US overdose deaths hit record 107,000 last year, CDC says

Link: https://www.fox10tv.com/2022/05/11/us-overdose-deaths-hit-record-107000-last-year-cdc-says/

Excerpt:

More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, setting another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Wednesday.

The provisional 2021 total translates to roughly one U.S. overdose death every 5 minutes. It marked a 15% increase from the previous record, set the year before. The CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an estimate to account for delayed and incomplete reporting.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest numbers “truly staggering.”

The White House issued a statement calling the accelerating pace of overdose deaths “unacceptable” and promoting its recently announced national drug control strategy. It calls for measures like connecting more people to treatment, disrupting drug trafficking and expanding access to the overdose-reversing medication naloxone.

U.S. overdose deaths have risen most years for more than two decades. The increase began in the 1990s with overdoses involving opioid painkillers, followed by waves of deaths led by other opioids like heroin and — most recently — illicit fentanyl.

Author(s): Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

Publication Date: 11 May 2022

Publication Site: Fox 10 TV

What We’ve Learned — and Failed to Learn — from a Million COVID Deaths

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/what-weve-learned-and-failed-to-learn-from-a-million-covid-deaths

Excerpt:

The pandemic is not done. The number of new infections — surely an undercount due to unreported home tests — again tops 75,000 per day. The number of hospitalizations has climbed 20 percent over the past two weeks. The Biden administration has warned there could be 100 million more Americans infected by early next year. Yet Congress seems unwilling to provide more money for basic responses such as tests and vaccines, even as it becomes increasingly clear that even mild cases can lead to dangerous long-term damage.

Yet there are positive developments to consider as well. Vaccinations and certainly boosters are not where they should be, but three out of four Americans have received at least a single dose and two-thirds are fully vaccinated. The Commonwealth Fund has estimated that, absent vaccines, an additional 2.3 million Americans would have died, and 17 million more would have been hospitalized. Public health measures such as masking have largely fallen out of favor, but they helped prevent a death toll that could have been even more terrible.

“A million is way too many people, but as a result of the work that has been done, through public health and vaccination, it’s a number that’s a lot lower than it might have been,” says David Fleming, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Trust for America’s Health. “If we did not do those things, we would not be looking at the 1 million death threshold, we’d be looking at the 3 million death threshold.”

Author(s): Alan Greenblatt

Publication Date: 12 May 2022

Publication Site: Governing

U.S. Mortality Trends Through the Pandemic

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/us-mortality-trends-through-the-pandemic?s=w

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I discuss this in the portion of the talk about death rates by age group.

For 2021, the worst relative increase in mortality, compared to 2019, was for ages 30-44.

[I have called it the Millennial Massacre, but it obviously overlaps with Gen X…. and Middle Age Massacre doesn’t exactly work, either. Dang the allure of alliteration].

We will see in a moment that most of that mortality increase didn’t come from COVID.

If you look at overall mortality, obviously total mortality for this age group is much lower than for those much older.

A 5% increase in mortality for those aged 85+ will translate to a much larger number of deaths, but a 50% increase in mortality for those aged 40-44 is extremely worrisome to actuaries and insurers even if the absolute number of deaths is lower in impact. We’re setting reserves and expectations based on certain assumptions, and we’re generally not assuming fluctuations of 50% — that’s just nuts compared to our historical experience…..

…..until now.

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 20 May 2022

Publication Site: STUMP on substack

The pandemic’s reported death toll will soon reach 1 million people in the United States.

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/interactive/2022/how-many-people-died-covid-united-states-1-million-graphic/

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The pandemic’s death toll in the United States will surpass 1 million people in the coming days. Conveying the meaning or the magnitude of this number is impossible. But 1 million deaths is the benchmark of an unprecedented American tragedy.

Consider this comparison: The population of D.C. is about 670,000 people. Try to imagine life without every person, in every building, on every street, in the nation’s capital. And then imagine another 330,000 people are gone.

To attempt to put the 1 million deaths in context, we plotted its damage over more than two years and compared the continuing death toll with the tolls from previous catastrophes in our history.

Author(s): Sergio Peçanha and Yan Wu

Publication Date: 12 May 2022

Publication Site: Washington Post

COVID-19 Deaths Cause More Than $700M in Q1 Claims

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/05/09/covid-19-deaths-continue-to-hit-life-insurers-hard/

Excerpt:

Reinsurance Group of America — a Chesterfield, Missouri-based reinsurer — said its U.S. COVID-19 individual life claims fell to $260 million in the latest quarter, from $340 million a year earlier.

