Research on the connection between life-extending medications and life insurance wins 2020 TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award

NEW YORK (January 4, 2021) – The TIAA Institute said Dr. Ralph S.J. Koijen of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Dr. Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh of Columbia Business School at Columbia University have been awarded the 25th annual TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award for Outstanding Scholarly Writing on Lifelong Financial Security. The Samuelson Award recognizes outstanding research that the private and public sectors can use to enhance Americans’ financial well-being. 

The award-winning report, “Combining Life and Health Insurance,” begins with the premise that under the status quo, lifesaving treatments for cancer patients are largely inaccessible due to high cost, and that life insurers stand to benefit from helping policyholders access these costly treatments. Koijen and Van Nieuwerburgh suggest that by allowing the policyholder to either “borrow against the value of their policy at actuarially fair rates [to pay for treatment] or pay for their treatment and reduce the policy’s death benefit accordingly,” insurers could not only extend the lives of their policyholders, but they would expand the market, lower premiums and provide a more valuable product to consumers.

Applying this insight to immunotherapies that have improved the survival rate for a growing number of cancer patients, Koijen and Van Nieuwerburgh found that the benefit of FDA-approved immunotherapies amounts to about $9.8 billion per year. This value creation can help finance the cost of cancer care for patients with life insurance.

Life-extending medical innovation may lower the cost of life insurance, stimulate the development of new life-extending treatments and redraw the boundaries between life and health insurance.

“The analysis provided in this report has the potential to change the game for both the health and life insurance industries,” said David P. Richardson, Managing Director of Research for the TIAA Institute. “Life-extending treatments are often prohibitively expensive for patients, yet they could save the life insurance industry billions of dollars annually. This report encourages us to think boldly about how to reimagine the way the health and life insurance industries operate to improve access to these types of treatments and save countless lives.”

“I am grateful for this recognition and hope that our insights lead to financial innovation that improves the health and well-being of households," said Dr. Koijen. “Our work suggests that life insurers have an incentive to help their policyholders achieve longer and healthier lives,” added Dr. Van Nieuwerburgh. “We predict the boundaries between life and health insurance industries will erode to the benefit of society."

“This paper is exceptional for its innovative approach to designing insurance products that improve individuals’ access to life-extending treatments,” said Samuelson Award Judge and TIAA Institute Fellow Julie Agnew. “It is not only the authors’ rigorous and detailed analyses that make this paper stand out but the care the authors take to seek out and incorporate feedback from industry leaders to ensure their recommendations are practical and actionable. This is in the true spirit of the Samuelson Award.”

Learn more about the TIAA Paul A. Samuelson Award here.


Press Contact: TIAA Media Team, 888-200-4062, media@tiaa.org

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With an award-winning track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA (TIAA.org) is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $1.2 trillion in assets under management (as of 9/30/2020) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.