Actuaries in the crosshairs

A more diligent blogger than I would have posted about the Society of Actuaries study that predicted a 32% increase in claims costs on individual health policies, thanks to Obamacare. But I never found time to read the report, so I really had nothing to add.

Today, the pushback comes from Politico and Kaiser Health News and a funnyman-turned-Senator:

“Most actuaries in this country — what percentage are employed by insurance companies?” Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, asked an actuary last week at a hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The upshot – actuaries work for insurance companies, or consult for insurers, so they can’t be trusted. Moreover,

… Actuaries are self-regulated, which some say makes them unaccountable.

Their associations set conduct standards and investigate malpractice in confidential proceedings. During the previous two decades the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline, which works with the Society of Actuaries, has recommended public disciplinary measures for fewer than two people a year, according to its annual report.

Yet actuaries play many public roles. By calculating the adequacy of employer pension contributions they affect the retirement of millions. And they’ll act as virtual referees for important aspects of implementing the health act.

“I have a great deal of respect for actuaries,” said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and health law expert. “But I do think they often end up in … situations where the interests of the public and of their employers might be in conflict.”

Now, I still haven’t read the SOA study, so I still can’t comment on it. I suspect its estimate is too high, but without reading it, I’m not going to impugn the study or its authors.

That’s where I differ from Franken, et al. Maybe they’ve read the study, maybe they haven’t. But they aren’t criticizing the study. They are criticizing the messengers. Theirs is a classic ad hominem attack and should be condemned.



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