Rising Health Costs Compel Indian Employers to Broaden View on Employee Health

November 16, 20158:25 am398 views

Health makes up a large portion of employers’ benefit spend — and these costs are continuing to rise. Rising health costs are nudging employers to broaden their view on employee health. For instance, 42% of India employers have cited improving employee well-being as one of the top objectives of their benefit strategy.

In a time of rising health costs, Indian employers are aiming to re-imagine their health strategies to get more bang for their buck, according to a new research by leading global professional services company Towers Watson.

The Towers Watson 2015 Asia Pacific Benefit Trends survey found that 55% of Indian employers spend more than a quarter of their benefits spend on providing health-related benefits, compared to 38% employers in the Asia Pacific region.

The survey also found that 42% Indian employers want to improve employee well-being as one of the top objectives of their benefit strategy as compared to 26% in the region.

Notably, fewer employers (19%) are focusing purely on containing health-related benefit costs, despite the fact that more than three-quarters (78%) of employers named rising benefit costs as the most pressing challenge they face.

“Health care costs, already a significant percentage of payroll costs, continue to rise. While this is a challenge for employers, it is also an opportunity to consider innovative, targeted strategies that improve ROI on health spends without simply adding more programmes,” said Anuradha Sriram, Director – Benefits, Towers Watson India.

“Health benefits such as medical inpatient and outpatient are among the most valued by India employees, and can play a vital role in sustaining employee engagement.

It is indeed encouraging to note that rather than allowing cost pressures to scale back health programmes, Indian employers are taking a more holistic approach by making wellness a business priority rather than just a people imperative. Such initiatives may bring down costs in the long run as the workforce becomes more productive,” added Sriram.

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Health Management Programmes on Offer

The most prevalent health management benefits offered in India are occupational health and safety (56%) and biometric screening (51%). While health risk assessments are the most valued, currently less than half (46%) of Indian employers offer them, while an additional 22% plan to offer them in the coming year.

Despite the fact that chronic diseases are a significant and growing health concern in the region, chronic condition management programmes have not gained traction with Indian employers, with only 13% currently offering them.

Giving an insight into prevailing cultural norms, more employers in India cover dependents than their regional counterparts.

For instance, while less than a quarter (21%) employers in Asia Pacific cover dependent parents, almost half (44%) of Indian employers cover them. This could be a potential contributor to the higher healthcare spend by employers compared with the AP region.

Stress is largely seen to be a top lifestyle risk faced by Indian employees. Yet, less than 2 in 5 (36%) Indian employers currently offer stress management programmes — however, the situation is set to improve with an additional 30% employers planning to offer such programmes in the future.

“Workplace stress continues to pose a serious problem to employers, adversely impacting employee engagement and productivity,” said Sriram. “Well planned health and wellness programmes that improve employer-employee connect and engagement is the first step to increasing health and productivity in an organisation.

While it is a long and challenging proposition in the context of prevailing cost pressures, employers can take a step in the right direction by looking at relevant data, understanding employee risk profiles and devising a creative approach that is targeted and takes into account employees’ motives.”

Also read: How Millennials pick and Choose Employers in India?

Image credit: medcitynews.com

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