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Hong Kong braces for 8.4% medical inflation amidst rising healthcare demands

One in every two adults in Hong Kong have chronic disease.

Hong Kong's healthcare sector is preparing for a rise in medical costs, with insurers reporting a projected medical inflation rate of 8.4% for 2024.

Eva Liu, Head of Strategic Development, Health & Benefits, Asia Pacific, said that the 8.4% inflation rate is slightly lower than the regional average of 9.9%, mirroring the 2023 actual medical inflation rate. 

"Insurance continues to expect a high demand from hospitalisation services in treating chronic diseases," Liu said, emphasising that the reopening of borders to mainland Chinese patients seeking medical care in Hong Kong contributes to the upward trend.

Liu highlighted the adjustments made by medical practitioners and providers in Hong Kong, reflecting increased staff costs in recent years. Overuse and misuse of care, along with the adoption of new technologies and treatments, are also significant contributors to the rising costs.

"The HK population is suffering from very different chronic diseases," Liu stated, emphasising the need for a strategic healthcare approach. 

“According to the report by the Hong Kong SAR government in 2022, almost one in two of the Hong Kong adult population reported to have one or more diagnosed chronic diseases, and in the next 10 years, for every 1000 people aged 30 to 74 years old, 114 of them would develop a cardiovascular disease,” she said.

She added that the concern extends beyond physical ailments to mental health, which, despite being one of the fastest-growing conditions globally, does not rank in the top five in Asia Pacific due to social stigma and policy exclusions.

Liu advised insurers and employers to adopt a long-term, sustainable approach to these emerging health trends. "Most insurers are bundling wellbeing add-ons in employer policies, but the utilisation is very low," she noted. This indicates a gap in communication and a need for more targeted health and wellbeing programs.

Liu urged employers to communicate their corporate goals and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agenda clearly and work with insurers to address the specific needs of diverse employee groups. This includes coverage for neurodiversity support, menopause-related treatments, and gender-affirming care.

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