The cost of employer-provided health care benefits around the globe continues to climb with little relief in sight, according to a survey of medical insurers by
According to the study, the outlook for reining in costs in the near term is not optimistic. A majority of insurers in all regions except the
"Controlling rising medical costs is without question a top priority for insurers and employers around the world," said
When asked for the most significant cost-driving factors outside the control of employers and vendors, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) cited the high cost of medical technology followed by providers' profit motives (40 percent). Interestingly, three in four insurers (74 percent) ranked overuse of care due to medical practitioners recommending too many services as the most significant factor driving costs related to employee and provider behavior. More than half (54 percent) cited overuse of care due to employees seeking inappropriate care.
According to the survey, increasing numbers of employers are offering preventive care and empowering employees to take responsibility for their own health. Globally, four in 10 respondents (39 percent) offer well-being programs. In the
Health promotion programs are also gaining traction. Nearly two in three respondents (65 percent) now offer personal health risk assessments with another 16 percent planning to do so next year. Second medical opinions are offered by 71 percent with another 11 percent planning to do so. Notably, nearly half (48 percent) of insurers offer lifestyle and health education programs, and these are expected to grow to nearly 65 percent next year.
"Well-being initiatives hold great promise for addressing non-communicable diseases as well as ones that arise from lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor eating habits and lack of regular exercise. While respondents' health promotion programs continue to grow globally, we believe insurers can work more closely with employers to better understand employee population health risks and employees' preferred ways of using them, while providing enhanced metrics and standardized reporting," said
Other findings from the survey include:
* Non-communicable diseases. Insurers worldwide report cancer (75 percent), cardiovascular disease (67 percent) and respiratory illness (40 percent) as the top three diseases. Respondents don't expect the situation to change in the next five years.
* Managing medical trend. Two-thirds (66 percent) use contracted networks, while 65 percent require preapproval for scheduled inpatient services to help manage costs. Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) place limits on certain medical services.
* Managing stress. With concerns about employee stress continuing to rise, 61 percent of insurers globally now include treatment for mental health and stress in their standard medical insurance programs.
About the survey