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03:45 PM
Jonathan Berry
Jonathan Berry

Supplementing the Death Master File for Life Claims Data

Due to the changing regulatory environment around the Social Security DMF, insurance companies should be aware how these exclusions impact the identification of deceased policy holders.

Due to the changing regulatory environment requiring regular matches to the Social Security Death Master File (DMF), insurance companies should be aware of the increased exclusion of death records and data fields from the DMF and how these exclusions will affect the identification of deceased policy holders. In November 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) removed 4.2 million state protected records and will continue to exclude approximately 1 million state protected records annually. In addition to a 40% annual decrease of posted death records, the SSA no longer provides state and ZIP code information that could otherwise be used to differentiate similar or disqualify false matches to the DMF. This has made it more difficult for insurance companies to use the DMF to identify deceased policy holders.

In response to these changes, compiling an enhanced death record database, which includes the DMF files, state vital records, and additional death sources, can help in identifying the maximum number of deceased policy holders.

Current state of the DMF
The removal of the 4.2 million state protected death records from the DMF and the continued exclusion of a million records per year have resulted in a material change in the number of deaths reported by the SSA.

[Previously from Berry: Tech strategy for unclaimed property compliance.]

State vital records document life events kept under governmental authority, including birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates, which are maintained at the state level.

Since the records have been removed, there is evidence that shows that state vital records and additional resources could provide some of the death records that are no longer reported on the DMF.

State vital records
Several states provide their state vital files, which contain death records with critical data fields that can be used to supplement the current DMF.

The state vital records help to fill the death record gap created with the removal of state protected records from the DMF. This is most evident for the states that use the Electronic Death Registration, which provides the ability for coroners, funeral directors, doctors, and hospitals to submit electronic death certificates, to submit their death records to the Social Security Administration.

Additional death sources: enhanced data
Many states do not publish death records for public or private use; therefore, the death record gap is not resolved with state vital files alone. To account for this data gap, alternate sources of death data aggregated and purchased from third parties can add value to states’ records. 

As with the state vital records, there is a large decrease in the percentage of records sourced from alternate sources that overlap with the DMF after November 2011. This provides further evidence that the DMF no longer includes state protected death records, and that Enhanced Data can effectively fill the resultant data gap. The Enhanced Data replaces a large amount of the state protected records that no longer appear on the DMF. The decrease in the number of DMF records after November 2011 is drastic; however, the addition of Enhanced Data enables the counts to nearly reach the pre-November 2011 DMF levels.

Additional benefits: enhanced data
Additional data fields provided in state vital files and other data sources are beneficial in many other ways to the Unclaimed Property matching process:

  • False Positive Reduction – Reduces operational capacity required to research bad matches
  • Multiple Match Automation – Uses additional data fields (e.g., state, ZIP code) from alternate data sources to differentiate similar matches and identify the most likely match

In conclusion, the creation of an enhanced death record database by supplementing DMF files with state vital and additional third-party death records will help insurance companies fill the gaps in their unclaimed property matching process. Whether used to supplement the insurance companies’ current DMF matching process to attain incremental matches, to decrease operational research volume with additional data fields, or as a foundation for establishing the insurance companies’ ongoing matching, an enhanced death record database will help accurately find and maintain the most deceased policy holders.

[Learn more about the Internet of Things at Interop's Internet of Things Summit on Monday, September 29.]

Jonathan W. Berry III is a Managing Director and Leader of the Insurance sub-team in Navigant's Financial Services practice, where he assists large financial institutions with navigatingthe complex regulatory and economic environment. Jon specializes in operational and ... View Full Bio

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