REPORT OF A MEETING OF THE TASK FORCE ON ECONOMICS OF THE ASBESTOS DISABILITY COMPENSATION CLAIMS PANEL

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1 REPORT OF A MEETING OF THE TASK FORCE ON ECONOMICS OF THE ASBESTOS DISABILITY COMPENSATION CLAIMS PANEL The meeting was held on December 7, 1981, at Yale University. Present : Peter Barth Sidney Borowitz Tom Brown Paul MacAvoy L. Peat O'Neil Don Spatz Jack Worrall University of Connecticut The New York Academy of Sciences Department of Labor Yale University Asbestos Compensation Coalition Boilermaker's Union National Council of Compensation Coalition By Invitation : Peter Wilson, Research Assistant to Paul MacAvoy I. Introduction The charge of this Task Force was to estimate the dollar magnitude of potential claims for compensation due to asbestosassociated disease and to examine alternative, more efficient, funding mechanisms for dealing with the problem. The Task Force addressed itself to the first problem and even though a vote was not taken, enough members eschewed addressing themselves to the second that it was not considered. The aggregate costs of compensation payments can be described by a deceptively simple formula : diseased population x fraction compensated x cost per case compensated where diseased population= population exposed to asbestos x disease rate. THKP

2 -2- The problem in applying this formula is that every element of it is difficult to estimate. For this reason, it was decided to estimate a lower bound on the magnitude of the problem and then to make other estimates of more reasonable bounds. Separate calculations were made to estimate compensation costs for mortality and for morbidity. II. Compensation Estimates for Deaths from Asbestos Enterline (1) has made estimates of the number of cancer deaths which are attributable to asbestos exposure. These estimates were considered by the committee to be on the low side and were therefore used to calculate lower bounds. Enterline estimated 4,000 excess cancer deaths/year until the year To these, the Task Force added 500 deaths/year from asbestosis. These were extrapolated by the Task Force from British Rochdale factory data published by Berry (2). Together, approximately 112,500 cases of asbestos-associated disease will lead to death over the next 25 years. The next estimated number is the fraction of those disabled or their survivors who might seek and obtain compensation. It was reported that among survivors of asbestos insulators who died between , less than 40% of the survivors sought workers' compensation and less than 20% filed product liability lawsuits (3). However, in recent years, product liability suits have increased dramatically and large settlements have been reported. It is reasonable to expect that the natural enterpreneurship of lawyers will result in progressively more lawsuits entering the courts. A consensus THKP

3 -3- developed that 50% of those affected by asbestos-associated disease would receive compensation. This fraction was then used for the subsequent lower-bound calculation. It was agreed that $250,000 per case (in 1981 dollars) could be used as a reasonable estimate for tort suit proceeds in recent years. Before calculating the aggregate costs with these three variables, it was agreed that a distinction should be made between an "efficient" method of compensation and an "inefficient" one. An efficient method would be one which would need only consider and compensate cases which are truly caused by asbestos exposure. An znepiicient method would compensate elaims which look as if they might be due to asbestos exposure, but which,are actually due to other causes. Deaths from cancer, particularly lung cancer, could be compensated even though not caused by asbestos. The group estimated that an additional 200,000 cases may be open for consideration for that reason. - The committee further considered that administrative costs of an inefficient compensation program could add $100,000 to the actual amount of compensation and used a figure of $300,000 for the award oer :case in an iaeffidient"program and $200,000 for an efficient program. These assumptions yield an estimated aggregate cost over the next 25 years of : Efficient Method : 112,500 x 0.5 x$200,000= $11 billion Inefficient Method : 312,500 x 0.5 x $300,000 $47 billion, THKP

