COVID-Related Mortality Projections – Value in Accuracy
As the United Census Bureau noted, the pandemic caused the largest spike in mortality in 100 years1. Before 2020, U.S. population deaths had been increasing at a slow and steady pace; mortality was predictable and followed reliable seasonal trends. Life insurance carriers focus on the age-adjusted mortality trends of their insured population, which had been improving in the pre-pandemic period. However, even insured populations have been materially impacted by COVID-19, with the most significant impact on group life portfolios occurring in the third quarter of 20212. Mortality results have been evolving rapidly, so group life carriers should continue analyzing current trends in order to develop an accurate projection of emerging mortality.
At Munich Re, we understand the challenges carriers face when assessing risk, and the last three years have been exceptionally challenging. At the onset of the pandemic, our mortality and morbidity experts quickly recognized the unprecedented environment we were entering. They urgently assembled a team of actuaries, biomedical researchers, and medical doctors charged with developing a deep and broad view of factors impacting mortality. The team developed a multitude of projections as carriers sought our expertise. The group continues to provide projections incorporating a comprehensive set of factors such as missed health screenings, deaths of despair, and alcohol & substance abuse. As clients have navigated the challenges that came with the pandemic, resulting in poor mortality experience, many relied on and continued to seek the expertise delivered by this team of experts for providing one of the most accurate assessments of mortality risk available today.
Munich Re’s mortality projections have proven to be more accurate than the publicly available U.S. mortality forecasts, such as common government-based agencies or the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Our 2022 projection, for example, moved by only 1% between our February and June snapshots even after reflecting the five additional months of actual COVID-19 deaths.
Through our collaboration with Group Life clients throughout the pandemic, we’ve shared insights on mortality drivers and developed ranges of future mortality projections with superior accuracy:
In 2021 – Our COVID mortality projections for the third quarter, fourth quarter, and 2022 were more accurate than many other projections for these waves of the pandemic3.
In 2022 – Our FY2022 COVID mortality projection moved only 1% between the February and June snapshots.
Several of our Munich Re valued clients have requested meetings with our team. Those discussions were specific to their own blocks of business, where they sought to discuss critical questions related to these newly emerging mortality patterns. We have tailored projections to reflect the carrier’s insured block considering factors such as retiree exposure, target markets, and desired projection term, which typically reflects the time of their upcoming Group Life case renewals. Some of the key questions we’ve addressed include:
- What are COVID-19 deaths going to look like long-term (i.e., calendar years 2022 – 2026)?
- What are non-COVID deaths going to look like long-term?
Deaths of despair
- What are the potential impacts of missed health screenings?
- How will the group-insured population impact vary from the general population impact?
- When do we expect group life business to return to its pre-pandemic level?
- How does the global evolution of COVID-19 impact the U.S.?
- Do you anticipate future impact from new technology developed due to the pandemic, such as mRNA advancements?
- What impact will current and future treatments (e.g., Paxlovid) and additional vaccine development have on future COVID mortality?
- How will the age/gender distribution of COVID deaths look moving forward?
- How does it compare to prior experience?
Is your organization focused on finding answers to these or other mortality-related questions?
Contact us to learn more about Munich Re's mortality expertise and specialized assessments. We would be happy to continue the conversation and discuss our methodology regarding COVID-related mortality trends and how we can help mitigate risk for your organization.
1 - Census.gov (2022). U.S. Deaths spiked as COVID-19 continued. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/03/united-states-deaths-spiked-as-covid-19-continued.html#:~:text=Annual%20Trends%20in%20Mortality,linear%20increase%20(Figure%201).
2 – SOA Research Institute (January, 2022). Group Life COVID-19 Mortality Survey Report.
3 – Munich Re’s unpublished projections were compared against IHME projections (https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america?view=daily-deaths&tab=trend) regularly and at every recalculation. With each comparison, projected deaths continued to call at a rate closer to Munich Re’s projections and not as sharply as IHME was predicting.