Singapore employers upping health benefits to stay ahead in talent race

Firms changing approach to benefits to attract and retain the best employees

Singapore employers upping health benefits to stay ahead in talent race

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Despite the rising cost of health insurance, employers in Singapore are looking to improve their employees’ health benefits to attract and retain talent in a competitive, low wage growth market.

This is according to Mercer Marsh Benefits’ 2019 Singapore Health and Benefits Study, which examined the medical and risk plans of more than 400 employers with a total of over 147,000 employees.

“From providing inpatient psychiatric coverage, absorbing goods and services tax to removing

12-month pre-existing exclusions under medical insurance plans, companies in Singapore are increasingly turning to their benefits program to strengthen their value proposition and stay competitive in the current talent market,” Neil Narale, Singapore health leader at Mercer Marsh Benefits, said in a statement.

“It is critical that their risk and medical benefits programs are aligned with the philosophy, priorities and values of the company, ensuring the needs of their people are met.”

The study found that among benefits, coverage for critical illness registered the highest increase in prevalence, up 7% since 2017. For medical benefits, hospital and surgical benefits were near-universally provided, with 96% of companies offering these to their employees.

Meanwhile, provision of outpatient clinical and outpatient specialist benefits increased by 13% and 15%, respectively. According to the report, this reflects the gradual shift from self-funded arrangements to insurance to reduce the cost of paying a third-party administrator and claim expenses.

The study noted that an exception to the trend was a significant rise in the prevalence of self-funded benefits for vision and maternity care. In the two years leading to 2019, self-funded vision care rose from 35% to 58%, while self-funded maternity care more than doubled from 16% to 37%.

It also found that more companies are now focusing on a holistic and preventative wellbeing approach for employees by providing mental, financial and physical well-being programs.

“In addition to providing suitable standards of care to employees as an essential tool for increasing employee satisfaction and engagement, it is also imperative in talent attraction and

retention,” the study said.

This was demonstrated by 62% of companies having collaborated with vendors to develop and deliver wellness programs, such as onsite health talks, onsite health screenings and weight management programs.

More personalized and flexible benefits, such as dependent coverage and options for employees to adjust their benefit levels, are also becoming more popular. This is especially true in larger companies, where a one-size-fits-all design does not cater to everyone’s needs.

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