With COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. now surpassing 800,000 according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a life insurance company executive sounded the alarm about working-age death rates recently during a Dec. 30, 2021 virtual news conference sponsored by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Hospital Association.
“We’re seeing right now the highest death rates we’ve ever seen in the history of this business,” said OneAmerica CEO Scott Davison. And it’s not just at OneAmerica: “The data is consistent across every player in that business.”
Davison said death rates among working age people—those 18 to 64-years-old—are up 40% in the third and fourth quarter of 2021 over pre-pandemic levels.
“Just to give you an idea of how bad that is, a three sigma or a 1-in-200-year catastrophe would be a 10% increase over pre-pandemic levels,” Davison said. “So, 40% is just unheard of.”
One of OneAmerica’s lines of business is group life insurance, which is being greatly impacted by the pandemic.
“What the data is showing to us is that the deaths that are being reported as COVID deaths greatly understate the actual death losses among working-age people from the pandemic,” Davison said. “It may not all be COVID on their death certificate, but deaths are up just huge, huge numbers.”
He noted the company is also seeing a huge surge in short- and long-term disability claims as a result of the pandemic.
“At OneAmerica, we expect the cost of this is going to be well over $100 million, and this is our smallest business. So it’s having a huge impact on that,” Davison said.
He said the costs will have to be passed on to employers purchasing group life insurance or disability policies, who will have to pay higher premiums.
Another point Davison emphasized during the news conference was the pandemic’s impact on the company’s own employees in terms of working remotely for essentially the past two years.
Davison noted that OneAmerica is a billion-dollar company with 2,400 employees, and about two-thirds of them would be working in downtown Indianapolis were it not for the pandemic forcing them to work remotely.
He added that about 84% of OneAmerica’s workforce is vaccinated, and “we have heard loud and clear from our vaccinated employees that they want no part of working in an open office environment with unvaccinated associates,” Davison said.
“We’re getting to the point where that’s just not working anymore and we feel very strongly that for us to be fully effective as a business that we need to have people back in on a hybrid schedule. We feel that once we get through this Omicron wave that we need to be back in on a hybrid schedule.”
And to accomplish this, and not risk losing many quality associates, Davison said the company has made the “hard decision” to require vaccinations. He said some vaccinated employees “made it very, very clear that if we try to comingle them with unvaccinated people, they’ll consider the workplace is unsafe.”
Click HERE to watch a YouTube video of the virtual news conference where Davison made the remarks.