“We are facing extraordinary headwinds in our public health with a major decline in life expectancy. The major decline in the U.S. is not just a trend. I’d describe it as catastrophic,” wrote Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf on X recently.
His lengthy post touched on smoking, diet, chronic illness, and drug shortages, but ignored an obvious point: People are dying in abnormally high numbers even though COVID has waned.
In a recent Op-ed in The Hill Pierre Kory and Mary Beth Pfeiffer wrote:
Life insurers have been consistently sounding the alarm over these unexpected or, “excess,” deaths, which claimed 158,000 more Americans in the first nine months of 2023 than in the same period in 2019. That exceeds America’s combined losses from every war since Vietnam. Congress should urgently work with insurance experts to investigate this troubling trend.
With the worst of COVID behind us, annual deaths for all causes should be back to pre-pandemic levels — or even lower because of the loss of so many sick and infirm Americans. Instead, the death toll remains “alarming,” “disturbing,” and deserving of “urgent attention,” according to insurance industry articles.
Actuarial reports — used by insurers to inform decisions — show deaths occurring disproportionately among young working-age people. Nonetheless, America’s chief health manager, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opted in September to archive its excess deaths webpage with a note stating, “these datasets will no longer be updated.”
Money, of course, is a motivating issue for insurers. In 2020, death claims took their biggest one-year leap since the 1918 influenza scourge, jumping 15.4 percent to $90 billion in payouts. After hitting $100 billion in 2021, claims slowed in 2022, but are still above 2019. Indemnity experts are urging the adoption of an early-warning program to detect looming health problems among people with life insurance and keep them alive.
Unlike in the pandemic’s early phase, these deaths are not primarily among the old. For people 65 and over, deaths in the second quarter of 2023 were 6 percent below the pre-pandemic norm, according to a new report from the Society of Actuaries. Mortality was 26 percent higher among insured 35-to-44-year-olds, and 19 percent higher for 25-to-34-year-olds, continuing a death spike that peaked in the third quarter of 2021 at a staggering 101 percent and 79 percent above normal, respectively.
The authors ask why the traditionally healthiest sector of our society — young, employed, insured workers — are dying at such rates and why public health officials aren’t looking into this.
The United States needs such an examination of the measures taken to fight the pandemic. This probe — by a high-level, unbiased commission — should focus on what worked and what did not.
Read the entire article in The Hill. https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/4354004-this-is-bigger-than-covid-why-are-so-many-americans-dying-early/