SINGAPORE: Singapore’s medical costs are projected to rise at a faster pace than most of the region, going by a report released on Saturday (Apr 7) by consulting firm Aon.
The Aon Asia Healthcare Trends Report measured the medical inflation rate of 11 markets in the region through the Aon Medical Inflation Index (AMII) score.
The score combines the average medical inflation estimates in each location for 2017 and 2018 with an inflation outlook for the next three years based on a survey of insurers.
Singapore’s score was 95.1, higher than seven of the markets surveyed, which included China, South Korea and the Philippines.
This is despite a decrease in overall medical inflation here, from 20 per cent in 2014 to 9.6 per cent last year, Aon said.
South Korea had the lowest score of 64.3, with insurers expecting medical inflation to increase marginally in the next three years. The regional median was scored by Thailand at 82.7.
Hong Kong scored 78.8, Taiwan 71.4 and Malaysia 132.4, while Vietnam topped the table at 164.5.
DRIVERS OF INFLATION IN SINGAPORE
For Singapore, Aon said hospitalisation costs contributed to the high rate of medical inflation, adding that insurers in Singapore are united in their view that inpatient costs are the principal driver of medical inflation.
Insurers unanimously said that medical fees, such as surgery charges, make up the largest component of inpatient costs and are experiencing the highest rate of inflation, according to the report.
Other items that made it to the top five cost components are, in descending order, diagnostic procedures, drugs and medications, prosthetics and room and board.
Quoting a 2016 Singapore Life Insurance Association (LIA) report, Aon's report noted that Integrated Shield Plan (IP) insurers in the private healthcare system experienced a claims incidence rate more than double that of the public system, and that the average bill size grew at a faster rate for the IP insurers.
At the outpatient level, diagnostic costs outweighed medical fees. The report said this is a "trend driven by an ageing population and high prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancers".
Half of the insurers surveyed said that inflation was driven by medical fees, 25 per cent said diagnostic procedures, while another 25 per cent pointed to dental treatments.
NEED TO CURB MEDICAL INFLATION IN SINGAPORE
The report comes as Singapore moves to prevent an increase in healthcare costs arising from unnecessary treatment.
Aon in its report noted that with the cost of chronic disease being a significant component of total claims expenditure, it is "concerning" that none of the participating insurers is tracking patient re-admission rates for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and type-2 diabetes.
“There is still plenty to be done to curb medical inflation in Singapore, starting with medical insurers and healthcare providers working together on chronic disease management programmes, and companies encouraging their employees to participate in wellness programmes,” Aon said in a statement on Saturday.
The report was released in line with World Health Day, which falls on Saturday.