Currently showing: Funding longer lives

11 Dec 14 09:30

Around the world people are living longer lives – life expectancy in Asia has risen by 12 years for men and 14 years for women in the last four decades. The question of how we fund healthcare in retirement at a time when populations are ageing is one of the biggest and most important issues facing societies around the world.

In Asia, this challenge is especially great, with some of the most rapidly ageing countries in the world. Swiss Re’s own research has projected that the Health Protection Gap in the Asia-Pacific region could reach USD197 billion by 2020, up from USD 9 billion in 2011. This protection gap represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the insurance industry, and Swiss Re believes that the solution to filling the gap needs to be a collaborative effort involving public-private partnerships. Swiss Re Life& Health Asia has been working to convene a conversation between the insurance industry, healthcare professionals, government and policy makers, and academia, on how societies in Asia can fund the healthcare costs as populations age, through a series of large Symposia events across Asia as forums for dialogue, and establishing Task Forces that help to take forward the solutions identified in the Symposia.

The second series of Symposia events took place in Singapore and Hong Kong in November, and saw us focus on how we can help to address the healthcare funding gap by promoting healthy ageing. The Health Symposium in Hong Kong Panelists discussed the opportunities & challenges on the issue, and shared views on directions for future efforts. The agenda in these two locations was also a step change away from the norm: while previous events had seen experts from a variety of backgrounds present different perspectives on this topic and initiate the dialogue, at the events in Singapore and Hong Kong we placed real customers at the heart of the conversation. Working with a research company, we recruited a group of ordinary customers who were either pre-retirees or retired and had encountered challenges in funding their healthcare in retirement to join the conversation – these individuals provided a truly fresh perspective and in a series of breakout discussions there was a lively dialogue between the customers and the representatives from the insurance industry, healthcare, government and academia. 

These two events helped to move the discussion forward and what emerged from the debate was a much clearer consensus around a number of solutions. In both markets, it was agreed that there was a need for the insurance industry to simplify products and services as a way of helping customers to have better clarity over their level of protection and, in the process, building greater trust in the industry. Running alongside this was a call for the healthcare industry to provide greater transparency around the pricing of services.

There was also a call for greater collaboration, dialogue and sharing of intelligence and data between the insurance industry and the government, both in terms of helping to raise public awareness of health issues and the funding challenges as well as in terms of reach collaborative solutions. The collaborative solutions of the sort discussed at the events may be challenging to broker but this programme has established a forum and platform for dialogue. As one of the customers departed they commented that they hoped this initiative would help to prevent future generations from facing the same uncertainty and stress that they had about funding their healthcare in retirement – a stark reminder that this issue affects us all on a personal level as well as a professional one.

Category: Funding longer lives

Location: Asia

1 Comment

Alicia Montoya - 14 Dec 2014, 2:59 a.m.

Thanks, Marianne, fascinating topic and great video, really moving as it taps into the heart of fears we all share.

I'm currently in Hong Kong where everybody I meet seems to be surprisingly health-aware. Whether that awareness is actually in any way scientifically based is another question... But the number of Chinese medicine shops is astounding and every store and restaurant I go to seems to highlight what's "healthy". I even got to hear that when a shop owner was referring to a tea I was tasting which had spores (funghi) in it. I also heard someone refer to Ketchup as being "healthier than mayonnaise".

Also amazing is the number of people who'll get up in the morning and practice Qigong here in HK. And if we look at it on a global scale, over the last 10 years we have seen fitness, yoga and meditation become extremely popular (for more on yoga and preventive healthcare, read this earlier post

The number of health apps (helping you exercise and eat better) have also exploded. And studies show just how powerful they are in helping motivate us into healthier behaviors.

So while I agree that there's a big part that insurance and the government can and should do, I think part of that should also focus on empowering and incentivizing consumers to do our bit. How can insurance work closer with consumers to support better life choices? We have health insurance discounts for gym memberships. What other ideas are out there?

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