Frank M. Svoboda
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Globe Life
Thanks, Gary. First, I want to spend a few minutes discussing our share repurchase program, available liquidity, and capital position. In the third quarter, the company repurchased 1 million shares of Globe Life Inc. common stock at a total cost of $96.5 million at an average share price of $94.13.
For the full year, we have utilized approximately $310 million of cash to purchase 3.2 million shares at an average price of $97.17. The parent ended the third quarter with liquid assets of approximately $280 million down from $545 million in the prior quarter. The decrease is primarily due to the redemption of the $300 million outstanding principal amount of our 6.125% junior subordinated ventures due 2056.
In addition to these liquid assets, the parent company will generate excess cash flow during the remainder of 2021. The parent company's excess cash flow as we define it results primarily from the dividends received by the parent from its subsidiaries, less the interest paid on debt, and the dividends paid to Globe Life shareholders. We anticipate the parent company's excess cash flow for the full year to be approximately $360 million of which approximately $25 million will be generated in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Taking into account the liquid assets of $280 million at the end of the third quarter, plus $25 million of excess cash flow that is expected to be generated in the fourth quarter, we will have approximately $305 million of assets available to the parent for the remainder of the year. As I'll discuss in more detail in just a few moments, this amount is sufficient to support the targeted capital levels within our insurance operations and maintain the share repurchase program for the remainder of the year.
As noted on previous calls, we will use our cash as efficiently as possible. We still believe that share repurchases provide the best return or yield to our shareholders over other available alternatives. Thus we anticipate share repurchases will continue to be a primary use of the parent's excess cash flows.
At this time, the midpoint of our earnings guidance reflects $90 million to $100 million of share repurchases in the fourth quarter. In addition, we anticipate using approximately $90 million to $100 million of the parent's assets to maintain our insurance subsidiaries, RBC levels, thus, taking into account the expected $305 million of assets available to the holding company less the $180 million to $200 million expected use for buybacks and subsidiary capital needs. We expect to have in the range of $105 million to $125 million of available assets at the holding company at the end of the year.
This is approximate $55 million to $75 million in excess of the $50 million of liquid assets we have historically targeted at the holding company. We will continue to evaluate the potential impact of the pandemic on our capital needs. However, we expect that most if not all of this excess liquidity will be returned to the shareholders in 2022 absent other more favorable alternatives.
Now regarding capital levels at our insurance subsidiaries. Our goal is to maintain our capital at levels necessary to support our current ratings. As noted on previous calls, Globe Life targets a consolidated company action level RBC ratio in the range of 300% to 320%. At December 31, 2020, our consolidated RBC ratio was 309%. At this RBC ratio, our insurance subsidiaries have approximate 5 -- $50 million of capital over the amount required at the low end of our consolidated RBC target of 300%. This excess capital, along with the $305 million of liquid assets that we expect to be available at the parent, provides sufficient capital to fund future capital needs.
The drivers of additional capital needs in 2021 primarily relate to investment downgrades, changes in the newly adopted NAIC RBC C1 investment factors, growth of our business, and higher COVID clients. With respect to downgrades, our year-to-date downgrades have totaled $291 million but have been offset by $224 million in upgrades, including a net upgrade of $110 million in the third quarter. At this time in our base scenario, we are not expecting any significant NAIC 1 notch net downgrades or material credit losses in the fourth quarter, consistent with the favorable outlook we continue to see in our portfolio.
In August, the NAIC fully adopted the new and expanded C1 investment factors. The adoption of these factors will result in higher amounts of required capital for our portfolio. In addition, higher sales, growth of our in-force business, and higher COVID claims also increase our capital needs. As I mentioned previously, we anticipate $90 million to $100 million will be needed at our insurance subsidiaries to maintain the midpoint of our consolidated RBC target for 2021, including the estimated $50 million of capital relating to the higher C1 charges. As previously noted, the parent company has ample liquidity to cover this additional capital.
At this time, I'd like to provide a few comments relating to the impact of COVID-19 on third quarter results. Through September 30th, the company has incurred approximately $82 million of COVID life claims, including $33 million in the third quarter on approximately 95,000 deaths reported by the CDC. The claims incurred in the third quarter were significantly higher than anticipated, primarily due to the significant impact the delta variant has had on infection rates and death tolls, especially in southern states and in younger ages earlier in the pandemic.
Our third quarter COVID life claims include approximately $17 million incurred in our Direct to Consumer Division or approximately 7.1% of its third quarter premium income, approximately $8.4 million of COVID life claims incurred Liberty National, 10.6% of its premium for the quarter, and approximately $6.7 million at American Income, or 1.9% of its third quarter premium.
As indicated on prior calls, we estimated that we would incur COVID life claims of roughly $2 million for every 10,000 U.S. deaths. While this was a good benchmark for our claims incurred through June 30th, the bench -- the spread of the COVID delta variant has impacted our in-force book of business differently than the effect of COVID in prior quarters.
