By Maryellen Coggins
Readers of my first two columns will notice that I’ve been focusing this year on a spirit of renewal—where I live, this has bloomed from an unusually cool spring to warmer weather heading toward summer. With the seasonal renewal comes more signs of progress with the next phase of COVID-19, as this issue of Contingencies explores in some (actuarial) depth.
Signs of progress are hopeful as more—many, even most—schools and businesses have widely reopened after two years. After overcoming some non-pandemic labor-related issues, baseball stadiums are filling up again, and more and more industry meetings and conventions are transitioning, albeit cautiously, from virtual to more hybrid and in-person events. Daily Transportation Security Administration passenger pass-through figures for early April are almost 50% higher than a year ago—way up from 2020 and approaching pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
These are hopeful signs of renewal after a difficult time in our society that affected everything from the economy and education, to mental and physical health. Other events and issues may now start to come into greater focus, even as we continue to monitor COVID-19’s course and study its implications. A great example is the many issues requiring actuarial input that were on the agenda of our Health Practice Council’s (HPC) Capitol Hill visits in March where Academy volunteers took part in about 20 meetings with majority and minority U.S. House and Senate leadership and committee staff members, and with representatives from the Biden administration and key agencies. In addition to COVID-19, the HPC and policymakers discussed health equity, insurance coverage, long-term care, Medicare sustainability, payment and delivery reform, and climate change implications for health.
Such interactions are an opportunity to offer the Academy’s unique and well-respected nonpartisan analysis of crucial laws, public policies, and regulations—in support of our mission to serve the public and the U.S. actuarial profession on both ongoing issues like COVID-19 and new and emerging issues. More Academy Hill visits are planned for May in combined property/casualty and risk management and financial reporting areas to address crucial topics including cyber risk, wildfire risk, and flood insurance, among other key issues.
Another recent sign of renewal is the revised U.S. Qualification Standards (USQS) that took effect Jan. 1. Among other important changes, the USQS now includes a requirement of annual bias education, and our March 22 webinar, “Big Data and Algorithms in Actuarial Modeling and Consumer Impacts: Six Questions and Answers for Actuaries,” provided just the first opportunity this year among several that the Academy will offer to earn CE satisfying the requirement.
The Academy is moving forward with an expanded offering of events to cover a range of issues. Our three spring professionalism webinars looked at three revised actuarial standards of practice (ASOPs)—on life, pension, and life/health issues. The third installment, “The Revised ASOP No. 11: Understanding Important Changes,” which will examine ASOP No. 11, Treatment of Reinsurance or Similar Risk Transfer Programs Involving Life Insurance, Annuities, or Health Benefit Plans in Financial Reports, is coming up on May 12.
Other recent webinars included a mid-April offering on hospital price transparency and variation—a crucial topic of public interest that drew almost two dozen reporters to hear the Academy’s expertise, along with that of a Congressional Budget Office official who participated as a presenter. Later this year, members can look forward to the Academy’s annual meeting in early November, a rebranded event that will focus on many important policy and regulatory issues facing the country, and the actuarial profession. Look for details coming soon on the Academy’s premier annual event.
Ensuring that the Academy continues to meet the evolving needs of our members and effectively pursues our public policy and professionalism mission has never been more critical than it is now. As we “re-set” after two years of pandemic that has accelerated change in our society and our understanding of the risks it faces on many fronts, this summer be on the lookout for a member value survey that will help the Academy better understand and serve you. Also be on the lookout for an Academy initiative this year to encourage young actuaries just getting started in the profession. This is a key area of Academy focus this year and going forward—spoiler alert, there is a new, related Academy award launched in this issue.
What do you think—have you seen signs of renewal in the world around you?