I will copy the text below, but the transcript above, if you click it, does have time stamps. What I’m about to dump… doesn’t. And again, I’m not about to edit.
automatically generated transcript herein... which I have not edited
Hello, this is STUMP, Death and Taxes.
I’m Meep, also known as Mary Pat Campbell.
I’m a life actuary, and yes, I’m getting back to death today, but it’s also about deception, so you might think I’m continuing my theme relating to academia.
This isn’t really about academia.
However, you’ll see a theme that was continuing from my last three-part series that did have to do with fraud, because this is about The Sentinel Effect, life insurance and pension fraud.
And I’m going to start with a story from New Scientist from September 2009.
I’m going to keep emphasizing dates because it’s kind of important the order of events here and there’s going to be some amusing stories.
I’m going to be jumping back and forth between some of these stories.
with regards to events.
It doesn’t matter what came before what because some of these events spurred research once it realized that certain research results were spurious.
So let me just tell you from this New Scientist article
So people who live past the age of 100.
Secrets of the centenarians.
Life begins at 100 and I will tell you one of the secrets when we get to 2019.
There is a map and let me tell you the top rate number of centenarians per 100,000 of population.
So we see some pretty high rates in like
France, 32 per 100,000 of population.
We have Bama, China, 24 per 100,000.
Hawaii’s doing pretty well, 20 per 100,000.
Nova Scotia, 21 per 100,000.
Japan overall, 28 per 100,000.
But at the top of the list, Okinawa at 58 per 100,000.
Now, I grabbed the article at the time in 2009.
This is one of the beauties of being online for a long time.
And there was a sidebar about Okinawa.
And so dying of old age.
There is one and only one cause of death at older ages, and that is old age.
So said Leonard Hayflick, one of the most influential gerontologists of all time.
But dying of old age isn’t just a case of peacefully losing the will to live.
It is an accumulation of diseases and injuries different to those that tend to kill people at younger ages.
For a start, the oldest old have very low rates of chronic diseases such as cancer,
The trend is particularly apparent for cancer.
The odds of developing it increase sharply as people age, but they fall from the age of 84 and plummet from 90 onwards.
Only 4% of centenarians die of cancer.
compared with 40% of people that die in their 50s and 60s.
Many centenarians even managed to ward off chronic diseases after indulging in a lifetime of serious health risks.
Many people in the New England Centenarian Study experienced a century free of cancer or heart disease despite smoking as many as 60 cigarettes a day,
For 50 years, the same story applies to people from Japan’s longevity hotspot, Okinawa, where around half of the local supercentenarians, and supercentenarians means over age 110, had a history of smoking, and one-third were regular alcohol drinkers.
These people may well have genes that protect them from the dangers of carcinogens or the random mutations that crop up naturally when cells divide.
So what does kill off the oldest old?
Pneumonia is the biggest culprit with other respiratory infections, accidents, accidents like falling and
Intestinal problems trailing behind.
Dying of old age involves total systems failure, says Craig Wilcox of the Okinawa Centenarian Study in Japan.
Centenarians avoid age-associated diseases, but you see a lot of systemic wear and tear.
Almost all of them have had some problems with cataracts, they can’t hear very well, and have osteoarthritis.
Our most recently deceased centenarian in Okinawa caught a cold and died in her sleep.
Okay, so I just want to emphasize that Okinawa, Okinawa, Okinawa in the south, one of the southern most islands of Japan, and actually they’re kind of separate from Japan.
But there’s aspects of Okinawa and it’s not just because of the American military installation there.
This has to do, this precedes World War II.
It has generally been fairly poor.
As you will see because I’m going to jump forward for a moment for an article Yes, I know in Vox from 2019 So we are jumping forward a decade And this is important
This article from Vox, August 2019 by Kelsey Piper, study many of the oldest people in the world may not be as old as we think.
A new paper explores what super centenarians have in common.
Turns out it’s bad record keeping.
We’ve long been obsessed with the super-elderly.
How do some people make it to 100 or even 110 years old?
Why do some regions, say Sardinia, Italy or Okinawa, Japan, produce dozens of these super-centenarians, while other regions produce none?
Is it genetics?
Long walks at dawn?
A new working paper released on BioRxiv?
The open access site for pre-publication biology papers appears to have cleared up the mystery once and for all.
It’s none of the above.
Instead, it looks like the majority of the supercentenarians, people who’ve reached the age of 110, in the United States are engaged in intentional or unintentional exaggeration.
or let’s just call it lying.
The paper by Saul Justin Newman of the Biological Data Science Institute at Australian National University looked at something we often don’t give a second thought to, the state of official record keeping.