In the third quarter, COVID deaths shifted to a younger population where Globe Life has higher risk exposure, both in terms of number of policies and average face amount. In addition, we're also seeing a greater concentration of COVID deaths in the southern region in the United States where a greater proportion of our in-force policies resign.
Given our experience to date and available information on the COVID death from the CDC and other sources, including the observed changes to the geography of the pandemic and the ages of people dying from COVID, we now estimate that our incurred losses in the second half of this year will be approximately $3.5 million for every 10,000 U.S. deaths. While continued changes in the mix of deaths in terms of geography or the age of those impacted by COVID will impact this estimate going forward, we anticipate the level of losses per U.S. deaths to range from $3 million to $4 million for every 10,000 U.S. deaths in 2022.
At the midpoint of our guidance for 2022, we have assumed $3.5 million of incurred losses per 10,000 deaths. To date, we have experienced low levels of COVID claims and policies sold since the start of the pandemic. In fact, over two-thirds of our clients through September 30th relate to policies issued before 2010. Of the nearly 3 million policies sold since March 1, 2020, only 231 COVID claims have been paid through the end of the third quarter totaling approximately $2.8 million in debt benefits.
In addition to COVID losses, we continue to experience higher policy obligations from non-COVID causes of death and lower policy lapses. The increase from non-COVID causes of death are primarily medically related, including heart and circulatory, non-lung cancer, and neurological disorders. The losses we are seeing are elevated over 2019 levels due at least in part, we believe, to the pandemic and the existence of either delayed or unavailable healthcare. In the third quarter, the policy obligations relating to the non-COVID causes of death and lapses were just slightly more than we anticipated, primarily due to higher reserves associated with better persistency at our Direct to Consumer channel. Higher than expected non-COVID claims at Direct to Consumer during the quarter were mostly offset by lower than expected non-COVID claims experience at Liberty National.
For the full year, we anticipated on our last call that we would incur approximately $70 million in excess policy obligations in 2021 with about $42 million of those relating to higher reserves due to lower policy lapses in 2020 and 2021. We now anticipate that our total excess obligations will be approximately $78 million of which approximately $48 million relate to higher reserves from lower lapses.
Finally, with respect to our earnings guidance for 2021 and 2022. After taking into account various estimates of COVID deaths in the U.S. in the fourth quarter, we estimate fourth quarter COVID deaths of approximately 75,000 to 125,000 resulting in approximately $25 million to $45 million of COVID incurred losses. At the midpoint of our guidance, we estimate approximately $35 million of COVID losses on 100,000 U.S. deaths. The 100,000 U.S. deaths is consistent with the October 15th projection by the IHME. As a result of the higher COVID claims in the second half of this year than previously anticipated, we are lowering the midpoint of our guidance from $7.44 to $6.95 with the range of $6.85 to $7.05 for the year ended December 31, 2021. The $0.49 decrease in the midpoint is almost entirely due to an increase in COVID incurred losses of nearly $63 million or $0.48 of earnings per share over the amount previously anticipated.
Looking forward to 2022, we anticipate that COVID deaths will continue to be with us throughout the year but at a lower level than in 2021. We estimate COVID deaths could range from 100,000 deaths for the year to 200,000 and that our losses per 10,000 U.S. deaths could range from $3 -- $3 million to $4 million. At the midpoint of our guidance, we anticipate between $50 million to $55 million of COVID incurred losses on approximately 150,000 U.S. deaths most of which are expect to do occur in the first half of the year.
Absent the impact of COVID, we believe our core earnings should be strong buoyed by premium growth in the 6% to 8% range as a result of strong sales in 2020 and 2021 and continued favorable persistency. We also anticipate that the level of excess policy obligations will moderate somewhat, resulting in underwriting margins as a percentage of premium excluding COVID losses, returning to pre-pandemic levels of around 28%. We also anticipate our health underwriting income to increase 4% to 7% during the year with underwriting margins as a percent of premium approximately 24% to 25%.
Overall, we estimate our earnings for 2022 will range from $7.95 to $8.75 with a midpoint of $8.35. The wider than historical range is to take into account the wide range of potential impacts of COVID in 2022, which are largely dependent on the emergence of new variants, adoption and effectiveness available vaccines and therapeutics, masking practices, and many other factors.
Our 2022 results also reflect a full year of operations for our newest acquisition Beazley Benefits, which has been rebranded as Globe Life Benefits. The acquisition, which we closed upon third quarter is expected to add over $50 million of health premium in 2022 and over $11 million of underwriting income. We are excited about the future of this new acquisition and the ability to grow this business over the long term. The agency fits well into our overall business model as they offer group, supplemental health insurance solutions to employer groups through brokers and thus is complementary to our existing agencies that focus more on individual sales. Their underwriting results will be reflected in our other health lines along with our United American General Agency division.
Those are my comments. I will now call -- return the call back to Larry.