America’s labor force is facing a crisis, and no one knows exactly why. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of American adults considered unable to work grew by more than 3.5 million since January 2020, with 1.5 million added just in the first nine months of this year.
That’s a concerning 12 percent hike. But among the labor force, in particular, the disability number grew an astonishing 33 percent since January 2020. Over the same time period, America has seen what one insurance insider calls an “open secret” of increased excess deaths—the number of people dying above what is expected. These shocking developments are surely contributing to ongoing labor shortages. People are leaving work at younger ages, in greater numbers, and from diseases seen mostly in later life.
We need an unbiased, nonpartisan investigation into this troubling trend. Record-high rates of incapacitation threaten our economy and signal continuing waves of early death.
Consider that 25 percent more 15-to-19-year-olds than expected—about a thousand young people—died in the first five months of 2023, according to an analysis of federal data. They are among 87,000 additional people who died in those months. Compared to pre-pandemic numbers, those Americans should still be alive.
While government agencies invest little effort in examining these worrisome developments, some in the insurance industry are sounding the alarm. Finance and indemnity experts in the nonprofit Insurance Collaboration to Save Lives (ICSL) are urging insurers to address the simmering health problems reflected in disability statistics.
Teresa Winer, an insurance regulator for the state of Georgia, joined the group after seeing mounting deaths in company reports. A survey of insurance experts like her predicted by a four-to-one margin that the trend would last three years. These deaths are often broadly ascribed to long COVID, but the condition is not well enough defined to draw this conclusion. According to the American Medical Association, “the enigma of long COVID continues to baffle researchers,” and “the link between infection and long-term symptoms remains poorly understood.”
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Dr. Pierre Kory, M.D., is president and chief medical officer of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Mary Beth Pfeiffer is an investigative reporter and author.