Rising medical trend continues across the globe, and insurers see no end in sight. Drivers include the scaling back of public benefits in many countries, which has put additional pressure on private plans, an increase in lifestyle illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and the cost of prescription drugs. The question employers continue to face is: How can we provide effective medical benefits and promote better workforce health while also controlling costs?

Towers Watson's Global Medical Trends Survey tracks medical costs, what is driving them and the cost management techniques employers are using to manage them. This year, survey results show:

  • The average medical trend was 7.9% for 2013 and is projected to be slightly higher for 2014. 
  • More than half of health insurers in all regions anticipate higher or significantly higher medical trend over the next three years.
  • Globally, there is more consistency among the medical conditions causing the highest prevalence of claims (e.g., cardiovascular disease, cancer) than in the past, although there are a few notable differences by region.
  • Traditional methods of cost management still dominate globally; however, health promotion and well-being programs are growing in availability and prevalence.
  • The availability of claim data and reporting is improving. However, there are still many markets where nonstandard claim coding systems are being used, limiting employers' ability to use data to understand employee population health trends and make health care strategy decisions.