The Other COVID Shoe Hasn't Hit the Floor
This summer was reminiscent of the tagline from the summer box-office smash Jaws: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” And, like the poor visitors to Amityville, we only thought it was. We thought we had escaped the jaws of COVID only to find its Delta variant rampant. While we were just beginning to measure the extent of its short and long-term effects, it has hit again – with a vengeance. The other shoe has dropped, but it hasn’t yet hit the floor.
For health insurers and disability insurers, the impact of COVID was initially minor.
In fact, insurers saw huge profits early in the pandemic. While COVID hospitalizations soared, other healthcare visits and procedures were halted for a large part of last year. Patients canceled or postponed medical care or simply stayed home to avoid exposure to the virus. This saved health insurers significant expenditures and thus led to unexpected profits.
Likewise, many who were struggling with short and long-term disability weren’t forced to file claims because they couldn’t work anyway. Others were not able to complete their claims because they couldn’t see those who needed to provide the necessary evaluations and assessments.
But with the ease of restrictions before the most recent onslaught, healthcare and disability claims saw an increase. Part of the increase was due to conditions, procedures, and evaluations which were delayed. Others were simply a return to “normal” levels of claims. Still, others were due to the long-term impacts of COVID.
But before the statistics and analyses could be completed, more infections complicated things. The spread of infections among the mostly unvaccinated saw a rapid rise in infection rates and hospitalizations. Some of the same trends seen earlier in the pandemic are reemerging. Hospitals are filling with COVID-infected patients thus impacting others who would otherwise be patients there. The rapid spread of this variant is also causing people to avoid exposure, thus delaying or postponing treatment and procedures.
While initial views on the outlook for health insurers look like a sequel to the pandemic, disability insurers are facing more uncertainty. With each passing day, scientists and treating physicians are learning more about the long-term effects of COVID.
With additional COVID infections caused by a new variant, there will be even more long-term impacts some new or additional to those with the original strain. And with a tepid appetite for economic shutdown, workers are struggling with new or preexisting disabling conditions without the ability to avoid work. The likelihood of additional short-term and potentially long-term disability claims appears inevitable.