Half of adults in Singapore have chronic diseases – WTW

An average of 10.7 percent of medical inflation was projected by Singaporean insurers in 2024.

Approximately half of Singapore’s adult population suffer from one or more chronic diseases, according to Eva Liu, Head of Strategic Development, Health & Benefits at WTW Asia Pacific.

This statistic is a wake-up call for the nation's healthcare system, as chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes were responsible for over 51% of all registered deaths in 2021.

Liu said that beyond the physical health aspect, mental health concerns are also rising, albeit often underreported due to social stigma and standard exclusions in many local policies.

This escalating health crisis is poised to impact medical costs. "We need to identify such invisible risks and work with insurance to support employees," Liu asserted, emphasising the role of employers in mitigating these challenges.

Singapore's medical inflation rate, according to Liu, is set to remain stable yet high in 2024. The country's insurers reported a projected medical inflation of 10.7% on average, slightly above the regional average. 

Liu said that the key cost drivers include medical tourism, high real estate and staffing costs, and an increase in elective surgeries. Overuse and misuse of care, often due to excessive services recommended by medical practitioners, further exacerbate this trend.

To combat rising medical costs, she said that the Singapore government has published benchmark fees for private hospitals that, while not mandatory, serve as a pricing tool for insurers to manage medical inflation over the long term.

"Most insurers are bundling wellbeing add-ons in employer programs, but utilisation is low due to possible duplication and lack of communication," she observed, adding that employers need to understand their employees' needs and work with insurers to plan targeted communication and execution plans.

Additionally, Liu pointed out gaps in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) related coverages in the Asia Pacific compared to global practices. This includes support for neurodiversity, menopause-related treatments, and gender-affirming care.

"Employers should communicate their corporate goals and DEI agenda and explore opportunities with insurers to address the specific needs of different employee groups," she suggested.

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