Global healthcare cost increases ease slightly in 2024

Already a pain point for many, global healthcare costs are expected to remain high over the next year, a WTW report found. 

The company's "Global Medical Trends Survey," which surveyed medical cost trends from 266 insurers in 66 countries and was released Nov. 29, found the cost of global healthcare soared from 7.4% in 2022 to 10.7% in 2023, a record high. The 2024 insurer-reported cost trend is forecasted at 9.9% average worldwide, though some regions will see a steeper increase.

Europe saw the sharpest drop in projected rate increase, from 10.9% in 2023 to 9.3% in 2024, with the Middle East/Africa expected to see an increase in medical trend from 11.3% in 2023 to 12.1% in 2024.

"While some cost increases are projected to ease in 2024, they remain at significantly high levels," Linda Pham, senior director of integrated & global solutions at WTW, said in a release. “The high cost of new medical technologies is a key reason for the persistently high trend. Furthermore, in some regions, ongoing geopolitical conflicts and resulting displaced populations have negatively affected medical costs due to an increased need for care and reduced availability of providers."

Insurers reported other leading medical cost drivers to be care service overuse and over prescribing (59%), insured members' poor health habits (49%), and underuse of preventative services (47%).

Well-being services were the largest medical portfolio change insurers made in 2023, at 54%. Telehealth came in second, with 4 in 10 respondents (41%) adding the popular services to their offerings in 2023. 

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