Asia's health protection gap: insights for building greater resilience

About the research

Protection starts with raising awareness and gaining broader understanding of how consumers perceive risks. In an industry heavily driven by data and insights, we are committed to sharing our risk knowledge and insights with you to build more resilient societies together.

"Over 40 million households forego medical treatment to avoid financial stress across Asia, indicating the top challenge for many consumers to fund their access to healthcare," said Sohila Kwan, Head of Health & Medical Solutions, Life & Health Asia, during a breakfast briefing on Asia's Health Protection Gap Research, hosted in Tokyo on 11 December 2018.

"Projected at USD1.8 trillion, Asia's health protection gap amounts to around 10% of the average annual household income," supplemented by Kwan, as she presented further findings from the research."


What is the gap?

In 2017, Swiss Re surveyed more than 16,000 consumers across 12 markets in Asia to assess the region's health protection gap, defined as the sum of financial stress arising from unforeseen, direct out-of-pocket medical expenses and the unaffordable portion that households avoided. This research has already taken into account of available public healthcare, individual existing insurance coverage, and personal savings allocated to health and medical expenses hence the gap primarily reflects consumers' projection of the financial protection they underestimated and not yet realised.

What does it mean for Japan?

"In Japan, the health protection gap is estimated at USD 218 billion (approximately JPY 24,000 billion), accounting for 7.3% of the average household income," said John Mok, Head of Life & Health Clients Markets Japan. "Despite the national average is relatively lower compared to most other Asian markets, the financial stress caused by unexpected, out-of-pocket health expenditure is the highest for low-income households in Japan at 16%."

With the objectives to quantify the scale and impact of the health protection gap with a consistent, region-wide approach, this survey also addresses how variables like income levels, age, household size, accumulated savings and financial preparedness affect different household segments in coping with unexpected medical expenses.

"Through this survey, we aim to enhance the understanding of the health protection gap and more importantly, its impact and opportunities for insurers, healthcare service providers, governments and consumers to be more prepared for their health protection funding needs," Mok concluded at the briefing. "We are keen to drive multi-lateral, cross-industry collaboration to capture new business opportunities and sustainable health strategies together."

Further findings from the research

In Japan, the survey result represents 1,041 respondents, of which 39% are aged 60+, 91% are responsible for making insurance purchase decisions, and the average household size stands at 2.6 family members. This research also looks into these issues with deeper insights:

  • awareness and perception of own health status
  • effect of chronic conditions on household medical expenditure
  • factors incentivising healthy behaviours
  • the role of technology in driving health outcomes, especially through integration with disease management or health improvement programmes

Next step

The report and infographics are ready for download here.

As your reinsurance partner, we are ready to discuss your needs in creating products and solutions that offer the right level of health protection to your customers.  Please feel free to contact your Client Manager to schedule a dedicated briefing on this research.