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Mideast medical costs rising faster than global average: Report

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Key trend: New Mercer Marsh Benefits report forecasts regional trend rate increases of more than 10 per cent


BUSINESS REPORTER


MUSCAT, MAY 14


New research published by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) highlights that health insurers operating in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are forecasting a 10.1 per cent increase in the year-on-year cost of medical claims in 2022, up from 9.5 per cent in 2021.


The report, MMB Health Trends, surveys 210 insurers globally and explores the major trends influencing the future of employer-provided medical benefits. According to the research, 62 per cent of insurers operating in MEA reported that medical claims activity in the region remains higher than pre-pandemic levels and is continuing to trend upwards, significantly higher than the global figure of 41 per cent.


Further, 31 per cent of respondents cited COVID-19 as one of the top three causes of claims costs by dollar amount and frequency in MEA in 2021, trending closely to global data (34 per cent). As a result, one in five (21 per cent) insurers globally are actively considering introducing long COVID exclusions, while 8 per cent have already changed their policies to include pandemic-related exclusions and more than a third (34 per cent) are invoking restrictions around pre-existing conditions relating to long COVID.


Commenting on the research, Julio Garcia-Villalon, Mercer Marsh Benefits Leader, MEA, said: “While the full course of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unpredictable, it is clear that its impact on employer health programmes will persist for years to come.


“The pandemic has also affected how people interact with healthcare systems, and how they behave with regards to the management of their health. It is increasingly important for employers to encourage employees to embrace preventive care, through initiatives such as annual health screening and wellbeing programmes.”


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