News Life and Health04 Jul 2018

Asia:Rising healthcare costs due to 'tsunami of chronic disease'

| 04 Jul 2018

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) account for 80% of the disease burden in Singapore in 2016, said Health Promotion Board's Director of Workplace Health and Outreach, Sim Beng Khoon. "However, a third of that can be prevented," he said.

Speaking at the 1st Asia Employee Benefits and Insurance Conference, Mr Sim said that the key mantra for Singapore’s Ministry of Health was to ‘move from healthcare to health’. “Your employees are an important asset class and you must invest in their health,” he said. According to a World Health Organization report, every $1 spent in prevention and education of NCDs would yield a $7 return in lower and lower-middle income countries.

The focus on NCDs, he said, was due to the fact that the risk factors are modifiable. The government’s recent outreach has shifted from information to influence, making healthier food options more accessible and supporting local employers’ efforts to have a more active staff

“We cannot just cut employee benefits due to the war for talent in Asia,” said CXA Group’s founder and CEO, Rosaline Koo. “We need to change the paradigm and we can no longer wait for employee to get sick.”

This means employers need to push the responsibility for employee health to the employees themselves. Utilizing a wallet, such as the one CXA provides, would allow employees to live within the means of their ‘health budget’, the same way they live within the means of their typical budget. For employers, this would also shift insurance spend to prevention, rather than the costlier cure.

Another factor in the rising healthcare costs lies in the fact that there has been no true customer revolution in healthcare, the same way that has occurred in other industries, said Oliver Wyman’s Health and Life Sciences consultant, Dr Manav Saxena. Hospitals and clinics only have rudimentary online booking systems and no true services exist to help patients find the ‘best doctor’ for their health needs.

While better data collection and analysis can help resolve some of these issues, the main problem is that within the healthcare ecosystem, no one is willing to take the first step to create true change. “Everyone is waiting for someone else to take action,” said Dr Saxena.

“Compared to 20 years ago, hospitals have gotten better,” he said. “If you went to a hospital, chances are you would come out better and healthier.”

However, most employees do not spend the majority of their time in the hospital, and the health statistics for most modern employees have actually worsened since the 1990s.

This is why large companies such as Apple, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase have started to take matters into their own hands and create their own healthcare and wellness ecosystem for their own employees, he said.

The two day conference is co-organized by Asia Insurance Review and CXA Group.

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