Across the United States, the state recording of vital information, that is reliable, accurate state record keeping surrounding new births, was introduced in different states at different times.
Century ago, many states didn’t have very good record keeping in place.
but that changed gradually over time in different places.
Newman looks at the introduction of birth certificates in various states and finds that the state-specific introduction of birth certificates is associated with a 69 to 82% fall in the number of supercentenarian records.
In other words, as soon as a state starts keeping good records of when people are born, there’s a 69 to 82% fall in the number of people who live to the age of 110,
That’s just that of every 10 supposed supercentenarians, seven or eight of them are actually younger than that, but we just don’t know because of poor record keeping.
Okay, and then she or he skips over that they’re lying.
Now they say, oh, yeah, maybe they just forgot, but a lot of it has to do
with it’s not just that oh now why would it be biased in the age sorry in the direction of being older and of course think about it there are reasons you might claim to be older than you actually are if you have the ability to have the right to do certain things because you’re older
The Sentinel Effect
Pension benefits or Social Security or Medicare or something like that by claiming to be, I don’t know, five to ten years older than you actually are.
Yeah, you would claim them if you can and that’s probably what is going on in places like Okinawa and Sardinia.
Because these tend to be it’s not just that there’s poor record keeping, it’s that they’re poor.
And they need the money, they need the state benefits.
And that’s what’s going on.
So, for example, they also look in the paper in Italy and Japan.
Italy keeps better vital statistics than the U.S.
does and has had reliable vital statistics across the country for hundreds of years.
Yet in Italy, too, there are clusters of the country where lots of supercentenarians pop up.
Maybe they are for real.
Newman’s analysis suggests not.
He starts out by noticing something fishy, the parts of Italy that claim the most supercentenarians overall.
have high crime rates and low life expectancy.
Isn’t that weird?
Why wouldn’t an area generally have low life expectancy but also produce an extremely disproportionate share of the world’s oldest people?
The same pattern repeats itself in Japan.
Okinawa has the greatest density of super old people, despite having one of the lowest life expectancies in the country and generally poor health outcomes, like mentioning high smoking rates.
The paper puts forward a controversial proposal.
It seems unlikely that living in high crime, low life expectancy areas is the thing that makes it likeliest to reach age 110.
It seems likelier the paper concludes that many, perhaps even most of the people claiming to reach age 110 are engaged in fraud, or at least exaggeration.
The paper gives a couple of examples how this might come about.
Some of it might be reporting error, and some of the supercentenarians might be produced by pension fraud.
Someone might be claiming a dead person is still alive for pension benefits, or claiming the identity of a parent or older sibling.
Newman’s overall conclusion, remarkable age attainment is predicted by indicators of error and fraud, and isn’t correlated with things like a healthy population of 80-year-olds or high-quality access to medical care.
As a result, these findings raise serious questions about the validity of an extensive body of research based on the remarkable reported ages of populations and individuals.
In other words, all of our research in the biomarkers, habits and diets that predict extreme old age, probably worthless because a significant share of the sample was not actually as old as we thought.
Now, of course, that’s using international samples and not understanding what the data actually show.
But let me talk a little bit more about pension fraud in Japan specifically.
And I’m jumping back, so we started out in 2009 with that new scientist supercentenarian where now we know a lot of the supercentenarian studies that were internationally done are called into question.
Then we go to 2019, so that’s now we know that we need to think about how much of the supercentenarians are actually frauds.
Okay, now we’re going to jump back to 2010, which is probably what spurred some of these researchers to call into question, okay, how many of these super centenarians are actually real?
Okay, and on the
Actuarial Outpost, RIP, Actuarial Outpost which no longer exists.
We used to have a thread called, oh no, the world’s oldest person dead again.
Because of course, when that person dies, then there’s a new world’s oldest person.
Well, what happened in 2010?
Mary Pat Campbell is a woman.
Anyway, the world’s oldest man or whatever died.
And so they went looking for the next one, who supposedly was this Japanese man, and they found out he had been dead for 30 years.
So let me read from the BBC story that was from July 2010.
Tokyo’s oldest man had been dead for 30 years.
He was thought to be the oldest man in Tokyo, but when officials went to congratulate Sogen Kito on his 111th birthday, they uncovered mummified skeletal remains lying in his bed.
Mr. Kato may have been dead for 30 years, according to Japanese authorities.
They grew suspicious when they went to honor Mr. Kato at his address in Adachi Ward, but his granddaughter told them he doesn’t want to see anybody.
Police are now investigating the family on possible fraud charges.
