The Covid-19 pandemic last year drove the biggest increase in death benefits paid by U.S. life insurers since the 1918 influenza epidemic, an industry trade group said.
Death-benefit payments rose 15.4% in 2020 to $90.43 billion, mostly due to the pandemic, according to the American Council of Life Insurers. In 1918, payments surged 41%.
The hit to the insurance industry was less than expected early in the pandemic because many of the victims were older people who typically have smaller policies. The industry paid out $78.36 billion in 2019, and payouts have typically increased modestly each year.
In the 1918 flu pandemic, the number of U.S. deaths reached about 675,000, with mortality high in people younger than 5 years old, 20 to 40 years old, and 65 years and older, according to the CDC’s website.
The ACLI’s data show two other years, both in the 1920s, when year-over-year increases topped 15%, when there also were influenza epidemics, said Andrew Melnyk, the ACLI’s vice president of research and chief economist.