John Hancock and Allstate have announced a partnership to reward John Hancock Vitality members with points for safe driving. The partnership is the first of its kind, and comes in response to an increase in vehicle crash-related injuries. Customers will benefit from understanding how their choices, including driving behavior, impact their overall health, John Hancock believes.
The Vitality Program, which combines life insurance with education, incentives and rewards to help members lead healthier, longer lives, will allow members to submit proof of safe driving status in Allstate’s usage-based insurance program through a cashback reward email or by submitting a recent bill to show a safe-driving discount.
A new study is pouring cold beer on Seattle’s soda tax. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, reveals that since the city I call home adopted a soda tax in 2018, residents have swapped out soda and replaced that soda with beer. Pointedly, the study says Seattle’s soda tax “induced” consumers to buy more beer.
“The good people of Seattle responded to a tax on sugary drinks by buying more beer,” Christopher Snowdon, director of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs and a leading critic of the nanny state, tweeted after the study’s release.
The PLoS study, by University of Illinois-Chicago researchers Lisa M. Powell and Julien Lader, compared sales of beer in Seattle both before and since adoption of the soda tax with comparable sales in nearby Portland, Oregon, which has no soda tax.
“The losses we are seeing continue to be elevated over 2019 levels due at least in part, we believe, to the pandemic and the existence of either delayed or unavailable healthcare,” Globe Life finance chief Frank Svoboda told analysts and investors earlier this month.
Among the non-coronavirus-specific claims are deaths from heart and circulatory issues and neurological disorders, he said. “We anticipate that they’ll start to be less impactful over the course of 2022 but we do anticipate that we’ll still at least see some elevated levels throughout the year,” he said.
Primerica executives similarly cautioned in their fourth-quarter call about outsize numbers of non-Covid-19 deaths in 2022. “Some of these will be the result of delayed medical care or the increased incidence of societal-related issues, such as the increased prevalence of substance abuse,” Chief Financial Officer Alison Rand said in an email interview.
From early stages of the pandemic, many medical professionals have raised concerns about Americans’ untreated health problems, as Covid-19 put stress on the nation’s healthcare system.
These are awful trends. There’s nothing to caveat. Yes, Ukraine’s life expectancy is a little bit higher, but these numbers are awful, and yes, there was a cratering of male life expectancy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I will note that there was a general slide from the early 1960s until the early 1980s… a run-up for some reason (falsifying data?), and then absolute cratering. That’s just hideous.
Dropping about 5 years over a 5-year period is a horrible decrease.
There has been a recovery since 2004, but that life expectancy is still very low compared to other European countries, even other Eastern European countries, as we’ll see below.
LDI is a key investment approach adopted by insurance companies and defined benefit (DB) pension funds. However, the complex structure of the liability portfolio and the volatile nature of capital markets make strategic asset allocation very challenging. On one hand, the optimization of a dynamic asset allocation strategy is difficult to achieve with dynamic programming, whose assumption as to liability evolution is often too simplified. On the other hand, using a grid-searching approach to find the best asset allocation or path to such an allocation is too computationally intensive, even if one restricts the choices to just a few asset classes.
Artificial intelligence is a promising approach for addressing these challenges. Using deep learning models and reinforcement learning (RL) to construct a framework for learning the optimal dynamic strategic asset allocation plan for LDI, one can design a stochastic experimental framework of the economic system as shown in Figure 1. In this framework, the program can identify appropriate strategy candidates by testing varying asset allocation strategies over time.
The big takeaway from the GFOA’s Rethinking Revenue project is that the modern economy is shifting the tax burden toward those who can least afford it. Now, the association and its partners are launching pilot programs to test some of the ideas the project has explored.
One will target the inequities built into relying on fees and fines and the GFOA is inviting governments to apply for a pilot project testing segmented pricing as a potential solution. Instead of a one-size-fits-all fine, segmented pricing is designed around a user’s ability or willingness to pay. For example, a $100 speeding ticket for someone who earns just $500 a week is a much larger financial burden than it is for someone who earns $2,000 a week. So for the lower-income transgressor, the fine is lowered to $50. It still stings, but it’s much more likely to get paid.
Shane Kavanagh, GFOA’s senior manager of research, said they’re looking for around five places to test this idea and that the tested revenue source would have to be large enough (such as traffic fines) and also be one that the government has had difficulty collecting.
Some ML algorithms (e.g., random forests) work very nicely with missing data. No data cleaning is required when using these algorithms. In addition to not breaking down amid missing data, these algorithms use the fact of “missingness” as a feature to predict with. This compensates for when the missing points are not randomly missing.
Or, rather than dodge the problem, although that might be the best approach, you can impute the missing values and work from there. Here, very simple ML algorithms that look for the nearest data point (K-Nearest Neighbors) and infer its value work well. Simplicity here can be optimal because the modeling in data cleaning should not be mixed with the modeling in forecasting.
There are also remedies for missing data in time series. The challenge of time series data is that relationships exist, not just between variables, but between variables and their preceding states. And, from the point of view of a historical data point, relationships exist with the future states of the variables.
