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Global health care costs predicted to balloon in 2016

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Led by double-digit increases in the Americas and the Middle East and Africa, global health care costs are expected to jump in 2016, according to a new survey.

Medical trends, which are projections of increases in the cost of health services, will rise 9.1% globally in 2016, up from 8.0% in 2015 and 7.5% in 2014, according to the Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. survey of 174 insurers in 55 countries released Thursday.

The steepest projected increase is in the Americas — excluding the United States — where costs are projected to increase a whopping 15.3% in 2016, up from 13.3% in 2015.

One of the drivers of big health care cost increases in the Americas is rampant inflation in Venezuela, noted Francis Coleman, managing director of global benefits vendors and solutions in Willis Towers Watson's Santa Barbara, California, office.

On the other hand, medical costs are projected to rise just 5.7% this year in Europe, up from 5.2% in 2015.

Those modest cost increases in European countries are the result of several factors, Mr. Coleman noted. In some European markets, cost savings initiatives adopted by insurers are starting to have an impact, while in other parts, such as Southern Europe, economic pressures are holding down cost increases, he said.

In other areas of the world, costs are projected to rise by an average of 12.2% in the Middle East and Africa, down from 12.6% in 2015, and 7.9% in Asia Pacific, up from 6.4% in 2015.