“Our U.S. individual mortality results are very consistent with what we are seeing in the general population this quarter,” Jonathan Porter, RGA’s global chief risk officer, said Friday, during a conference call with securities analysts. “We saw a reduction in our claim cost per 10,000 general population deaths as compared to the third quarter and fourth quarter of 2021. This improvement, we believe, is in part due to the lower proportion of deaths in working ages.”

Here’s what happened to U.S. COVID-19 claim statistics at some other life insurers, including some that are known mainly for group life:

MetLife: $230 million in world group life claims this quarter, down from $280 million a year earlier.

Hartford Financial: $96 million before taxes this quarter, down from $185 million a year earlier.

Unum: 1,400 deaths at an average of $55,000, or $77 million, down from 1,725 deaths at an average of $65,000, or $112 million, a year earlier.

Lincoln Financial: $53 million in group life claim claims and $18 million in group disability claims this quarter, down from $83 million in group life claims and $7 million in group disability claims a year earlier.

Voya: $35 million in group life claims this quarter, up from $29 million a year earlier.

Primerica: $16 million in life claims this quarter, down from $21 million a year earlier.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 9 May 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor

Trends in Life Insurance 2022: How the Industry Has Changed

Link: https://www.soa.org/sections/reinsurance/reinsurance-newsletter/2022/april/rsn-2022-04-gambhir/

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Growing popularity in no-medical-exam life insurance products has had one expected outcome: More life insurance policies with accelerated underwriting options available in the marketplace. For example, Policygenius offered just three accelerated underwriting options in 2020. In 2021, that number more than doubled to seven, and more options will likely be available in 2022.

Additionally, while such policies had historically only been available to applicants who were young and in good health, the competitive market has prompted more widespread availability. Now, applicants across all health classes can get no-medical-exam policies.

While no-medical-exam policies tend to be about the same cost as fully underwritten policies, applicants tend to favor them even when they are more expensive due to the convenience and expedited turnaround time.

Author(s): Nupur Gambhir

Publication Date: April 2022

Publication Site: Reinsurance News, SOA

Inside Nebraska’s Surprisingly Effective Covid Strategy

Link: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/04/22/nebraska-covid-response-pete-ricketts-00026993

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This conversation about protecting hospitals, back in the era when New Yorkers were still being encouraged to go to restaurants, well before the coasts’ contagion began closing in on the Midwest in earnest, helped define what became, by some measures, one of the most effective and balanced Covid responses in the United States. Ricketts is a mandate-shunning Republican who runs a heavily Republican and rural state with a middling vaccination rate — factors that have been linked to worse pandemic health outcomes in other states. He never ordered a statewide shutdown when 43 other governors, Democrats and Republicans, did so; he has stood against, or even supported lawsuits over, local mask requirements; he has told state agencies not to comply with federal vaccine mandates and gotten scolded by the U.S. secretary of defense for objecting to such requirements for the National Guard. And yet by the fall of last year, when POLITICO crunched the data of state pandemic responses on a combination of health, economic, social and educational factors, one state came out with the best average: Nebraska.

The state had the best economic performance of any in the pandemic up to that point, and its students, according to available data, appear to have suffered little to no learning loss. Whereas many states saw a trade-off between health and wealth in the pandemic — often corresponding to more-restrictive Democratic leadership and less-restrictive Republican leadership, respectively — Nebraska also scored above the national average for health outcomes POLITICO evaluated last year (20th of 50 states). Nebraska was the first state to accumulate a 120-day stockpile of PPE in the nationwide scramble for supplies; was a national leader in opening schools; and was among the quickest getting federal aid to small businesses. As of now, its cumulative pandemic death toll per capita is near the lowest of all 50 states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This, however, is grading on a hideous curve in a country that hasn’t managed the pandemic well in general: More than 4,000 Nebraskans have lost their lives to Covid. Lawler of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, who helped design the state’s early Covid response but has since grown critical of Nebraska’s approach, notes that South Korea has 14 times lower per capita Covid mortality than Nebraska. “Nobody,” he told me via text, “should be patting themselves on the back for doing 14 [times] worse.”

Author(s): Kathy Gilsinan

Publication Date: 22 April 2022

Publication Site: Politico

2021 U.S. Mortality News Explainer: Life Expectancy, Death Rates, and More

Link:https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/2021-us-mortality-news-explainer?s=w

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Here’s a graph for 1999 through the provisional 2021 result (as of 3 April 2022 data from CDC WONDER):

You can see the crude rate is higher than the age-adjusted rate for most of the years, and that’s due to the aging of the population. Basically, the Boomers have been getting older, and their older ages (and higher mortality compared to where they were in 2000), have an effect on how many deaths there are overall — thus the crude rate continually increasing as there are more and more old people.

