The 2018 AIA Healthy Living Index indicates that people in the Asia-Pacific region are less satisfied with their health and habits than reported in the 2016 edition of the survey.
The survey has generated a range of insights, including whether people’s expectations of what constitutes a healthy life are changing, and whether technology and demographics are playing a role. For my post, I’d like to focus on the implications of a fundamental issue related to health and wellness: finances.
In terms of lifestyle habits, across the region, 59 per cent of people think that it is cheaper to buy unhealthy food than healthy food, for instance. The cost of eating healthy food is the most cited factor for people who’ve not managed to keep up this habit in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
One key aspect of preventative care, and a factor in the AIA Healthy Living Index, is the regularity with which people have medical check-ups. Our survey found that on average, one-third of people who do not have regular medical check-ups cite the cost as a reason.
Worries about how to finance critical illness cover are also significant. Across the region, 50 per cent of people are concerned about the potential costs of cancer, heart disease, diabetes or other serious conditions.
Their worries stem from the expected impact of such illness on personal savings: region-wide, a majority (54 per cent) expect critical illness treatment will be funded in part through personal savings, alongside insurance plans (also 54 per cent). The worrying conclusion of this finding is that people suspect that other forms of finance –public health provision or their current level of insurance cover – are likely to be inadequate for their needs, should the worst happen.
Their concerns are compounded by the expected severity of the impact on savings from “out of pocket” spending on critical illness. When asked to estimate the costs they would expect to bear for treatment for cancer, 46 per cent estimate an amount that would cause serious financial implications for them.
How big is the shortfall? Those respondents who expect the direct costs of critical illness treatments to exceed what they can afford to pay expect a major financing gap, almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of the treatment costs for cancer they expect to have to bear, 61 per cent for heart disease and 60 per cent for diabetes. Across all respondents in the Asia-Pacific region (including those who expect to be able to afford treatment), there is still an average expected shortfall of over one-third (36 per cent) of direct cancer treatment costs, implying a financing burden that would have to be borne by other sources. For diabetes the shortfall is 31 per cent and for diabetes 23 per cent.