4 -4- Higher estimates of the aggregate costs of compensation were made by changing the estimate of the number of asbestos-associated cancer deaths and the fraction of the number of deaths which will be compensated. Mount Sinai School of Medicine has estimated that 200,000 excess cancer deaths will occur from 1980 to 2000 (4). To these were added the estimate of 500 deaths asbestosis per year for a total of 212,500 deaths. These assumptions yield an estimate of : $21 billion for an efficient method of compensation, and $62 billion for an inefficient method Finally, the committee assumed that 2/3 rather than 1/2 of the affected population would receive compensation. This results in aggregate costs of : $28 billion for an efficient method, and $62 billion for an inefficient method III. Social Costs of Asbestos-Associated Disease Rather than estimating the amount of compensation, as above, the social costs of asbestos disease can be calculated. Social costs are the productivity losses to society as a result of death or illness. Dr. William Johnson has estimated the average social cost of deaths of asbestos insulation workers from 1967 to 1976 to be $348,000 (present value, 1981) (5). Using the higher estimate of asbestos cancer deaths (200,000) and adding 12,500 deaths from asbestosis, an estimate of $74 billion in lost output (present value, 1981) over the next 25 years is conceivable. Using the lower estimate of asbestos related cancer deaths (112,500), a lower estimate of social costs turns out to be $39 billion. THKP

5 -5- IV. Compensation Estimates for Disability from Asbestos The estimates of the social costs and compensation payments for disability are probably not on as sound a basis as are the corresponding mortality figures. But, since these, as will be seen, are not very large, the uncertainity they introduce in the estimate of the magnitude of the problem is small. The Task Force estimated that the number of disability cases will be about 2,000 per year for the next twenty years. It was assumed that compensation of about $40,000 would be granted. Again, using the estimate that about half of the cases of disease would be compensated, we estimate the aggregate compensation to be : 40,000 x 0.5 x $40,000 = $800 million An estimate of the social cost from disability was also made. It was estimated that the average number of years of disability is 5. To calculate the social cost, the number of disabled people was multiplied by an estimated yearly wage (including fringe benefits) by the number of years of disability to obtain : 40,000 x 5 x $25,000 = 5 billion V. Summary The aggregate estimates of the economic costs of asbestos associated disease over the next 25 years (in 1981 dollars) based on the foregoing assumptions and methodology, are as follows (in $ billion) : THKP

6 -6- Death Disability Total Lower estimate : Efficient compensation Inefficient compensation Medium estimate : Efficient compensation Inefficient compensation Higher estimate : Efficient compensation Inefficient compensation High estimate of Social Cost (lost output) Low estimate of Social Cost The estimates are subject to several assumptions : We assume that no appreciable new classes of persons potentially exposed seek compensation, such as school children or teachers. We assume further that the magnitude of the awards will not change appreciably. The differences between the estimated costs from efficient and inefficient methods of compensation are substantial and indicate the importance of developing an efficient method to adjudicate claims. The estimate give above might be considered in the context that total workers' compensation payments are approximately $18 billion per year (6) and that the total resources of the property casualty insurance industry, of which the secondary insurers industry is a part, probably do not exceed $50 billion (7). THKP

7 -7- REFERENCES (1) Enterline, P.E., et al. : 1972, "Mortality in Relation to Occupational Exposure in the Asbestos Industry." J. Occup. Med. 14 : (2) Berry, G., et al. : 1979, "Asbestosis : A Study of Dose- Response Relationships in an Asbestos Textile Factory." Brit. J. Indus. Med. 36 : (3) Barth, P. 1981, "Compensation for Asbestos-Associated Disease : A Survey of Asbestos Insulation Workers in the United States and Canada." Report to the U.S. Dept. of Labor/ASPER. (4) Nicholson, W.J. : 1981, "Dose-Response Relationships for Asbestos." Report to the U.S. Dept. of Labor/ASPER. (5) Johnson, W.G. : 1981, "Economic Costs of Asbestos- Associated Disease." Report to the U.S. Dept. of Labor/ASPER. (6) Price, A. : 1979, S.S. Bulletin (7) Worrall, J. : Private communication. THKP

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