The Hartford Sees High Mortality for the Next Few Years

Link:https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2024/04/26/hartford-sees-high-mortality-for-next-few-years/

Excerpt:

Chris Swift, the chief executive officer of Hartford Financial, on Friday confirmed what government statistics seem to be showing: The U.S. death rate continues to be noticeably higher than it was before early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic came to light.

Swift talked about the effects of the higher U.S. mortality rate on the company’s group life insurance business Friday during a conference call with securities analysts.

He noted that mortality was much lower in the first quarter than in the first quarter of 2023, but that it was still somewhat higher than the pre-pandemic average.

“The trends are downward,” Swift said. “But we believe that we’re still operating in an endemic state of mortality, which means it’s going to be higher than normal, and we think that will continue for at least the next the next couple of years. We’ve been pricing our product with that view.”

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 26 April 2024

Publication Site: Think Advisor

DOL: If You Were an Independent Contractor, You Probably Still Are

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2024/01/10/dol-if-you-were-an-independent-contractor-you-probably-still-are/

Excerpt:

Traditionally, many life insurance agents, brokers and advisors have preferred to operate as independent contractors to benefit from the federal income tax rules for self-employed people and to enjoy the privilege of not having a boss.

But some financial professionals have argued that they would be better off if life insurers classified them as employees. In 2009, for example, three former Northwestern Mutual Life representatives sued in a federal court in California over allegations that the company had deprived them of FLSA protections by classifying them as independent contractors.

In 2019, representatives for Uber drivers and other gig workers persuaded California lawmakers to pass Assembly Bill 5, legislation that established a broader definition of “employee” for California employers.

Federal efforts: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners and other agent and broker groups joined with the American Council of Life Insurers to oppose efforts by members of Congress to set a federal definition for employee that would be similar to the California definition.

During the administration of former President Donald Trump, the Labor Department tried to address the concerns about worker classification by adopting a new, shorter “core factors” test. Those regulations took effect in January 2021.

In October 2022, after Joe Biden became president, the department announced in a notice that it was planning to rescind and replace the new regulations because the new regulations were not fully compatible with the FLSA and conflicted with decades of court decisions based on the economic reality test.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 10 Jan 2024

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Federal Financial Watchdog Aims to Expand Its Reach

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/04/24/federal-financial-watchdog-aims-to-expand-its-reach/

Excerpt:

The Financial Stability Oversight Council — the federal agency in charge of keeping the U.S. financial system upright — wants to change a 2019 document that limits how it tries to keep problems at life insurers, money market funds, cryptocurrency firms and other nonbank financial companies from destroying the economy.

FSOC announced Friday that it’s proposing a new version of the document that would free it from the 2019 restrictions.

….

FSOC started a fight with life insurers and their regulators by designating companies such as MetLife and Prudential Financial as “systemically important financial institutions,” or companies needing extra oversight.

Life insurers argued that the SIFI designation process was unclear, arbitrary and unfair.

MetLife sued FSOC over its SIFI designation. A federal appeals court threw out MetLife’s designation in 2018.

FSOC withdrew the last designation of a nonbank company — Prudential Financial — in October 2018.

…..

FSOC says it needs more flexibility to address potential risks as early and as quickly as possible, and that comparing the potential benefits of focusing attention on a nonbank company to the potential impact on the company is not useful.

“This is in part because it is not feasible to estimate with any certainty the likelihood, magnitude or timing of a future financial crisis,” FSOC said. FSOC argued that, if it does prevent a financial crisis, it would save the country trillions of dollars.

FSOC noted that it consults with state regulators and federal regulatory agencies regularly, and that its own members are made up mostly of state and federal agency heads.

“The council expects that most potential risks to financial stability will continue to be addressed by existing regulators rather than by use of the council’s nonbank financial company designation authority,” FSOC said.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 24 Apr 2023

Publication Site: Think Advisor

12 States Where Working-Age Death Counts Are Still High

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/03/28/12-states-where-working-age-death-counts-are-still-high/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Death finally seemed to ease up on U.S. residents ages 25 through 64 in February.

The total number of deaths of working-age people in that age group, from all causes, was 5.5% lower than the February average for the period from 2015 through 2019, according to the very earliest mortality data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But all-cause death counts for working-age people were more than 4.5% higher than the 2015-2019 baseline in 12 states and New York City, and up by almost 40% in one state.

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, anything that increased the death rate for a large group of people by more than 2% was considered a major news story.

….

Limitations

One concern is whether the apparent drop in working-age mortality is due partly to state data submission delays.

At press time, for example, Louisiana had sent the CDC only four days of mortality data for February. Other states might also be slower to send the CDC their numbers.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 28 March 2023

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Insurtech Regs, ‘Dark Pattern’ Spottting on NAIC’s To-Do List

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/12/16/insurtech-regs-dark-pattern-spottting-on-naics-to-do-list/

Excerpt:

In August [2022], Birny Birnbaum, the executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, asked the [NAIC] Market Regulation committee to train analysts to detect “dark patterns” and to define dark patterns as an unfair and deceptive trade practice.

The term “dark patterns” refers to techniques an online service can use to get consumers to do things they would otherwise not do, according to draft August meeting notes included in the committee’s fall national meeting packet.

Dark pattern techniques include nagging; efforts to keep users from understanding and comparing prices; obscuring important information; and the “roach motel” strategy, which makes signing up for an online service much easier than canceling it.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 16 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Long COVID Correlates With High Mortality: Health Insurer

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/03/03/long-covid-correlates-with-high-mortality-health-insurer/

Excerpt:

A giant health insurer says health plan enrollees who suffered from long COVID-19 symptoms were more than twice as likely as other enrollees to die during a 12-month follow-up period.

