Stirling convenes group to address excess mortality, seeks industry partners
Former Bernstein equity analyst Josh Stirling has established a not-for-profit group aimed at developing an insurance industry response to the phenomenon of excess mortality that has extended beyond the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The industry figure has launched a group called the Insurance Collaboration to Save Lives and is seeking insurance industry partners to help develop a template for screening, which could be rolled out more broadly.
“Excess mortality continues to be elevated across the developed and developing world, from anywhere between around 10% to 20%,” Stirling told this publication, with similar impact to disability, health and other measures.
“The excess mortality is just the tip of the iceberg – it appears global health has deteriorated markedly since 2019. It’s no longer due to Covid – so there’s some new thing going on here.”
Stirling said this was first a humanitarian problem but emphasised that, if it continues, it will become a “major financial problem” for the insurance industry.
“So, let’s focus on what we should do about it.”
He said life insurers could identify people who were at elevated risk of serious illness through the use of proactive health screening, targeted blood testing and the intelligent use of data.
“The average policy limit for life insurance in the US is $200,000,” Stirling said. “If you could run a targeted panel of blood tests for less than $200, then insurers only need to save one life for every thousand insureds they test, to break even.”
He continued: “More likely, we think insurers can positively impact the health of a large proportion of members they test and will realise a hockey-stick return from the mortality savings.”
The former Bernstein insurance analyst said proactive screening, testing and triage for high-risk insureds could offer insurers as much as a 50x or 100x return, emphasizing that, for insurers, this action was financially compelling, in addition to being a humanitarian necessity.
Stirling compared the motives of the Insurance Collaboration to Save Lives with the original founding of the Red Cross, where Swiss businessman Henri Dunant saw an unmet need to help casualties of fighting between French and Italians at the Battle of Solferino in 1859.
The insurance industry figure told this publication that the not-for-profit organisation he had founded was seeking life insurance companies to provide a small amount of capital, and to work with the group on refining and deploying its “open-source” screening, testing and triage approach that could be rolled out across the industry to identify and help high-risk insureds.
Stirling cautioned that the industry had only a brief window to act effectively.
“If we are now in a new epoch, or facing a new paradigm for mortality, the industry only has a short time to get in front of it,” he said.
He further warned that, although this problem will initially hit the life and health sector, it will ultimately feed through to P&C insurers.
“We’re very early here, but this could be decades of litigation in the making – so it’s going to become a P&C issue, too, and we’re starting to speak to industry leaders about how to address this in P&C as well.”
Stirling said that, over time, these health issues appear most likely to impact global casualty lines including medical liability, hospital liability, pharmaceutical liabilities, EPLI and D&O.