By Patrick Beane




As COVID-19 deaths approach 19,000 in Indiana, the insurance industry has been processing claims at a record rate.


Nationally, more than 824,000 people have died from the virus.


“We’re seeing right now the highest death rates we’ve ever seen in the history of this business,” said Scott Davison, the CEO of OneAmerica, a $100 billion life insurance and retirement company headquartered in Indianapolis. 


“The data is consistent across every player in the business.”


Davison said death rates among working age people – those 18 to 64-years-old – are up 40 percent in the third and fourth quarter of 2021 over pre-pandemic levels.


“Just to give you an idea of how bad that is, a three sigma or 200-year catastrophe would be a 10 percent increase over pre-pandemic levels,” Davison said. “So, 40 percent is just unheard of.”


He said the data shows COVID deaths are greatly understated among working age Americans. 


Davison says OneAmerica expects to pay out more than $100 million in short- and long-term disability claims due to the pandemic.


“Whether it’s long COVID or whether it’s because people haven’t been able to get the health care they need because the hospitals are overrun, we’re seeing those claims start to tick up as well,” he said.


Because of this, insurance companies are beginning to add prem


ium increases on employers in counties with low vaccination rates to cover the benefit payouts.


Davison said nearly all OneAmerica’s employees have been working from home since the start of the pandemic, but to be fully effective, he said the company needs to be working on at least a hybrid schedule.


“The challenge we have is that 84 percent of our people are vaccinated, and we have heard loud and clear from our vaccinated employees that they want no part of working in an open office environment with unvaccinated associates,” Davison said. “And some of them made it very, very clear that if we try to comingle them with unvaccinated people, they’ll consider the workplace is unsafe.”


He said once the omicron wave has subsided and the company returns to a hybrid schedule, it will require all employees to be vaccinated.