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Reserving is one of the most important aspects of claim handling. Whether it is a normal run of the mill lost time claim, or a claim with benefits payable over the remaining life of the insured worker, the goal is always the same: To accurately place the proper amount of money or reserves in the claim for the duration of the claim.

The claims examiner will typically take the periodic rate of benefits and the estimate of ongoing medical expense, and then compute the yearly estimated cost, and then multiply that by the number of years of anticipated remaining lifespan this worker is expected to have.

Life expectancy has increased in the U.S. for many decades, resulting in a lifetime reserve estimate increasing over time. A few years ago, this trend reversed, with data showing life expectancy in the U.S. was declining.

And now two annual reports released Thursday by the Center for Disease Control shows U.S. life expectancy is at a two-decade low and drug overdoses have risen five times in the last 20 years.

The drop was primarily due to increases in COVID-19 and drug overdose deaths. The data are featured in two new reports from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The first report is “Mortality in the United States: 2021” which features the public release of final mortality data for 2021, and the report documents that there were 3,464,231 total deaths in the United States during 2021 – 80,502 more than the total reported in 2020.

The death rate for the entire U.S. population increased by 5.3% from 835.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 2020 to 879.7 in 2021. As a result, life expectancy at birth for the U.S. population decreased from 77 years in 2020 to 76.4 years in 2021.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2021 were largely unchanged from 2020, except chronic liver disease and cirrhosis became the 9th leading cause of death in 2021 while influenza and pneumonia dropped from the list of 10 leading causes. Heart disease remained the leading cause of death in the United States, followed by cancer and COVID-19.

Males’ life expectancy decreased slightly more than females by a difference of 5.8 years. Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) females had the highest death rate increase at 7.3%, with non-Hispanic white males coming in second at 7.2%, with AIAN males and black men still ranking at the top for overall deaths in 2021.

A second report, “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2001-2021,” showed that overdose deaths, which account for more than a third of all accidental deaths in the United States, have risen five-fold over the past two decades.

The official number of drug overdose deaths among residents in the United States for 2021 was 106,699, nearly 16% higher than the 91,799 deaths in 2020.

The CDC’s second report showed an increase in drug overdoses in all age categories of adults 25 and over between 2020 and 2021. Adults aged 34-44 had the highest rates at 53.9 per 100,000 but the 65 and over category saw the largest overall increase from 2020 to 2021 by 28%.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol) increased 22% from 17.8 in 2020 to 21.8 in 2021.

From 2020 to 2021, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine increased 22% (from 6.0 to 7.3) and the rate for deaths involving psychostimulants with abuse potential (drugs such as methamphetamine) increased 33% (from 7.5 to 10.0).

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin decreased 32% from 4.1 in 2020 to 2.8 in 2021.