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Employer Medical Benefit Costs to More Than Triple the Rate of Inflation Globally in 2021, Aon Survey Forecasts

Health care utilization expected to return to pre-pandemic levels next year


The costs of employer medical benefits across the world are forecasted to rise 7.2 percent in 2021, outpacing general inflation by 5.0 percent, according to the 2021 Global Medical Trend Rates Report released today by Aon plc, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions.

“There is still a significant amount of uncertainty regarding Covid-19’s impact on deferred treatments and long-term health care,” said Tim Nimmer, Aon’s chief global actuary for Health Solutions. “While countries navigate through different outbreak phases, the expectation is that medical plan utilization will return to normal levels during 2021 as medical services begin to reopen to the market.” 

Projected medical trend rates vary significantly by region. Costs are expected to increase the most in the Middle East/Africa regions, with average medical trend rates forecasted at 12 percent. In contrast, Europe is projected to see an average medical trend rate increase of 5.5 percent.

Forecasted Health Care Benefit Cost Growth from 2020 to 2021

                                                          2020             2021
Global                                                 8.0%           7.2%
North America                                     6.4%           7.0%
Latin America and Caribbean            13.1%           8.8%
Asia Pacific                                          8.7%           8.0%
Europe                                                 5.7%           5.5%
Middle East/Africa                              12.2%          12.0%

Aon’s report confirms the increasing impact of non-communicable diseases on health care costs globally, which also play a role in the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks. The top conditions that will drive health care claims are cardiovascular disease, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. The report also confirms the growing prevalence of risk factors from unhealthy personal habits such as high blood pressure, physical inactivity, poor stress management, high cholesterol and bad nutrition. The disease and risk rankings differ significantly throughout the world.

To mitigate costs, Aon’s report revealed that more employers are turning to wellbeing programs--such as preventive strategies like physical check-ups, screenings, healthy eating and physical activity promotional programs--to reduce chronic conditions. Employers also continue to use traditional strategies, such as controlling unreasonable plan utilization, adjusting plan designs, narrowing networks and adding flexible benefit plans to cap overall benefit costs.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for better global governance around the management of medical programs,” said Francois Choquette, executive vice president and leader of global benefits for Aon.

“Multinational employers are still learning how to manage the pandemic and its effects and are using this experience to better understand and address employees’ health care and wellness needs.”

“Although a lower medical trend rate is expected for 2021 compared to this year, pressures on medical goods and services have never been higher,” said Rui Silva, vice president of global benefits for Aon. “Governments and health care systems must prepare for the economic and social impacts of COVID-19.”

To view the report, visit

The survey was conducted among 107 Aon offices, each one representative of a country, that broker, administer, or otherwise advise on employer-sponsored medical plans in each of the countries covered in this report. The survey responses reflect the medical trend expectations of the Aon professionals based on their interactions with clients and carriers represented in the portfolio of the firm’s medical plan business in each country.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE:AON) Aon is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance.

Aon has five specific global solution lines: Commercial Risk Solutions, Reinsurance Solutions, Retirement Solutions, Health Solutions and Data & Analytic Services.


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