Poll: Health Care Fast Becoming Most Desired Employee Benefit Worldwide

Medical cost increases for employers throughout the world are expected to accelerate over the next five years, according to a poll of insurance companies conducted by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The poll also found that, in a vast majority of countries, medical cost increases are outpacing the general rate of inflation.

"Rising medical costs have rapidly become a global issue that reaches far beyond the United States and other developed economies," said Francis Coleman, a senior international health care benefits consultant with the firm. "Many of the factors causing U.S. employers to experience significant increases in their health care costs--such as increased utilization, expensive medical technology and an aging population--are having comparable effects throughout the world."

Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of respondents expect higher or significantly higher medical cost trends over the next five years. Additionally, more than eight of 10 (81 percent) report that medical costs are eclipsing the general rate of inflation in their country. The results are based on a Watson Wyatt survey of 85 insurance companies that provide medical insurance to employers throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

"Health care is fast becoming the most desired employee benefit worldwide, even in countries that support state-sponsored programs," said Ted Nussbaum, North America director of group and health care consulting at Watson Wyatt. "Given the similar factors driving health care costs around the world, multinationals have an opportunity to develop global solutions that engage workers and improve their health and productivity." For more information on the poll and Watson Wyatt, visit http://www.watsonwyatt.com/news/press.asp?ID=18622.

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