What to expect for medical benefits in 2019

It’s already the last quarter of the year and many organisations are finalising their HR strategies and initiatives for 2019. Many also include a review of their current practices, in particular their medical benefits in search for increased efficiencies and more employee-centric programmes.

Over the last few years, we have seen fundamental changes looking to enhance the medical insurance coverage in this region. Dubai implemented a mandatory health insurance in a phased approach and a low cost insurance option came into effect on 15 October 2018. There also a number of challenges that need to be addressed, including the direct (and costly) access to specialist physicians, over-prescription and price pressure. At this time, it should not be a surprise to anyone that lifestyle diseases are the leading diseases in the Middle East, adding to the challenges companies, insurers and physicians are facing.

So what can we expect in 2019? We anticipate further developments and enhancements to tackle these challenges.

More negotiation powers

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has currently approved permits for 50 medical insurance. Competition to keep especially large accounts is becoming fiercer. Brokers have been able to negotiate premiums well below the medical inflation reported elsewhere. Insurers are also able to add new features and extended coverage to provide more holistic medical cover.

As such, we expect a further reduction in medical inflation compared to figures previously reported by research consultancies.

Local re-investment

The Dubai’s Health Strategy 2021 aims at providing innovative health services and improving the health of its citizens and residents. Simultaneously, Dubai is establishing itself as a hub for medical treatment in the Middle East.

In alignment with these goals, a number of local universities have expanded their medical and nursing degree programmes in recent years. This September, the first medical school opened its doors in Abu Dhabi. This provides the local training grounds to develop medical talent where it is needed.

For 2019, we anticipate continued emphasis on professional education and personal development. Further invest investment into research programmes will be made. Insured will benefit from a wider range of locally available treatment, reducing the need and possibly cost for treatment abroad.

Alternative delivery options

With the high cost of medical insurance, this is are now the second highest employee-related expense after salaries. Companies are therefore continuing to search for possibilities to lower and/or sustain these costs.

The concept of employee clinics, particularly for large corporations, and telehealth isn’t a new one. Various insurers have been offering 24/7 access to mobile or tele doctors for more than 5 years in the UAE. However, as one option to control spending, we will see an increased provision for and utilisation of alternative delivery methods.

Prevention with big data

Following the mandate to save and/or reduce medical expenses, organisations together with their broker and insurance provider have been raising awareness and educating employees.

The main health concerns in this region, e.g. diabetes and obesity, are lifestyle-related issues. Long-term and sustainable solutions need to be found to manage and, ideally, also prevent these. Daman Health utilises big data to identify ways for employees better monitor and improve their health. Big data illustrates the spend for each insured member.

As part of the overall move to utilise more data for HR’s decision making processes, organisations will also analyse and investigate the huge financial toll lifestyle diseases has on the company itself. Medical insurance companies are already evaluating their data sets to identify new ways for prevention and education purposes.

With HR teams becoming more big data savvy, we envisage an increase in the interpretation of big data to define targeted and employee specific preventative education and actions.

Integrated well-being

Well-being had been the hot topic for the last 15-20 years. While companies were asking what it was some 10 years ago, organisations are now concerned how to integrate well-being as a way to attract, engage and retain talent, as Robin Wells from Medstar shared.

However, offering yoga sessions and a bowl filled with fresh fruits falls short of comprehensive well-being strategy. The utilisation of integrated well-being initiatives is however still lagging compared to other regions across the globe.

With the increased attention on well-being, we’ve witnessed a mindset change amongst individuals. Initiatives like the Dubai Fitness Challenge are supporting the activities implemented by companies.

Companies will therefore start using well-being in an orchestrated approach to prevent, monitor and control lifestyle illnesses. In return, this is expected to show improvements in the claims management.

Want to overhaul your benefits, especially your medical benefits? Call us on +971-52-2516322 and find out how we can create, enhance and implement a medical benefits strategy fit for your EVP and organisation.

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