Health benefits

Trends in employer healthcare costs to increase 8.1% globally in 2022: survey

Looking ahead, medical insurers expect healthcare cost trends to accelerate beyond 2022, with more than three-quarters forecasting higher or significantly higher costs over the next three years. .

Read: The cost of employers’ medical services will increase by 7.2% in 2021: report

“COVID-19 has produced the greatest impact on the variation in global medical trends the industry has seen and we expect its impact and volatility to extend into 2022 and beyond,” said Eric McMurray, Global Head of Health and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson, in a press release. “Countries and employers feel the impact differently. Some have seen demand for the resumption for regular medical services in 2021, while others will see it next year or after. The pandemic, combined with the changing world of work, has had a significant effect on medical trends, service delivery and future drivers of medical claims. “

Survey respondents acknowledged that the pandemic has accelerated telehealth services, underscored by the cost reduction potential created by virtual health care. More than half of global insurers said they now offer telehealth in all plans, while 37% identified the addition of these services as the biggest change to their medical portfolio in 2021.

“The momentum for telehealth will be sustained after the pandemic,” said Francis Coleman, general manager of Willis Towers Watson, in the statement. “In fact, the role of telehealth will continue to evolve not only as a navigation tool to accelerate access to the right care, but also as a means to fill gaps in access to care. “

Read: Half of Canadians use virtual health care more during pandemic: survey

In terms of the most effective method to manage medical costs, the survey found that 75 percent of respondents cited networks of contracted providers for all treatments, followed by pre-approval for scheduled inpatient services. (67 percent). Telehealth, at 63 percent, has gone from the fifth most effective tool in last year’s survey to the third this year.

According to the survey, the main driver of medical spending continues to be the overuse of care (64 percent) due to health professionals recommending too many services or prescribing too many. Next come the excess of care on the part of the insured (59 per cent). And the underutilization of preventive services (38 percent) was also cited as a major cost driver and has increased year on year.

The top three conditions in terms of cost were cancer, cardiovascular conditions and musculoskeletal problems. Notably, survey respondents ranked musculoskeletal disorders as the leading disease according to the incidence of claims this year, compared to fifth place in last year’s survey.

“COVID-19 has caused volatility in the trend numbers and in the leading causes of claims, as the sedentary lifestyle that often accompanies working from home has increased the risk of musculoskeletal injuries,” Coleman said. “Plus, as most employers can attest, mental health claims are also on the rise. “

Read: Employers take advantage of benefits, flexibility to prevent pandemic surge in disability claims