“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 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), comes on the heels of data published earlier this year by the National Center for Health Statistics that reports life expectancy in the United States has declined for two consecutive years. This is the first consecutive year that life expectancy has declined in 55 years.

The Journal highlights the fact there is wide variation in where this early death trend is seen. Deaths in the population aged 20-55 increased in 21 states and declined in 29 states. Primary drivers of these early deaths include substance abuse, mental health issues, cirrhosis and diabetes.

The increase in diabetes deaths should not come as a surprise given the current obesity epidemic. Insurers have responded to this epidemic through widespread A1c screening. ExamOne is also seeing an uptick in insurer opioid screening in light of  the explosion in opioid deaths. The Journal reports deaths attributed to opioid use disorders from 1990 to 2016 increased by a whopping 343%.

Questions to consider

Will the mining of publicly available laboratory information and data analytics used in accelerated underwriting programs be able to compensate for the increased deaths noted above?

Financial and other socio-economic data may help identify applicants at a greater risk for suicide, but how will the accelerated underwriting models identify the opioid and diabetes risks?

While utilization of prescription drug databases may identify some younger diabetics, we know from extensive laboratory data that an elevated A1c is frequently the first sign of glucose intolerance or diabetes.

If you haven’t already done so, underwriting leaders need to speak with pricing actuaries on how this study impacts accelerated underwriting programs. The age group between 20 and 55 years of age represents the sweet spot for accelerated underwriting. How do companies plan to react to these data since we know that just an additional death or two in the younger age mortality cells can totally erode product profitability? Will companies using accelerated underwriting programs be able to tweak underwriting guidelines to react to these adverse mortality trends? Will they accept lower profit margins if accelerated underwriting cannot detect this upswing in younger age diabetes and opioid deaths?

The time to have these conversations is now.

7 facts to know about opioid use

by ExamOne on December 1, 2017

Earlier this year we announced an expanded opioid panel for life insurers. This comes at a time where the American workforce is showing the highest positivity rate for illicit drugs in the past 12 years. This epidemic affects people of all ages, race, gender, incomes and educational backgrounds. These are the same individuals who could be applying for life insurance. Insurers should know these seven facts about the use of opioids.

7 facts you need to know about opioids

  1. Half of Americans (52%) tested in a recent Quest Diagnostics Health Trends study misused their prescription medications. The study also found dangerous drug combinations of opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol are common.
  2. Since 1990, the number of Americans who have died from opioid overdoses has increased by more than 500%.
  3. Overall positivity rates for heroin increased 146% between 2011 and 2015 in the general U.S. workforce, according to the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™.
  4. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association  estimated that opioids are shortening the life span of Americans by 2½ months.
  5. report from Pacira Pharmaceuticals said middle-aged women (aged 40 to 59 years old) are prescribed more opioids than other groups and twice as many as men in their same age group. Mostly prescribed post-surgery, these group accounts for 3.3 billion unused pills.
  6. In 2015, more Americans died from opioid overdoses than from car accidents and gun homicides combined.
  7. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “sales of prescription opioids nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, but there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report.”

Despite the growing number of cases involving opioid misuse, insurers can do their part by adding the expanded opioid panel to their laboratory testing. Learn more about what the opioid drug panel offers.

Originally posted as 10 facts about opioids by Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions

Are you seeing these 6 trends changing the life insurance risk landscape?

November 30, 2017 Carriers

Over the past decade there have been significant changes to the health risks Americans are facing. While the causes and potential solutions to these health issues are being debated, the rising number of Americans living with diabetes, hepatitis C and the consequences of the opioid epidemic continue to impact our country. We also hear too […]

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