Welfare officials had tried to meet Mr. Kato since early this year, but when they went to visit, family members repeatedly chased them away, according to Tomoko Iwamatsu, an Adachi Ward official.
Authorities grew suspicious and sought an investigation by police, who forced their way into the house on Wednesday.
So this was from July 29, 2010.
They discovered a mummified body
believed to be Kato lying in his bed, wearing underwear and pajamas, covered with a blanket.
Mr. Kato’s relatives told police that he had confined himself in his room more than 30 years ago and became a living Buddha, according to a report by Jiji Press.
But the family had received 9.5 million yen, which is about $109,000, about 70,000 pounds, in widower’s pension payments via Mr. Kato’s bank account since his wife died six years ago, and some of the money had recently been withdrawn.
The pension fund had long been unable to contact Mr. Kato.
His family must have known he has been dead all these years and acted as if nothing happened.
It’s so eerie, said Yukata Muroi, a Tokyo Metropolitan Welfare official.
Going to the Wikipedia article on this, they later concluded an investigation.
He likely died in November 1978, when he was 79 years old, and his family had never announced his death.
And of course, they, you know, they had kept officials away.
They didn’t know the cause of his death.
It was an embarrassment to the Japanese government at the time.
After his death, they realized that the, you know, respect
For the elderly, that the Japanese government did not do checks on them, especially centenarians, that they did not check up that they were actually still alive, and they did not know how many cases of fraud were going on in the country.
and they were concerned.
I mean, this was pretty egregious that he had been dead for 30 years at the time that they found him.
And of course, the fraud was that the family was collecting his pension.
I’m going to read from the aftermath portion of the Sogen Kato article in Wikipedia.
After the discovery of Keito’s mummified corpse, other checks into elderly centenarians across Japan produced reports of missing centenarians and faulty record keeping.
Tokyo officials attempted to find the oldest woman in the city, 113-year-old Fusa Furuya, who was registered as living with her daughter.
Furuya’s daughter said she had not seen her mother for over 25 years.
The revelations about the disappearance of Furuya and the death of Kato prompted a nationwide investigation, which concluded that the police did not know if 234,354 people older than 100
were still alive.
More than 77,000 of these people, officials said, would have been older than 120 years old if they were still alive.
Poor record keeping was blamed for many of the cases, and officials said that many may have died during World War II.
One registered claim to man was still alive at age 186.
Following the revelations about Kato and Furuya, analysts investigated why record-keeping by Japanese authorities was poor.
Many seniors have, it has been reported, moved away from their family homes.
Statistics showed that divorce is becoming increasingly common among the elderly.
Dementia, which afflicts more than 2 million Japanese, is also a contributing factor.
Many of those gone missing are men who left their hometowns to look for work in Japan’s big cities during the country’s pre-1990s boom years.
Many of them worked obsessively long hours and never built a social network in their new homes.
Others found less economic success than they hoped.
Ashamed of that failure, they didn’t feel they could return home, a Canadian newspaper reported, several months after the discovery of Kato’s body.
So that’s all I’m going to talk about the Japan situation.
This happens in the U.S.
The Comptroller of New York State has followed up on pension fraud cases where usually children of state employee pensioners were trying to collect their dead parents’ pensions
and the amounts involved in dollar amounts they usually don’t get away with it for very long and the controller definitely tries to publicize this and this is what leads to what I want to explain is called the sentinel effect and you know a sentinel is a guard that keeps watches you know just a watch guard
and the idea is and it’s from you know various uh situations um that’s used in psychology that you behave differently when you know you’re being watched.
The Sentinel Effect has been used as a term in life insurance and originally employed with regards to smoking status for life insurance because
Life insurance rates for smokers were so much higher than for non-smokers.
And for a while, of course, it was just self-reported whether you were a smoker or a non-smoker.
Now there are, I mean, it’s, you know, part of the fluids testing, you know, urine and blood tests, they can tell, there are markers in your blood that we can tell whether or not you’ve smoked or not.
So people do lie on their applications.
but you know the life insurers and the underwriters know not to trust people when they say they’re not a smoker and you know they check the fluids and like uh-huh yeah you’re a smoker and you’ll get the smoking rates um but there was a problem of course when hiv aids and this is like when you have a huge disparity in
The underwriting community has known about the Sentinel Effect concept.
Effect that self-selection process that directs unhealthy insurance applicants to apply for coverage at amounts where testing is not done, thereby minimizing the chances that their afflictions will be discovered for many years.
Yet accurately quantifying the value of the SE remains an elusive exercise at best because we simply cannot directly measure what we cannot track, or so it would seem.