However, until the pandemic hit, the age-adjusted death rate in general decreased, though we had a few years in the 2010s in which the age-adjusted death rate did increase… and yes, that was due to drug overdoses. We will get to that in a bit.

In any case, both the crude rate and age-adjusted rates did jump up by a lot in 2020 due to the pandemic, and COVID deaths were even higher in 2021. But there were other causes of death also keeping mortality rates high in 2021.

I will point out that even with all this extra mortality, the age-adjusted death rate in 2021 is still below where it was in 1999.

That does not mean things are hunky-dory.

This is one of the dangers of collapsing death rates into a single number. The increase in death rates has differed by age group, and it has been far worse for teens and young adults through even young middle-age than it has been for the oldest adults.

Yes, COVID has killed the oldest adults the most, but their death rates have increased the least. It’s all relative.

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 13 Apr 2022

Publication Site: STUMP at substack

Preliminary results for 2021 All-Cause U.S. Mortality: 21% More Deaths than 2019, 2% More Deaths than 2020

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/preliminary-results-for-2021-all?s=w

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As you can see from the annotation on the graph, so far there have been 2% more deaths reported in 2021 compared to 2020. You can see that there had been a spike of deaths at the beginning of 2021, then a quiet spring/early summer. I did not extend my graph into 2022, but the heightened mortality of later/summer fall into winter has continued into winter at the beginning of 2022.

For the record, the 1% increase in deaths from 2018 to 2019 was pretty common before, driven by regular growth of the aging population of the U.S.

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 3 April 2022

Publication Site: STUMP at substack

Alcohol-Related Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Link: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2790491

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The number of deaths involving alcohol increased between 2019 and 2020 (from 78 927 to 99 017 [relative change, 25.5%]), as did the age-adjusted rate (from 27.3 to 34.4 per 100 000 [relative change, 25.9%]) (Table). Comparatively, deaths from all causes had smaller relative increases in number (from 2 823 460 to 3 353 547 [18.8%]) and rate (from 938.3 to 1094.3 per 100 000 [16.6%]). Alcohol-related deaths accounted for 2.8% of all deaths in 2019 and 3.0% in 2020.

The Figure presents the number of alcohol-related deaths in 2019 and 2020 by month, with provisional data included for the first 6 months of 2021.

Rates increased for all age groups, with the largest increases occurring for people aged 35 to 44 years (from 22.9 to 32.0 per 100 000 [39.7%]) and 25 to 34 years (from 11.8 to 16.1 per 100 000 [37.0%]). Increases in rates were similar for females (from 13.7 to 17.5 per 100 000 [27.3%]) and males (from 42.1 to 52.6 per 100 000 [25.1%]) (Table).

The number of deaths with an underlying cause of alcohol-associated liver diseases increased from 24 106 to 29 504 (22.4%) and the number of deaths with an underlying cause of alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders increased from 11 261 to 15 211 (35.1%). Opioid overdose deaths involving alcohol as a contributing cause increased from 8503 to 11 969 (40.8%). Deaths in which alcohol contributed to overdoses specifically on synthetic opioids other than methadone (eg, fentanyl) increased from 6302 to 10 032 (59.2%).

Author(s): Aaron M. White, PhD1; I-Jen P. Castle, PhD1; Patricia A. Powell, PhD1; et al

Publication Date: 18 Mar 2022

Publication Site: JAMA Network

More Americans 65 and Under Died from Alcohol-Related Causes Than Covid-19 in 2020, Study Finds

Link: https://www.nationalreview.com/news/more-americans-65-and-under-died-from-alcohol-related-causes-than-covid-19-in-2020-study-finds/

Excerpt:

Alcohol-related deaths increased 25 percent from 2019 to 2020, with alcohol-related deaths among adults younger than 65 outnumbering deaths from Covid-19 in the same age group in 2020, a new study found.

Alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, increased to 99,017 in 2020, up from 78,927 the year prior, according to the study performed by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

While 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died of alcohol-related causes, 74,075 individuals under 65 died of Covid-19, the study found. The rate of increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 (25 percent) was greater than the rate of increase of deaths from all causes (16.6 percent).

The study shows just another unintended consequence of Covid-19 lockdowns and mitigation measures.

Author(s): Brittany Bernstein

Publication Date: 22 March 2022

Publication Site: National Review

Rise in Non-Covid-19 Deaths Hits Life Insurers

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/rise-in-non-covid-19-deaths-hits-life-insurers-11645576252

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In earnings calls for the past two quarters, Globe Life Inc.,Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Primerica Inc. andReinsurance Group of America Inc. were among insurers noting higher non-Covid-19 deaths, compared with pre-pandemic baselines.

“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.

Author(s): Leslie Scism

Publication Date: 23 Feb 2022

Publication Site: WSJ