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Increasing Gap between Employees Healthcare Needs and Benefits Offered by Employers

April 24, 2017

Workplace health benefits are a critical factor for employees, and use of digital healthcare technology and data sharing is rising. Today, people worry most about their family’s health and finances, and are falling into the ‘age trap’, reveals findings in 2017 Cigna 360° Well-being Survey.

“There’s a conviction that workplace insurance provided by employers is inadequate. We also see people falling into the ‘age trap’ by not planning well for medical expenses in retirement. Asia Pacific respondents’ revealed their concerns about how well they are able to take care of their healthcare needs, particularly into old age,” said Patrick Graham, CEO, Asia Pacific, Cigna International Markets.

However, the good news that underlies this growing concern is that respondents show greater willingness to embrace digital technology, share personal data to improve their healthcare and health awareness, especially if it lowers costs.

This is the third annual research study from the global health services company, which provides a wide range of employer, individual and supplemental health benefit products and services.

The survey monitors and tracks the annual evolution of key emotional and psychological well-being indicators across 13 markets. The well-being scores are calculated based on five weighted pillars – physical, financial, work health, family health and social health.

Financial and family scores decline

The largest decline in scores was seen in family welfare, which dropped from 72.7 percent in 2015 to 65.3 percent in 2016. Respondents indicated they suffered from both lack of money and time to take care of their families. The biggest falls were seen in ability to take care of children’s health, education and overall financial needs.

Only one in five respondents report, sufficient money for retirement or feeling financially secure in case of job loss. Highest scoring countries were India at 65.7 percent and China at 57.6 percent; with the lowest being South Korea at 43.5 percent.

The healthcare benefits gap

When asked what benefits they considered basic for healthcare coverage and compare this with benefits received from employers, respondents identified a negative gap for general practitioner consulting fees, hospitalization benefits and annual health check-ups. Close to 20 percent of respondents did not have a health check in the last 12 months. Only a third seeks professional help when ill, with most relying on self-diagnosis and treatments.

Respondents showed a much-improved sense of physical well-being, but only 50 percent are exercising regularly, according to the research. Oddly, while more people had a dental exam than any other type of medical check-up in the last year (37 percent), less than 1 in 5 have dental benefits covered by their employer currently.

Importance of workplace wellness

The study showed that workplace wellness programs were not yet a major reason to select an employer, but were frequently cited as a reason to stay with an employer. “Their importance as a retention tool was higher for the 18 to 39-year-old segment,” said Patrick Graham. “Good healthcare coverage benefits were rated highly by all respondents in the survey as a draw to new employers.”

See: Wellbeing will be the Key Driver of Workplace Culture and Employee Engagement in 2017

The “Age Trap”

In terms of aging and health, the study showed that there is an ‘Age Trap’, where respondents don’t perceive themselves as ‘old’, regardless of their age, and have not done the necessary planning for retirement expenses, particularly increased healthcare needs. The perception of ‘old’ varies in each market as does life expectancy.

For example, respondents in New Zealand said 72 years was old, while the average life expectancy is 81. Respondents in China said 65 was old, while the average life expectancy is 75.1

Respondents want to keep working to keep feeling young and active. A desire to stay mentally and physically active through work post-retirement was named by 68 percent as a reason to stay employed. Even without pay, people want to stay involved beyond retirement age; this mindset increases with age and involvement often includes volunteerism.

Twenty-three percent plan to volunteer after retirement with the highest rates in India (31 percent) and Singapore (28 percent).

“It’s clear what we call the ‘Age Trap’ is part and parcel of the financial inadequacy issue we identified around family – extended into older age,” added Patrick Graham. “Respondents in Asia want an active engaging life after they retire, and longer life spans are making that possible. However, too often healthcare coverage is insufficient as expenses start to escalate.”

The future of healthcare

Most respondents currently use, or plan to use health apps in the coming year, and 46 percent expressed willingness to share personal health data with a larger community for the good of all, especially with doctors, a national health database and global bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). A third was happy to share data with insurance companies.

Beside data security, transparency is a major barrier to adoption of apps. Respondents expressed privacy concerns and worry about how and where data might be used, with 55 percent citing unauthorized data access as a concern.

82 percent respondents believe the usage of digital technology in the healthcare space has the potential to bring good health to more people and 55 percent would be happy to use a robotic doctor, if the cost is much lower than a human doctor. One in five is ready to use e-Checkups.

Ready to support customers

“We can see from these findings that respondents are still wary of data security issues,” said Patrick Graham. “Companies who generate and share data will need to establish proper safeguards and protocols to protect access and use to maintain patient trust.”

Cigna is investing heavily in state-of-the-art solutions to prepare for the future. Using digital technology to improve consumer experience by simplifying the buying and claims process, the company plans to launch another new health app later this year, which will bring healthcare advice and wellness data globally.

In Asia Pacific, Cigna offers care coverage for the elderly, families and individuals to supplement what is available from governments and employers and this survey demonstrates the need to close the benefit gap and provide solutions for the age trap.

Also read: Should HR Encourage Installation of Wellbeing Apps on Employee Devices?

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