Health & Medicine

Monday, 30 September 2019 09:22

South African Employer Medical Benefit Costs to Increase 10 Percent in 2020, Aon Survey Forecasts

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Global health benefit costs set to rise 8 percent

Employer-provided medical benefit costs in South Africa are forecasted to rise 10 percent in 2020, outpacing the annual general inflation rate by 4.6 percent, according to the 2020 Global Medical Trend Rates Report released by Aon plc (NYSE: AON).

“The Medical Trend rate in South Africa for 2020 is expected to be slightly lower than the previous year, however the medical trend rate levels in both nominal and real terms continue to be extremely high, and we do not expect to see a different path anytime soon. The increase in VAT taxes has already been fully assimilated by the SA market and we will continue to see carriers working to contain costs by extending network arrangements to direct utilisation to more managed care interventions. The supply and demand side elements of utilisation have increased due to the ageing population of medical schemes as well as the increased incidence of chronic disease. Therefore, increased utilisation remains the major cost driver. A medical scheme with an ageing member base is expected to have a 2-3 percent increase in claims for every year that the average age increases.  The need to grow or maintain solvency levels and the lingering ageing of the population will continue to pressure the market to keep medical trend rates at a high level,” explains Gavin Griffin, Aon’s Executive Head for Employee Benefits.

Globally, costs for employer-sponsored medical plans in 2020 are forecasted to increase 8.0 percent, up from 7.8 percent growth this year. This is mainly due to expanded benefits and a slight increase anticipated in general inflation.

Projected medical trend rates vary significantly by region. Costs are expected to increase the most in Latin America and Middle East/Africa regions, with average medical premium rates forecasted at 13.1 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively. In contrast, Europe is projected to see an average medical premium rate increase of 5.7 percent.

Health Care Benefit Cost Growth from 2019 to 2020 (Expected)

2019 2020
South Africa 11.0% 10.0%
Global 7.8% 8.0%
North America 6.4% 6.4%
Latin America and Caribbean 13.2% 13.1%
Asia Pacific 8.6% 8.7%
Europe 5.1% 5.7%
Middle East/Africa 13.7% 12.2%

Aon's report confirms the increasing impact of non-communicable diseases on health care costs globally. In South Africa, high blood pressure, diabetes, gynecological/maternity, cancer and ENT/lung/respiratory disorders were the most prevalent health conditions driving health care claims. 

Leading Medical Conditions in South Africa and the World

South Africa Global
1) High blood pressure Cardiovascular
2) Diabetes Cancer
3) Gynecological/Maternity Diabetes
4) Cancer High blood pressure
5) ENT/Lung Respiratory Musculoskeletal

Aon’s report also confirms the growing prevalence of risks from unhealthy personal habits in South Africa, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, lack of health screening and physical inactivity. Mental health prevalence is on the increase and is becoming a key focus for many employers.

Leading Health Risk Factors in South Africa and the World 

South Africa Global
1) High blood pressure High blood pressure
2) High cholesterol Physical inactivity
3) High blood glucose High cholesterol
4) Lack of health screening Bad nutrition
5) Physical inactivity Poor stress management

"Many of the risk factors lead to chronic conditions with long term medical costs that make them difficult to treat and result in long-term medical cost increases,” said Tim Nimmer, Aon’s Global Chief Actuary for Health Solutions. “As a large portion of our waking hours are spent on the job, the workplace is a logical place to create a healthier culture and change behaviors. Our goal is to guide employers as they become more critical in helping individuals and their families to take a more active role in managing their health, including participating in health and well-being activities and better managing chronic conditions.”

To view the report, visit


The survey was conducted among 105 Aon offices, each one representative of a country, that broker, administer, or otherwise advise on employer-sponsored medical plans in each of the countries covered in this report. The survey responses reflect the medical trend expectations of the Aon professionals based on their interactions with clients and carriers represented in the portfolio of the firm’s medical plan business in each country.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE:AON) Aon is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance.

Aon has five specific global solution lines: Commercial Risk Solutions, Reinsurance Solutions, Retirement Solutions, Health Solutions and Data & Analytic Services.

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