According to the 2017 Singapore Employee Health and Benefits Study conducted by Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB), a partnership between global professional services firms, Mercer and Marsh, employers continue to look for ways of balancing rising healthcare costs with the need to provide competitive benefit packages to attract, engage and retain employees.
With the onset of medical inflation, Singapore hospital room rates continue to increase year by year. Under employer sponsored group hospitalization insurance, the hospital room and board benefit is typically provided in either dollar limit (e.g. $350 per day) or ward type (e.g. 1 bed or 4 bed restructured). The study shows that ward type plans are becoming more prevalent with a take up rate of nearly 70%. “With ward type plans, employers can ensure that their benefits keep pace with medical inflation without having to re-adjust the limit for every policy renewal” explained Neil Narale, Singapore Business Leader, for Mercer Marsh Benefits.
The study covers the provision of overall group insured benefits, with most employers offering Group Hospitalization, Term Life and Personal Accident to employees. Over 70% of employers also extend medical insurance to cover dependents, mostly with the premium fully paid by the employer. “It is encouraging that generally employers do not only provide medical risk protection for illness or injury, but also offer financial protection for family members in the event of an extreme incident such as death or total permanent disability” said Narale.
However, the study also shows that employees may still find a gap in medical coverage for chronic or major illnesses (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease) from their group insured benefits. “It is important for employees to be aware that most employers may not provide medical coverage for chronic or major illnesses and to consider purchasing a personal insurance policy for coverage” explained Narale.
Besides providing core group insured benefits to safeguard employees, employers are also increasingly offering flexible benefit programs, providing employees with more personal choice for insured benefits and prioritizing their well-being needs. Common choices among the types of flexible benefits offered now include, vision care, health screening and dental coverage. “A great way for an employer to balance rising costs and the need to be competitive is through a well-designed flexible benefits program. Catering to an employee’s personal needs through offering choice will come across as more competitive, but not necessarily at an increase in cost” explained Narale.
For the first time, the Singapore study includes International Medical benefits as a new competitive differentiator aimed at expats and traveling employees. These plans normally extend worldwide coverage with exceptions for US and Canada. “Singapore has one of the largest expat white-collar populations in the world as a percentage of its total population. In addition, global and regional companies use Singapore as a base, so there are many executives traveling from here regularly,” explained Narale. “That is why this benefit is critical in some cases to remain competitive and attract key talent.”
The data for the 2017 Singapore Health & Benefits Study are derived from internal information regarding Mercer Marsh Benefits (MMB) clients’ benefits plans. The study includes 400 employers, covering more than 100,000 employees and all major industries. For the self-funded benefits analysis, MMB collected data from more than 100 employers that responded to an online questionnaire. The study covers a mixture of more than 1,000 medical plans and 700 risk plans from various companies with different strategies. Forty-two percent of the companies included in the survey had fewer than 50 employees and 12% had 500 or more staff. Mercer has undertaken the study in Singapore bi-annually since 2005.