Global survey: Cost of employer-provided health care benefits around the globe continues to climb with little relief in sight

The cost of employer-provided health care benefits around the globe continues to climb with little relief in sight, according to insurers responding to the 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Medical Trends Survey.

The survey results, published this month, is the latest in over a decade of research by Willis Towers Watson on global medical trends. This year, 231 insurers across 79 countries provided insights on medical costs, what is driving them and the cost management techniques employers are using to manage them. Highlights from the research show:

  • Average global medical trend is projected to be 7.8% (weighted by GDP per capita) in 2017, up from 7.3% in 2016.
  • Insurers continue to blame the cost of hospital/inpatient and outpatient medical services, advanced medical technology, and the overuse and overprescribing of services as the primary factors for driving up costs.
  • More than half of health insurers globally expect trend to be higher or significantly higher over the next three years. Latin America leads all regions on trend, largely due to high inflation, while Europe continues to have the lowest trend due to the level of coverage provided through the various social security systems.
  • Controlling rising medical costs is without question a top priority for insurers and employers around the world. While progress is being made in some regions to stem costs, the vast majority of respondents continue to grapple with how to rein them in.
  • Traditional methods of cost management and cost sharing with employees continue to dominate globally. However, there’s been a notable increase of employers offering preventive care and empowering employees to take responsibility for their own health.
  • Cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory illness are projected by insurers worldwide to be the top three diseases for at least the next five years.

Access the survey report and the press release.


Francis Coleman is Head of Health and Benefits GSS for Willis Towers Watson, based in Los Angeles. He was Director of Global Consulting for Towers Watson. Francis has worked over 25 years in international benefits with extensive experience in risk benefits financing and global medical plan design, including a decade with Towers Watson as a senior lead international consultant. Prior to joining Towers Watson, he was Worldwide Director of a Pooling and Captive network providing employee benefits solutions for over 100 countries.

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