeing of employees continues to be a key employer focus.”

Audrey Tan
Head of Health & Benefits, Singapore Willis Towers Watson

Audrey Tan, Head of Health & Benefits, Singapore, WTW also added: “The mental wellbeing of employees continues to be a key employer focus. In Singapore, the healthcare system has also pivoted to include virtual mental wellbeing support, largely to ensure that employees receive the quality healthcare support they need as they continue to work from home, both virtually and physically. Employers are also reviewing how wellbeing solutions, in general, can be incorporated as a core benefit item, seeking support from insurers or solutions provider like us.”

According to the survey, almost four in 10 insurers (35%) identified the addition of new wellbeing services as the biggest change organisations in APAC have made to their medical portfolios in 2021. This is followed by telehealth services (26%), underscored by the potential for cost reductions that virtual healthcare creates. Half of the insurers now offer telehealth across select plans, with 92% offering these services at no additional cost.

“It is likely that the adoption of telehealth will continue post-pandemic. In fact, the role of telehealth will continue to evolve not only as a digital platform for ease of access to the right care but also as an effective way to close the gap in accessing healthcare services. In addition, we expect the scope of services provided by these health-tech to expand further into wellbeing offerings, including but not limited to mental health services, given the impact of COVID on emotional wellbeing of employees,” added Cedric.

About the survey

Willis Towers Watson conducted its 2022 Global Medical Trends Survey between July and September 2021. A total of 209 leading insurers representing 61 countries participated in the survey, including 13 markets in Asia Pacific.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimise benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets, and ideas – the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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