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Portland, OR-based Standard Insurance Company ($5.85 billion in assets) is offering long-term disability beneficiariesthe option of receiving monthly benefits through Standard's SecureCard on policies issued on or after January 1. SecureCard, which functions as a debit card, carries the Visa logo and can be used for withdrawals at ATMs. Long-term disability recipients who opt to receive benefits through Standard Insurance's SecureCard are opened a SecureCard bank account at a US Bank.

Standard's long-term disability customers receive the SecureCard, then monthly benefits are electronically deposited into their SecureCard accounts which are accessed with the SecureCard. "A key advantage of the card is that it is more secure than monthly checks," says Mike Skiens, assistant vice president, employee benefits marketing, Standard Insurance. "Often times checks are stolen out of the mailbox because they have been sitting in there for a number of days because it is hard for some beneficiaries to get out to collect it. In many cases we have to cancel checks. With the SecureCard, the claimant receives the card and the monthly payments electronically, instead of through the mail 12 times a year."

According to Skiens, the SecureCard method of obtaining benefits is also more convenient for recipients, many of whom have trouble leaving their homes. "When a beneficiary is a paraplegic and they receive a check in the mail, they have to get out of bed and into their wheelchair just to get to the mailbox. To deposit their check they have to wheel out to their van and travel to the bank. With the SecureCard, this same beneficiary just has to pick up the phone and transfer funds from the SecureCard into their bank account, if they wish to do so. If they want to pay their bills over the phone they can do that too, because the card carries the Visa logo."

Although offering the SecureCard payment method is initially more costly for Standard Insurance, the cost of premiums is unaffected. According to Skiens, the SecureCard is helping Standard Insurance differentiate itself from other long-term disability insurance carriers.

"A lot of the theory behind Standard's investment in the card is that employers are really struggling to find top-quality employees," says Skiens. "Top-quality employees are hard to find, but even harder to replace when they become disabled. We want to provide disability beneficiaries with flexibility and convenience so, hopefully, these employees can be rehabilitated to the point where they can return to work."

Although it is too early for feedback, an initial product development survey of Standard's claimants was conducted. "We got a very favorable response from our survey," says Skiens. "The majority of those surveyed said yes, they would be inclined to try the SecureCard as a means of recieving their benefits."

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