I want you to notice something — the blue bars are the “with COVID” portion of deaths, and the chartreuse bars are the ones “without COVID”. The bars are weekly counts of deaths when they occurred. Ignore the most recent weeks because they don’t have full data reported yet.
The red pluses indicate excess mortality, defined as exceeding the 95th percentile for expected mortality for that week (so it includes seaonality). You can see the excess mortality from the 2017-2018 flu season, which was bad for a flu season.
The non-COVID mortality has been in excessive mortality range for almost all 2020 after March. But since the beginning of 2021, it has dropped off…. and COVID mortality has also dropped off.
I think we may be almost in “normal” range soon. We shall see!
Welcome to another episode of Positivity with Paul, where I find Fellow Actuaries – pun intended – for a conversational Q&A on their life. The focus is on their journey along the actuarial exam path and beyond, some of the challenges they faced, and how those challenges helped shape them to become who they are today.
To give some brief context on becoming an Actuary, there’s a number of actuarial exams that one has to go through. These exams are very rigorous and typically, only the top 40% pass at each sitting, They cover complex mathematical topics like statistics and financial modelling but also insurance, investments, regulatory and accounting. Candidates can study up to 5 months per sitting and they will take 7 to 10 years on average to earn their Fellowship degree. To that end, I launched this series of podcasts because I was curious about what drove my guests to surmount trials and tribulations to get to the end goal of becoming an Actuary.
My guest in this interview is Mary Pat Campbell. Mary Pat is an actuary working in Connecticut, investigating life insurance and annuity industry trends. She has been interested in exploring mortality trends, public finance and public pensions as an avocation. Some of these explorations can be found at her blog: stump.marypat.org. Mary Pat is a fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries. She has been working in the life/annuity industry since 2003. She holds a master’s degree in math from New York University and undergraduate degrees in math and physics from North Carolina State University. In this podcast, Mary Pat discusses similarities in concepts between physics and actuarial science, the current low interest rate environment and lessons learnt in the insurance sector from the financial crisis in 2008-2009. Hope you enjoy this all-inclusive interview! Paul Kandola
NPPC, I recommend you think through what will actually inform and protect your members. The TIA folks are not distorting the message, except to the extent that state and local governments are undervaluing their pension and OPEB promises.
Complaining about TIA will not make the pensions better-funded. Complaining about TIA will not prevent the worst-funded pensions from running out of assets, which will not be supportable as pay-as-you-go, as the asset death spiral before that will show that the cash flows were unaffordable for the local tax base.
And don’t look to the federal government to save your hash. So far bailout amounts have been puny compared to the size of the promises.
In particular, it is pretty clear to me that specifically in the U.S., the non-COVID excess mortality has been very high. I do not think that’s under-counted COVID deaths. I think it’s due to other causes. We’ve already seen that car accident deaths were up, even though total miles driven was down by a lot.
So yay for their statistics in grabbing the excess deaths, but boo for assuming all those excess deaths were COVID.
Now, results of COVID and COVID policies, sure, I’d go with that. But do you want to start digging into the stats of suicides, drug overdoses, “accidental” deaths, and more? How about deaths of neglect? I bet that is involved in a bunch of non-COVID elderly deaths.
What you see in that graph is a data point for each of the plans I know their asset allocation for, with the median, 25th percentile, and 75th percentiles marked out so you can see the allocations increasing.
That pattern does not make me feel good.
Allocating more to alternatives doesn’t seem to get asset managers higher returns. But the group is generally sliding upwards in their allocations, and I’m very unhappy about this.
If nothing else, having a checklist to go through while working on modeling can help you make sure you don’t miss anything. Hey, ASB, make some handy-dandy sticky note checklists we can stick on our monitors to ask us:
3.1 Does our model meet the intended purpose?
3.2 Do we understand the model, especially any weaknesses and limitations?
3.3 Are we relying on data or other information supplied by others?
3.4 Are we relying on models developed by others?
3.5 Are we relying on experts in the development of the model?
3.6 Have we evaluated and mitigated model risk?
3.7 Have we appropriately documented the model?
Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell
Publication Date: April 2021
Publication Site: The Modeling Platform at the Society of Actuaries
I will give a very simple example: suppose Netflix makes a deal where instead of you paying for a year’s subscription at a time, you can get a big discount if you pay for 2 years’ subscription.
Subscribers love the deal and pay for it….
….and then Netflix says their sales doubled in their financial reports. That’s IF they followed cash-based accounting, which records cash flows.
But they don’t, because accounting standards boards (outside the government sphere) know that this is just a trick to boost how financials look under cash accounting. And there are loads of these tricks. I just gave one simple example. The trick of getting people to pre-pay for sales to boost the numbers is a well-known ploy on the revenue side. A well-known ploy on the expenses side is to put off paying bills.
This is obviously distorting recognizing the true economic arrangement underlying these transactions, and some of the tricks make for a more fragile economic position for specific businesses. It was always the marginal businesses, which were barely hanging on, where cash-basis accounting tempts into trickery, which usually ends in financial failure. So accounting standards have developed to prevent this stuff.
For a few locations, it’s pretty clear that COVID explains almost all their excess deaths: inpatient healthcare facilities and nursing homes. Indeed, it looks like over 100% of the nursing home excess mortality came from COVID, which accords with what I see with excess mortality for older people.
However, there is a lot of excess mortality for people who died at home, and most of that is currently unexplained by COVID.
I don’t think it will be — I think we will find those excess diabetes, heart attack, and ‘unintentional injury’ deaths will have been at home, and because of lockdowns there weren’t other people around to get these people to treatment before they died. This accords with what Emma Woodhouse saw for Illinois – that pattern holds for the entire U.S., it seems.