Andrea DeVries, a researcher at Elevance Health, and three colleagues found that, during the year studied, 2.8% of the 13,435 enrollees classified as having “post-COVID-19 condition” died, according to a study published in the JAMA Health Forum, which is affiliated with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That compares with a death rate of just 1.2% for similar enrollees without COVID-19 during the same period.

….

Elevance Health is the company formerly known as Anthem. The company provides or administers major medical coverage for about 48 million people.

The DeVries looked at claim records for 249,013 Elevance plan enrollees ages and older who were diagnosed with COVID-19 from April 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020 — before regulators had adopted a long COVID diagnosis code.

The team began by identifying enrollees with COVID-19 who had been enrolled in an Elevance plan for at least five months before being diagnosed with COVID-19 and who had survived for at least two months after the diagnosis date.

Because of the lack of a long COVID-19 diagnosis code, the team used claims for other conditions, such as loss of the sense of smell, brain fog, anxiety and heart rate problems, to come up with a list of enrollees with long COVID.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 3 March 2023

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Fight to Rename ‘Medicare Advantage’ Gets New Push

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/02/01/fight-to-rename-medicare-advantage-gets-new-push/

Excerpt:

Rep. Mark Pocan and two colleagues are reviving a fight to take “Medicare” out of the name of the Medicare Advantage program — and, this time, they have a YouTube that looks like a parody of a Medicare Advantage TV ad.

The Wisconsin Democrat introduced the new version of the Save Medicare Act bill today, together with Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Il..

The sponsors are promoting the position that “only Medicare is Medicare,” and that a Medicare Advantage plan may fail to provide the care that an older Medicare enrollee might need.

….

The bill would rename the Medicare Advantage program and prohibit Medicare Advantage plans from using the word “Medicare” in plan titles or ads.

The Pocan-Khanna-Schakowsky bill is a new version of H.R. 9187, a bill that Pocan and Khanna introduced in the 117th Congress. That bill had a total of four co-sponsors, all Democrats.

H.R. 9187 died in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee at a time when Democrats controlled the House.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 1 Feb 2023

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Total 2022 U.S. Deaths Up About 15% Over Pre-Pandemic Level

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2023/01/24/total-2022-u-s-deaths-up-about-15-over-pre-pandemic-level/

Excerpt:

U.S. public health agencies recorded a total of about 3.2 million deaths in 2022, according to full-year mortality figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The total number of deaths was down 7% from the preliminary total for 2021 that the CDC reported a year earlier, but it was 15% higher than the preliminary, full-year average — about 2.8 million per year — for the period from 2015 through 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 24 Jan 2023

Publication Site: ThinkAdvisor

Lawmakers Discuss How Financial Institutions Should Address Ties to Slavery

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/12/12/lawmakers-discuss-how-financial-institutions-should-address-ties-to-slavery/

Excerpt:

Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, wants to develop legislation that could affect how insurers and other financial institutions address their historical involvement in slavery.

Green and other lawmakers talked about ideas for legislation related to slavery during a  recent hearing of the House Financial Services oversight subcommittee on the role of financial institutions in the horrors of slavery.

….

Berkshire Hathaway, for example, descends partly from The Valley Falls Company, a textile manufacturer owned by members of an abolitionist family, Rockman said.

But members of the abolitionist family “rarely paused to ask where their cotton came from,” Rockman said. “Virtually every cotton fiber they spun and wove would have been slave-grown and slave-picked.”

William Darity Jr., a public policy professor at Duke University, talked about the role of insurers in slavery. He noted that Aetna, AIG, Baltimore Life, Loews Corp., New York Life and Southern Mutual Insurance Company all descend from companies that protected slaveowners against the deaths of slaves.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 12 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

GE to End $2.5B Long-Term Care Insurance Reinsurance Arrangement

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/10/26/ge-to-end-2-5b-long-term-care-insurance-reinsurance-arrangement

Excerpt:

General Electric has agreed to end a long-term care insurance reinsurance relationship backed by $2.5 billion in assets.

The Boston-based company said Tuesday that it hopes to get the assets back by the end of the year.

….

For GE, the end of the reinsurance arrangement means that the company will face less worry about whether it can collect on reinsurance claims.

“This reduces counterparty risk,” Happe said.

GE will also have $2.5 billion in extra cash to reinvest.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 26 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

5 Worst States for Working-Age Deaths in August

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/09/27/5-worst-states-for-working-age-deaths-in-august/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The number of deaths of working-age Americans was lower in August than in August 2021, but it was still much higher than it was in August 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Death figures for the period from July 31 through Aug. 27 are just starting to firm up. But very early figures show that at least 53,655 U.S. residents ages 25 through 64 died from COVID-19 and all other causes during that four-week period.

The number of deaths was down sharply from 77,847 in August 2021, but it was still up 6.1% from the total of 50,590 for August 2019.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 27 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Life Groups Calls on States to Review Agent Exam Difficulty

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/09/22/life-groups-calls-on-states-to-review-agent-exam-difficulty/

Excerpt:

The American Council of Life Insurers has joined with two rival producer groups, the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and Finseca, to send state lawmakers, insurance commissioners and other policymakers a new 10-page position paper, “A Workplan to Identify & Remove Unnecessary Barriers to Producer Licensure.”

The groups contend that better licensing rules would expand the supply of agents, brokers and other insurance producers, as well as increase producer diversity.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 22 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor