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12:37 PM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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How Involved Will Governments Be In Tracking Down Life Beneficiaries?

The controversy over use of the Social Security "death file" has led to New York opening a website on which people can search for lost or forgotten policies.

We've been reporting since last November on some states' investigations into how life insurance companies use the Social Security Death Master File in their processes. States began investigating insurers' practices closely after it was alleged that the file was being used to stop annuity payments, but not to make death benefit payments.

Since then, a number of insurers have reached settlements; most recently MetLife for $500 million. But the same day that settlement was announced, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would open a website on which consumers can search for unclaimed life insurance benefits for which they are eligible.

From Bloomberg:

Insurers are still investigating more than 445,000 potential matches for unpaid claims, the regulator said today. Consumers can use an online tool at to locate life insurance policies and annuities that have been lost or misplaced, according to the statement.

Will we see more states taking this step? Will it just lead to more regulators dropping in on insurers and asking if there are certain policies in force?

It seems like the best way to handle this issue is for insurers to be proactive and use the file to reach as many eligible customers as they can, if for no other reason than to mitigate the headache of being "discovered" holding a policy for a deceased person by a regulator. It removes the appearance of impropriety and will result in a (mostly) positive customer interaction at a very low point in that persons' life. Insurers are making so many other investments and focusing so much elsewhere on customer experience — why ignore a slam dunk?

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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