And so in this article,
Bergstrom develops a quantification, so he was talking about the testing for HIV antibodies specifically, so HIV impacts, but also he mentions cocaine use, so drug use was also of interest at the time.
drug overdoses so in thinking of life insurance now we are concerned of say fentanyl overdoses at young adult ages because that is a cause
of excess mortality right now.
And that would be a sentinel effect.
So with regards to pension fraud and sentinel effect, people have got to know that those who are in charge of paying the pension benefits are looking out for the fraudulent
collection of pension benefits and are criminally charging those who are collecting like say their dead parents benefits even if it goes over by a month or two.
So I just picked a press release from the New York State Comptroller’s Office kind of at random from last year July 2023.
Denapoli, Texas woman charged with stealing over $65,000 in New York State pension payments.
State Comptroller Thomas P. Denapoli announced the indictment of a 53-year-old Texas woman for allegedly stealing more than $65,000 in New York State pension payments meant for a deceased acquaintance.
Christy Gibson of Smith County, Texas was indicted by Texas prosecutors and charged with one count of theft after an investigation by DiNapoli’s office.
Christy Gibson went to great lengths to cover up the death of an acquaintance to line her own pockets, DiNapoli said.
Thanks to the work of my investigators and law enforcement in Texas, she will be held accountable.
We will continue to partner with law enforcement from across the country to protect the New York State retirement system.
William H. Walsh Jr.
retired from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision in November 1986.
He elected to receive a reduced monthly retirement benefit so his wife, Mary L. Walsh, would continue to receive payments if he died before her.
Mary Walsh died in October 2005.
Mary Walsh died
William Walsh died in October 2005.
Mary Walsh died in December 2012.
At the time of death, the pension payments should have stopped.
Instead, her death was never reported to the New York State Retirement System.
In May 2013, the retirement system received information that Walsh may have died and pension payments were halted.
In June of that year, the retirement system sought verification that Mary Walsh was still alive and subsequently received notarized verification purportedly from Mary Walsh.
As a result, the pension payments were reinstated.
A later investigation by the State Comptroller’s Office
found that Mary Walsh was in fact deceased and the verification was fraudulent.
In total, 70 pension payments were paid after date of death amounting to $65,102.28.
The pension payments went into a joint account in the name of Mary Walsh and Gibson that was opened in 2011.
Gibson never informed the bank of Walsh’s death or removed Walsh’s name from the account.
It appears that Gibson was an acquaintance of Mary Walsh that through her sister-in-law and also worked at the nursing home where Walsh eventually lived.
Denapoli’s investigators determined that Gibson used the joint account to pay for entertainment and food.
Gibson also made electronic transfers and cash withdrawals.
So this was a situation where this was someone who probably worked at a nursing home.
Mary Pat Campbell
Okay, it doesn’t matter what the actual details were.
I’ve known situations.
It’s very easy.
You have someone who’s elderly and in a nursing home.
They don’t necessarily have the wherewithal to make good decisions.
And then they get a power of attorney with somebody and the pension payments are directed into this bank account.
And it was done for, you know, over a decade over the death, you know, after the death of this person.
And it’s in the interest of these pension plans to go after this fraudulent taking of the money.
So the pension, you know, the pension system is going after the fraud and wants to publicize, you know, the $65,000 every little bit, you know, that’s
Very small compared to the billions of dollars, of course, that the fund has.
However, they cannot have people fraudulently taking the money and they will go after it criminally.
It’s theft from the pension system.
So, you know, this is going to be the sentinel effect.
They need to let people know that pension fraud is going to be prosecuted.
This is going to be interesting to see how this shakes out.
There are a lot of these automatic systems, so it’s not necessarily record-keeping per se.
but people do have the incentive to steal the money and the money is sitting there.
The question is the investigative resources of these different pension systems.
New York State of course has a lot of resources.
Other states may not have those resources so it should be interesting to see
How much this is going to be pursued with respect to all sorts of pension fraud in the years to come because there will be more and more of this.
The Walshes, of course, were from an earlier, you know, like my grandparents, the greatest generation, you know, generation, not the boomers.
There’s going to be a lot more
of the Boomers
I’m expecting more of these kinds of stories, and I’m very happy that DiNapoli is going after these kind of cases, and he’s been doing this for years.
I’m on his mailing list, so I get all of these press releases.
Anyway, that’s been STUMP, Death and Taxes, and you know, don’t fraudulently take your grandparents’ or parents’ pensions.
Thank you very much.
I’ll talk to y’all later.
The Sentinel Effect