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Insurers Should Test for Post-COVID Mortality Risk, Group Says

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Insurers should screen their own insureds for mortality risk factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry group says.

The group, the Insurance Collaboration to Save Lives, or ICSL, wants insurers to encourage insureds who get results on the voluntary tests to ask their doctors for advice.

ICSL has been working since April to develop post-pandemic screening packages based on the kinds of tests already used in life insurance underwriting exams.

The insurance group does not yet have data showing whether COVID-19 has changed the prevalence of bad screening test results, but some doctors believe that the tests reflect pandemic-related mortality risk, and ICSL hopes that addressing bad results will keep people alive.

What it means: Eventually, if the group succeeds at persuading insurers to take its advice, insurers could ask some clients to go in for a post-pandemic screening exam.

Mortality: Insurance actuaries have argued that mortality for insured populations is getting back to normal, but Josh Stirling, ICSL’s president, said in an interview that he believes that mortality rates for some groups of insureds are still higher than they were before the pandemic started.

The proposals: ICSL has started by sketching out three possible screening test packages.

The least expensive could cost about $100. It would include screenings for inflammation factors and factors related to immune system, metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Candidates include tests for cholesterol levels, white blood cell counts, vitamin D levels and D-dimer blood clot risk levels. High blood clot risk levels could show that COVID-19 has hurt people’s arteries and increased their risk of suffering from strokes or heart attacks.

Next steps: ICSL needs insurers’ help with getting data on how screening test results have changed over time and seeing how offering screening to insured people affects mortality.

But ICSL believes that insurers could offer the screening packages to insureds now, without waiting for pilot test results, because the tests in the packages are already widely used, and patients would make any changes based on the results in consultation with their own doctors, Stirling said.

Mitch Bagley and Marci Sheeran, insurance professionals who volunteer with ICSL, said offering the screenings could be a way for insurers to show they’re looking out for the insureds.

“You’re walking your walk,” Sheeran said.

Organizers of existing wellness efforts have spent years working to show that the efforts improve people’s health and have benefits that justify the costs.

Challenges to a new, targeted COVID-19 mortality reduction campaign would include deciding whether to use or modify ICSL’s proposed test packages, how to design and analyze pilot tests, how to address concerns that the results could somehow be used to discriminate against insureds who have results outside the normal range, and how to motivate insureds to get screened.

Even if insurers had no way to see the screening results and only a minority of insureds got screened, ICSL members believe that a voluntary program could still lead to enough extra helpful medical care to pay for itself and compensate for the effects of the pandemic on mortality, Sheeran said.

Credit: Koonsiri/Adobe Stock


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