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The costs associated with employer-sponsored medical benefits programs in India are expected to rise by 15% in 2022, according to a report released on Tuesday by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB). 

The highest increase is anticipated in the Asia region, at three times the predicted general inflation rate for India, marking the third consecutive year of double-digit increase since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MMB Health Trends report surveyed 210 insurers globally, including 74 in Asia, and identified key trends influencing the future of employer-provided medical benefits. The results show that five countries in Asia experienced higher medical trend rates than the regional average (8.8%) in 2021. 

India had the highest medical inflation rate of 14%, followed by China (12%), Indonesia (10%), Vietnam (10%), and the Philippines (9%). Overall, 81% of insurers in Asia indicated an upward trend in medical claims activity in 2021, even though 53% of insurers reported lower medical claims than pre-pandemic levels.

In India, nearly 5.8 million die from non-communicable diseases every year. The report reveals that cancer (55%), diseases of the circulatory system (43%), and Covid-19 (36%) were the top cost drivers of medical claims in Asia in 2021. Respiratory diseases (47%), gastrointestinal diseases (36%) and Covid-19 (34%) are healthcare conditions that experienced the most frequent claims.

Joan Collar, Asia regional leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits, said, “Costs have soared despite lower levels of medical treatment than before the pandemic, a trend exacerbated by deferred healthcare treatments that for many have resulted in more adverse outcomes, leading to higher costs. Reducing NCDs remains a key priority for employers for the health of their employees and their business. More than ever, employer-sponsored medical benefits should be viewed as an investment in employees’ wellbeing. Employees who feel their employer cares about their health and well-being are more motivated, productive, committed, and loyal."

Of all global regions, the report identified Asia as having the most inadequate coverage in relation to mental health with only 34% of insurers providing coverage for outpatient treatments in mental health, and just 21% providing coverage for preventive mental health measures. Moreover, 32% do not offer any coverage for mental health services, reflecting a huge protection gap between access to benefits against the burden of mental health risks.

The study shows that 33% of insurers are making changes to facilitate more inclusive medical plan designs by allowing coverage for the non-permanent or full-time workforce with 54% either adding or considering extending eligible expenses that are more inclusive for women.

 

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