One of the interesting aspects of insurance is that it is always front and center with societal change. Whatever is happening in society at large ends up in the lap of insurance. There’s a good reason for this.
There are very few industries that are asked to be a part of every change in society as is insurance. Because our industry is a data driven business that has been protecting businesses and people for several hundred years, it has data that can help to explain every crisis that comes down the pike.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began in 1959 to do something about reducing traffic deaths. Back then the IIHS was working on automobile design and seat belts. In the 1980’s the issue was drunk driving because driving while intoxicated was a factor in a very large percentage of automobile deaths. And, over the years, the influence of the IIHS as well as insurance can be seen in the crash worthiness ratings the IIHS publishes annually.
But now there is a new crisis begging for the type of response the insurance industry had in forming the IIHS. Right now the granddaddy of societal change is staring us in the eye. That issue is the opioid crisis. With over 70,000 (more than double the number of people killed in automobile accidents) people dying each year from opioid use, and millions addicted, it makes me wonder about the role of insurance companies could play this situation.
Consider this simple fact: Insurance companies, both health and property & casualty, are significant actors in this crisis. After all, insurance is being used to pay the pharmacy for the prescription, whether that prescription was written as part of a formulary of a health insurance company or for a workers’ compensation claim. In addition, if you flip over to the liability side, insurance companies are the ones paying for the malpractice claim that is filed against a physician or hospital for wrongful death when opioids are involved.
It seems that for a very long time the pharmaceutical companies were able to manage and control to a certain extent the release of information via the media, medical researchers, and government. But with 70,000 dead each year the numbers are almost too staggering to fully comprehend.