Life Reinsurer Wants to Know More About Opioid Abuse

Some insurers test applicants seeking more than $1 million in coverage

The drugs in opioids come from the opioid poppy. (Photo: Thinkstock) The drugs in opioids come from the opioid poppy. (Photo: Thinkstock)

The U.S. arm of Munich Re is looking into the possibility that opioid abuse could be common enough among life insurance applicants to be an underwriting concern.

The reinsurer recently began to assess the nature of the problem by polling 126 life underwriters who were attending the Association of Home Office Underwriters annual meeting in San Diego.

(Related: Drug Testing In Life Underwriting)

About 21% of the underwriters said their companies now test for opioid use when applicants are asking for more than $1 million in coverage.

Those insurers and many others also look at the information about opioid use included in applicants' medical records.

About 63% of the underwriters said they believe they have seen an increase in the number of insurance applicants with a history of opioid use in the past year.

Bill Moore, a vice president in Munich Re's U.S. life unit, said in an interview that the company conducted the underwriter survey because of all of the recent reports about an increase in opioid abuse.

"It's really to help Munich Re understand what is happening in the industry," Moore said.

Dr. Nicola Charlton, a medical director at Munich Re, who also participated in the interview, said she is interested in the possibility that opioid abuse could be contributing to the apparent deterioration in death rate data for members of some U.S. demographic groups.

The Munich Re executives noted, however, that applicants for life insurance may be different from members of the general population, and that assessing the effects of general health trends on life applicants will take careful actuarial analysis. 

--- Read Stress May Be Widening the U.S. Longevity Gap on ThinkAdvisor.

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