Regional healthcare costs at 3 times the rate of inflation

Top 3 health risk factors influencing medical costs are respiratory conditions, diseases of the circulatory system and endocrine and metabolic diseases

  
Medical costs will continue to outpace general inflation by close to 3 times with the regional average expected to be 13.6 per cent in 2019, says the Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) Key Medical Trends in the Middle East and North Africa report.
 
This is anticipated to grow to 14 per cent in 2020. As the cost of delivering health benefit programmes continues to rise across the region, employers are working with the likes of Mercer Marsh Benefits to develop smarter healthcare plans and embrace wellness and preventive medicine.
 
Regionally, the top three health risk factors influencing medical costs are respiratory conditions, diseases of the circulatory system and endocrine and metabolic diseases.
 
Type 2 diabetes remains a significant concern across the Middle East, with KSA having the highest prevalence of the condition (31.6 per cent) followed by Oman (29 per cent), Kuwait (25.4 per cent), Bahrain (25 per cent), and the UAE (25 per cent).
 
With several countries in the region looking to introduce mandatory healthcare regimes, employers will need to combat the over utilisation of benefits and the underutilisation of primary care. The commercialization of the hospital sector, together with the increasing availability of healthcare is driving an uptake in healthcare services and the resulting costs.
 
Employers face a challenge in balancing the cost of healthcare provision with the quality needed to meet regulatory standards and employee needs.
 
The top three causes for the increasing costs the region faces are; (1) the over prescribing of low-value health tests and procedures, (2) high cost pharmaceuticals and (3) overly lengthy inpatient stays.
 
Julio Villalon Garcia, Mercer Marsh Benefits Leader, Middle East & Africa, said: “Although there are clear challenges facing us, the region is making significant investment into tackling some of the issues raised in this report, specifically by encouraging employees to take greater personal responsibility for their own well-being through more visible support for preventative care. The MEA region is a global leader in adopting virtual health consultancies and telemedicine, and 88 per cent of our respondents are either considering or already support this new technology – the global figure is 78 per cent.
 
“In time, I expect employees to develop a better understanding of their own healthcare needs. This, together with improved access to preventive care and simpler and more user-friendly technology, has the potential to allow medical inflation to be better managed.” -- Tradearabia News Service

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