DR. REYNALDO DAKANAY II conducts a telemedicine consultation while at home in Tondo, Manila. He said many patients are now concerned about viral infections and coronavirus disease 2019 symptoms. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

HEALTHCARE benefit costs sponsored by employers in the Philippines are likely to go up by an average of 14.4% this year, according to global advisory, broking, and solutions firm Willis Towers Watson (WTW). 

WTW said in a statement it conducted the 2022 Global Medical Trends Survey among medical insurers which showed that healthcare benefit costs are expected to rise by 14.4% this year. This is slightly lower than 16.4% increase seen in 2021 but higher than 6.4% uptick in 2020.   

According to WTW, the leading driver of medical costs is the overuse of care due to medical professionals recommending too many services or overprescribing.

Other factors that push up costs include excess of care by insured members and the underuse of preventive services amid the avoidance of medical care during the pandemic.

WTW estimated that healthcare benefit costs in the Asia-Pacific will jump by 7.6% in 2022 compared with 7% in 2021.  Globally, costs are projected to rise by 8.1%, same as the previous year.

“COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) has produced the biggest impact to global medical trend variation the industry has seen, and we expect the resultant repercussions and volatility to extend into 2022 and beyond,” WTW Head of Health and Benefits International Cedric Luah said.   

“Markets and employers are feeling the impact differently. Some have experienced the recovery’s demand for regular medical services in 2021, while others will see it next year or after,” he added.

Insurers in the Asia-Pacific region said cancer, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal are the top three conditions by cost. Musculoskeletal, as well as mental and behavioral disorders as two of the fastest-growing conditions by cost expected in the next 18 months.   

“COVID-19 has caused volatility in the trend numbers and in the leading causes of claims. The sedentary lifestyle that often accompanies working from home has also increased the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. For the first time ever, we are seeing musculoskeletal conditions as the leading claim incidence globally. As most employers can attest, mental health claims are also on the rise,” Mr. Luah said.   

WTW Head of Health & Benefits Philippines Susan J. La Chica said the mental health of employees remain a key employer focus.   

“Employers are also reviewing how well-being solutions, in general, can be incorporated as a core benefit item, seeking support from insurers or solutions provider like us,” she added.   

Meanwhile, the survey showed that new well-being services and telehealth services were the two biggest changes made by Asia-Pacific based organizations to their medical portfolios in 2021.   

Ms. La Chica expects the adoption of telehealth will continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave