Category Archives: Global

COVID-19 results in the expansive use of telehealth

The COVID-19 crisis and the enforced lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders worldwide have accelerated the relevance and usage of telehealth, which has major implications for health insurers. The usage of telehealth has been limited historically. For example, 92% of U.S. consumers reported that they were not using telehealth prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In this paper, Milliman professionals examine the current status of telehealth in major geographic markets, including the U.S., Europe, and Asia. They develop a framework for telehealth with its key market participants, including a typology of models of virtual care. They also explore insurer proposition design and cost containment. 

Equalising risk in global healthcare systems

Health insurance, like most insurance, can be priced using risk ratings, where premiums are set based on the relative risk of insured lives and the propensity to claim. This may result in unaffordable health insurance for the most high-risk members of society. As a result, many governments restrict the use of risk ratings in health insurance markets in favour of “community rating.”

In a community-rated system where all consumers are charged the same premium, many high-risk consumers are protected from paying unaffordable premiums. Other consumers, such as healthier or younger individuals, will generally pay a higher premium to subsidise sicker and often older individuals. Consequently, premium revenue collected by insurers or other risk-bearing entities may no longer truly reflect the underlying risk associated with their insured populations.

In many healthcare systems and health insurance markets around the world where risk rating is not allowed, risk equalisation is used to enhance consumer protection and market stability. Its aim is to compensate for the risk profiles of different groups of the population such that the additional medical expenses associated with high-risk members are shared amongst healthcare providers or insurance companies.

In this paper, Milliman consultants have set out a “how-to” guide to risk equalisation, or risk adjustment. They use illustrative examples from around the world to explain the challenges and practicalities that should be considered in the design and management of a risk equalisation program.

What does the health insurance landscape look like in China?

China ranks only behind the United States in total healthcare expenditures. It has at least 95% of its 1.4 billion people covered by basic, government-sponsored health insurance. But China’s annual per capita health expenditure is relatively low at around $425, or just over 5% of GDP, though it has been on the rise over the past decade.

In China, there are three types of publicly financed basic medical insurance: For the urban employed population, for the urban non-employed population, and for rural residents regardless of employment status. Funding of health coverage comes from the central government, local governments, employers, and the participants, and the level of funding varies by geographic area. On average, out-of-pocket spending accounts for 32% of China’s total health expenditures and varies greatly by geographic area.

China’s public insurance programs are facing pressure from all sides of the healthcare ecosystem. Population aging, urbanization, environmental issues, increasing disease burden due to chronic conditions and cancers, escalating unit cost in healthcare, waste, and low-value services are all adding to the growing demand for better and more efficient healthcare.

At the same time, the growth in social insurance funding, part of which is used to fund basic medical insurance, has slowed due to an aging population. And the role of commercial health insurance in China has changed significantly over the past 15 years and continues to evolve as the Chinese government implements reforms that affect the overall healthcare ecosystem.

To learn more about the health insurance market in China, read this article by Milliman’s Rong Yi and Sharon Huang, which discusses recent trends and how data and analytics could be used to address some of the challenges and support market growth.

Partnering with health microinsurers to increase Kenya’s healthcare coverage

Kenya’s public health insurance scheme—the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) provides much of the country’s health insurance. However, the percentage of citizens covered by the NHIF falls short of Kenya’s national goals related to healthcare access. One key way that the NHIF can improve participation rates is by partnering with health microinsurers (HMIs).

In his article “Benefits of public-private partnerships in health microinsurance: the Kenyan context,” Milliman’s Mitchell Momanyi provides an overview of the NHIF and the reasons for low participation in the program. He also outlines several ways it can work with HMIs to enhance its benefits and increase its health insurance coverage.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

HMIs offer simple and affordable benefits that, when paired with public schemes such as the NHIF, can encourage beneficiaries to participate in and use their public insurance benefits when necessary. An example of such a benefit offered by many HMIs is ‘hospital cash.’ Hospital cash pays a fixed amount of money to the beneficiary when a qualifying inpatient hospital stay is triggered. This money can be used to pay for costs related to seeking treatment such as transportation, food and partial replacement of lost income. These costs aren’t covered by the NHIF and would present a barrier to some individuals seeking treatment. The SAJIDA Foundation in Bangladesh and the Microfund for Women in Jordan are examples of organisations that have successfully launched hospital cash products.9

A second way in which the NHIF can increase its reach is by pairing its benefits with an HMI policy that provides value-added services. Examples of such services may include access to discounted medication and access to preventive services such as free health check-ups. Value-added services are included in some HMI policies in order to increase client value by making the benefits more tangible. Beneficiaries don’t have to wait for catastrophic events such as an inpatient admission in order to use their benefits. An example of an HMI that has successfully implemented value-added services is Uplift in India. Its ‘dial-a-doctor’ service is popular among beneficiaries.10

The government can also partner with HMIs in order to increase awareness of the NHIF programme. The Impact Insurance Facility describes the lack of awareness of public benefits as a key emerging lesson in Ghana. In discussing a field test conducted to gauge citizens’ awareness of the country’s National Health Insurance Scheme, the Facility states that the test group did not know about the costs and eligibility requirements of the programme. It went on to state that ‘this lack of understanding is an initial barrier to enrolment and a factor in low retention in the scheme – even with a government sponsored scheme intended to provide universal cover.’11 In order to distribute their products effectively, HMIs typically build valuable partnerships with entities such as local community groups, unions and cooperatives. The NHIF can leverage these partnerships in order to promote the programme effectively in remote areas that the government would otherwise be unable to reach.

Case study: Health insurance microinsurance scheme

Although there is an increasing recognition of the value of microinsurance in developing countries, health microinsurance products are still relatively new. In 2016, Milliman joined PharmAccess Foundation, a non-government organisation (NGO) based in the Netherlands, to do an analysis involving the establishment of a health insurance pricing scheme in a state in an African country. Milliman’s role in this initiative was to provide actuarial, clinical and financial review of PharmAccess’s modelling of the anticipated costs under the health insurance pricing scheme.

In this article, Milliman authors Lynn Dong, Briana Botros, and Judith Houtepen write about this most recent microinsurance project and the way in which the firm was able to provide tools and analysis to help support this health insurance scheme.