Read the small print: the cost of your health care is rising rapidly

by admin on March 21, 2012

cost of healthcare is rising rapidly
Companies are questioning the feasibility of maintaining expensive health benefit schemes for their workers Photo: Alamy
 By Peter Pallot

9:40AM GMT 16 Mar 2012

And that applies not just to the individual purchaser of international private insurance. The warning is primarily aimed at privileged policyholders – the millions of expats covered under a group scheme paid for by their employer.

Put simply, the message from consultants Mercer is that many expats will no longer be able to lie back and enjoy the luxury of full cover. Increasingly, they will have to prioritise.

The report says the shaky recovery in 2011 has left companies “questioning the feasibility of maintaining their health benefit schemes against a backdrop of rapidly mounting health care costs as well as a rising tide of government regulation and legislation”.

An example of legislation stoking costs is the ban on forced retirement on age grounds. This is leading to a greying workforce – and hence is more likely to increase health care costs and premiums.

“Some benefits, such as private medical cover, may even become uninsurable,” says the report. It is based on a survey of multinationals and large UK companies. It found that 45 per cent foresaw cost control as their main headache in 2012.

Expatriates are more dependent than others on medical insurance, suggesting they will have to be extra careful if, as the report predicts, companies move to employer-employee cost-sharing schemes. This will trigger a “move towards employees deciding how they want their benefits shaped”.

The idea of flexible benefits under which employees choose what to have and what to discard is well established and growing, says the report.

“Employers can make significant savings by not spending money on benefits which are not being utilised by their workforce,” it adds.

Increased use of “wellness programmes” is foreseen. “In 2012, employers should look at benefits such as gym membership, private medical cover, targeted health screening and lifestyle coaching as a way to reduce employee absenteeism, lower health-related costs and enhance productivity.”

Initiatives to improve health, and in particular deal with stress – “the most common cause of sickness absence” – is money well spent.

Dr Wolfgang Seidl, head of Mercer’s health care consulting business, said: “The health and well-being of a workforce feeds into productivity. It’s more economical to look after employees’ health in the workplace than allowing healthcare costs to spiral out of control, including insurance costs.”

A rush abroad

We all need the occasional adrenalin rush, it seems. A survey by the international health insurer MediCare showed that 51 per cent of respondents expected to take part in an extreme sport while abroad – 10 per cent more than in a survey last year.

This piece was originally published in The Telegraph Weekly World Edition


For an alternative to expensive group medical costs check out http://www.


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