A coalition of insurance industry and health care leaders has formed a non-profit organization to help insurers worldwide screen, test and triage members to combat the alarming increase in excess mortality.
Members of the group The Insurance Collaboration to Save Lives say they are alarmed by excess mortality and morbidity trends that have not returned to pre-pandemic levels three years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Excess deaths, generally defined as more deaths than expected, increased during the pandemic from 16.8 to 28.1 million excess deaths from all causes worldwide. But as Covid-19-related deaths decline by 2022, excess mortality rates persist in many countries.
“It was the fire insurance industry that got together and created the fire department…We need some fire brigades, because things are on fire.”Josh Sterling, former equity analyst and co-founder of Collaboration
Statistics show that the death gap will increase the number of US deaths by 34.8% in 2021, resulting in 892,491 additional deaths that year. When controlling for population size, the annual number of excess deaths increased by 84.9% between 2019 and 2021. In other words, the number of excess deaths has nearly doubled each year, according to UCLA’s California Center for Population Research.
Additional morbidity comes with additional losses for insurers that can be significantly mitigated through digital screening and triage of policyholders.
Josh Sterling, former equity analyst and co-founder of Collaborative, estimates that proactive screening and testing can bring insurers a 50x to 100x return on mortality savings. More importantly, though, he said, health screenings, targeted blood tests and intelligent use of data can save lives.
“We think insurers can have a positive impact on the health of a large proportion of their screened members and will realize hockey-stick returns from mortality savings,” he said.
Sterling compares the insurance collaboration to save lives to the Red Cross, the Underwriters Laboratory, or the Institute for Highway Safety, independent or government agencies that have reformed health care, regulation, building codes, and automotive safety.
“It was the fire insurance industry that came together and created the fire department,” he said. “We should do the same thing here. We need some fire brigades, because things are on fire.”
The insurance industry may have problems ahead
Sterling believes insurers have a small window of opportunity to move on from the excess mortality problem before it becomes a major financial problem for the insurance industry. The collaboration is seeking support and working capital to eventually roll out screening processes nationwide and then globally.
Assuming an average life policy of $200,000 and screening costs of $200, the savings would cover costs if 0.1% or 1 in 1,000 lives were saved.
“So what we’re saying is ‘let’s come up with a bunch of technology that detects problems’ and let’s try to do it on an Internet timeframe, or a startup timeframe, or a public health emergency timeframe, as opposed to the insurance industry timeframe. , which is naturally much more long-term in nature,” he said.
The insurance industry needs support
Sterling says the collaboration, with help from the insurance industry, could save 1 million lives over five years. One million lives, he said, is just 1.5% of global deaths each year and 15% of global excess deaths in 2022.
“If you’re spending like $5,000 a year on a life insurance policy, it’s not crazy to spend $100 or $200 every year or every year on screenings,” he said. “They should be happy to make this investment to improve the quality of life of their members. Even if you look at it from a marketing perspective, it’s probably a worthwhile thing.”
Sterling hopes to have a pilot program in the market within three months That schedule can be greatly enhanced with corporate sponsors.
“Even with Covid starting to decline, there seems to be an issue with mortality, which I believe is a public health issue right now that can be addressed by leading insurance uptake,” he said. “I think long-term, the potential for litigation from this is going to be greater for the insurance industry than things like asbestos. So, let’s try to figure it out and solve this problem.”
Doug Bailey is a journalist and freelance writer based out of Boston. He can be reached [email protected].
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