For the sake of predicting missing values, a data set can be augmented by including lagged values and negative-lagged values (i.e., future values). This, now-wider, augmented data set will have correlated predictors. The regularization trick can be used to forecast missing points with the available data. And, a strategy of repeatedly sampling, forecasting, and then averaging the forecasts can be used. Or, a similar turnkey approach is to use principal component analysis (PCA) following a similar strategy where a meta-algorithm will repeatedly impute, project, and refit until the imputed points stop changing. This is easier said than done, but it is doable.
In its 2021 EMEA-wide Life Financial Modelling Survey, WTW reveals that many life insurers are under significant pressure from regulators and management to improve their financial reporting, exacerbated by key barriers to adopting cloud technologies capable of transforming their modelling capabilities.
While participating firms said they were satisfied with their current financial modelling, the demand for ever increasing and faster reporting is causing concern for many insurers, with this pressure being most evident for multinationals. Firms taking part in the survey highlighted three barriers in particular that they will first need to overcome in order to meet this demand for improved speed and efficiency: • Managing costs – Companies are under constant pressure to improve operational efficiency and meet the demand for real time services, but at ever decreasing costs. • Shortage of skilled resources – Having the right skill set and software is essential said survey respondents, particularly compared to the situation for companies still using old, obscure, or bespoke toolsets. • Improve governance and auditability – The challenge of updating financial modelling practices that not only deliver faster but are also capable of delivering a greater level of control and auditability. More than 90% of survey respondents recognised that the application of automation technology – including business process automation, elastic cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) – is a key priority to address these challenges. At the same time, a number of participating firms were cautious of the changes needed to implement new technology, naming transition cost, data and IT policies, and technical challenges as the main barriers to adoption.
The timing on Wednesday was impeccable. I was looking at the price of oil, which was up four percent that day and about to pass $100/barrel. Energy stocks were up over one percent despite a horrible day for the rest of the market.
So, with inflation raging, gasoline moving towards $4.00/gallon and Russia murdering Ukrainians with the help of American oil purchases, Chicagoans can take comfort knowing that the city will refuse to invest in oil and other fossil fuel production and thereby “will be sending a message that Chicago is permanently leaving dirty energy in the past and welcoming a clean energy future for generations to come.”
That’s from Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. She and members of the City Council, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s support, are pushing for an ordinance to mandate that the city divest its funds from fossil fuel companies, as Crain’s reported.
In fact Conyears-Ervin had already made oil and gas divestment office policy. The new ordinance would make the change permanent going forward. Her office has already removed $70 million in fossil fuel-associated bonds from the city’s portfolio, she says.
How wise has it been lately to be shunning fossil fuel investments? Here’s a chart comparing performance year-to-date of the S&P 500 to XLE, an ETF basket of mostly oil and gas companies. While the market in general is down some 10% the oil and gas stocks are up over 21%.
With this tile grid map, we can see that the two-year mortality experience has been horrible, even on an age-adjusted basis. I will be using age-adjusted death rates [using the standard 2000-reference-age-adjustment] for all the comparisons. The methodology is at the end of the post.
I warn against taking any meaning from North Carolina, as it has a data-reporting problem. Hawaii, however, really does have a low increase in mortality, and I believe it is credible that the mortality increase of the northeast is also low. I am not sure how credibly to take the increase in mortality of Wyoming, given its relatively small population.
However, we can see some patterns. In general, one has a “hot spot”, and then the increase falls off as you retreat from that peak. The large pattern is the high increase along the southern border — Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mississippi — and then the next layer above is less bad, and so forth. There is the Wyoming peak, falls off around there. There is the midwest cluster – Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio. And then New York/New Jersey.
As well we know, the excess mortality is driven primarily by COVID, which I will get to in the next major section, but let me share some ranking tables.
In Illinois, this resulted in a Blue Ribbon Pension Commission under Gov. Rod Blagojevich, which issued a report in 2005 with some recommendations which were adopted and others which, well, never saw the light of day. As might be guessed, the changes actually implemented were small scale, but included an anti-spiking measure, a reduction in the guaranteed interest rate used to calculate a minimum pension benefit, and a reduction in the categories of state employees eligible for the more generous alternative formula. This legislation, Public Act 94-0004, also required that any new benefit increase henceforth must be paired with a corresponding funding increase, and must sunset after five years (though recall that this didn’t stop the legislature from increasing benefits for Chicago Firefighters or non-Chicago Police and Fire pensions, both of which involve the state dictating benefits and localities funding them).
In recognition of the small nature of these changes and the very large debts still remaining, the bill also created yet another commission, with no effect, and in subsequent years, still more commissions met. In 2009, the Illinois Pension Modernization Task Force held a series of public meetings, but produced no majority-approved report, only a work product with findings and minority reports.
It is in that context that the Illinois Tier 2 pension system came into being — which avid readers will recall is a new set of benefits for public-sector employees in Illinois hired after January 1, 2011, a set of benefits with changes made that “looked good” to legislators at the time but had no actuarial review, and as a result will sooner or later fail the “safe harbor” test, in which state and local public pensions must provide better benefits than Social Security in order to opt out of the Social Security system. And why didn’t the law have an actuarial review? Because it was created behind closed doors — which makes it all the more worthwhile to repeat the exercise of reading the legislative transcripts of the day it was brought to the floor of the Illinois State House and Senate for a vote.