drug testing

Workforce drug testing positivity climbed to its highest rate since 2004, according to the latest report of the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) released this spring. According to the report, 2018 positivity rates in the combined U.S. workforce increased to 4.4% in urine tests, an increase of nearly 5%. Overall positivity is now 25% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% recorded between 2010-2012. As workforce positivity rates continue to rise, are the same trends reflected in life insurance drug use positivity rates?

Marijuana dominates in the general U.S. workforce and life insurance drugs of abuse positivity rates

The DTI reports that marijuana continues to top the list of most commonly detected illicit substances among American workers. As marijuana is legalized in more states, positivity rates are rising for life insurance applicants, as well. Marijuana positivity for the general U.S. workforce was 2.8%, and even higher in the life insurance population, with a 4.03% positivity rate.

Marijuana in the insurance population remains near its all-time high in 2017.

ExamOne’s data analytics experts also recently published other emerging insights on the magnitude of marijuana risk from a life insurance underwriting perspective. The ExamOne study revealed higher mortality risk among male marijuana users.

Misuse of other drugs impacts both employers and insurance companies

For other drugs of abuse, insurance positivity rates do not differ substantially from those seen in workforce testing. Cocaine, which had a 0.28% positivity rate in urine testing among the general U.S. workforce tested by Quest in 2018, had a 0.17% positivity rate within the life insurance population. Furthermore, amphetamines, which had a 1.2% positivity rate in the same workforce category showed a comparable 0.84% positivity rate in the life insurance subset.

Drug use affects people of all walks of life, including those who work, who have families and who apply for life insurance. Misuse of drugs and addiction can cause workplace accidents and, according to a 2018 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, among individuals 20-55 years of age “substance abuse, suicides, and diabetes drove a rise in premature deaths in nearly half of the U.S.”

Impact of these losses is shared by employers, insurance companies, and especially families.

See where the highest overall workplace drug positivities are located on this interactive map. And to learn more about adding a drug panel to your life insurance laboratory requirements, please contact your Strategic Account Executive or email: DgxLenExamOneMarketing@QuestDiagnostics.com.

sensitive laboratory results

Now that marijuana is legal in many states, as well as in Washington D.C., some underwriting departments have asked us to update their sensitive test results to allow for positive THC. Several clients indicated that waiting for sensitive test results can cause a delay in their underwriting process. By reducing your number of sensitive tests, some of these delays are eliminated and underwriters can make faster decisions. This is a simple change that is requested through our team and may include other tests as well.

To walk you through this process, one of our Regional Account Managers, Rebecca Shady, answers some frequently asked questions.

Q. What results can be changed from sensitive to non-sensitive?
A. There are now 17 laboratory tests that can be categorized as non-sensitive. They include:   

Cocaine, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, norfentanyl, methamphetamine, marijuana, amphetamine, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone, oxymorphone, oxycodone, phencyclidine, 6-monoacetylmorphine Each test is individually-based and a carrier can customize which ones should be identified as sensitive versus non-sensitive. Please note, a sensitive test must be reported as sensitive on both the raw data feed and on the text report.

Q. Am I able to customize my sensitive results by state?
A. At this time, we only have the ability to classify a result as sensitive or non-sensitive. We are unable to discern categorizations by state.

Q. What happens when a result is changed from sensitive to non-sensitive?
A. Once our team makes the change, all positives for that test will be received through your normal results feed. For example, if you want to start receiving THC as a non-sensitive, then a positive THC screen would appear with all other laboratory test results.

Q. I’ve determined that we currently have some results marked as sensitive, but I would like to accept them as non-sensitive. How do I make this request?
A. If you would like to update your requirements on what you identify as sensitive, please work with your Regional Account Manager (RAM). If you do not know who your RAM is or you do not have one, you may email our team at CSG.RAMS@QuestDiagnostics.com and one of our team members will contact you regarding your request.

Q. Can HIV be reported as non-sensitive?
A. At this time, any and all positive HIV results must still be reported as a sensitive test result.

Q. Will the process change for those tests that I want to keep as sensitive?
A. No. For any test that is currently identified as sensitive, you will continue to receive those results the same way as you do today.

We hope this helps answer any questions you may have regarding sensitive test results. If you have additional questions, please contact your Strategic Account Executive or Regional Account Manager.


*Professional Services fees may apply for complex or custom product and system integrations

Ask the Expert: Drug trends in America

October 3, 2018 Ask The Experts

During one of our summer webinars, Betsy Sears, Executive Vice President, Laboratory Strategy and Sales, and Dr. Barry Sample, Quest Diagnostics Senior Director, Science and Technology, examined two of America’s populations for drug positivity rates by various drug classes. This included a workforce population and ExamOne life insurance applicants. Understanding the drug trends and positivity […]

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Deaths of Despair: As premature deaths rise, insurers may want to evaluate their pricing strategy

May 15, 2018 Carriers

“Deaths of Despair,” an article recently appearing in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), should have red flags flying throughout the underwriting community. As reported in the Journal, among individuals 20-55 years of age “substance abuse, suicides, and diabetes drove a rise in premature deaths in nearly half of the U.S.” The WSJ data, originally published […]

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Industry survey insights: The impact of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use on anti-selection

November 2, 2017 Carriers

A recently commissioned study by Hank George, Inc. surveyed 110 direct-writing U.S. and Canadian life insurance carriers on fully underwritten businesses. The survey covered a variety of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use topics*. ExamOne asked consultant and former risk management director at Allstate Financial, Eric Hjerpe, to outline and expand upon some of the findings […]

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Illicit drug use in the US is at the highest rate in a decade

June 26, 2017 Carriers

Quest Diagnostics released its annual Drug Testing IndexTM in May.(1,2)  It revealed that the American workforce had the highest positivity rate for illicit drugs in the past 12 years. Cocaine continued its upward trend for the fourth consecutive year. Marijuana positivity increased dramatically with notable increases in Colorado and Washington, both states that have legalized […]

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Prescription Drug Misuse In America

July 22, 2014 Carriers

The abuse of prescription painkillers and narcotics has grown into a bonafide public health crisis, affecting virtually every state, city and small town in the United States.[1] Nearly half of the roughly 40,000 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved pain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.[2] Approximately 2.1 million people are dependent upon or abusing […]

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