Escalating healthcare costs are among the top concerns for governments, businesses and individuals throughout the world. A survey conducted by Towers Watson found that Singapore employers were faced with increasing healthcare costs, with the bill for employees’ care rising by 8.5% a year and national healthcare expenditure is estimated to hit US$22.3 billion by 2018 from US$11.7 billion in 2012 – representing an annual compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.4%.
Does this mean that employers should scale back on their healthcare benefits programme? While there are cost pressures for doing so, it may inadvertently result in worsening health issues and higher costs. As reported by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, improving employee health can lead to increases in productivity and cost savings.
Talent Management Strategy
With unemployment rate in Singapore at a record low of 1.9% in 2013 (Ministry of Manpower), businesses are faced with challenges to retain and attract talent. Employers can consider provision of good healthcare benefits as a viable, cost-efficient talent management strategy. Furthermore with a rising trend of keeping fit, organisations can also use health promotion programs as a staff engagement platform to improve morale while reducing disease risks.
Alternatives to Manage Healthcare Costs
Typically, companies look to insurers to help limit organisational healthcare expenditure, but there are drawbacks. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (USA) asserted that 20% to 30% of health care spending is waste and the five main culprits are, (1) overtreatment of patients, (2) the failure to coordinate care, (3) the administrative complexity of the health care system, (4) burdensome rules and (5) fraud. Mirroring insurance-based healthcare systems, it is not a panacea and problems like under or over-indication of prescriptive treatments are widely known and rife. Globally, there is also an emerging trend towards adopting preventive medicine over intervention, simply because the latter is more costly. We believe that all key stakeholders – employers, vendors and healthcare professionals alike, need to work in tandem to educate and improve employees’ health. For the best possible healthcare outcomes, we also strongly advocate the notion of providing employees a continuum spectrum of care through a closely knitted network of qualified healthcare professionals.
Holistic Health Approach While the medical aspect is well covered by employers, there remains a largely neglected area – dental health, which is often left out of staff medical plans, especially in small and medium enterprises. Moreover, many dental diseases progress asymptomatically in their initial stages and can result in severe, debilitating conditions eventually. As such, dental coverage is, unfortunately and mostly, a poor cousin to medical care. Contrary to prevalent attitude, an employee’s well-being is holistically dependent on both good medical and dental health. Looking ahead, we hope to make a difference through educational, screening and health promotion programs. After all, a healthy employee is a happy and productive employee.
By: Dr Wong Keng Mun (Clinical Advisor, DontiaCare)
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