Saturday, August 21, 2010

U.S. Insurance Regulators Issue Consumer Alert on Death Benefits


State insurance regulators, under pressure to improve disclosure of death-benefit payment options, issued a consumer alert about the industry practice of retaining funds rather than paying them in a lump sum.

“You may be able to earn a higher rate of interest on the life insurance proceeds if you select a different payout option,” the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said in the alert. “While the documents you receive might look like a checkbook, it might actually be drafts, which are similar to checks, but different in some ways.”

The alert was issued after an NAIC panel met yesterday in Seattle to review retained-asset accounts. The regulators created the panel after Bloomberg Markets magazine reported in July that insurers profit by holding and investing $28 billion owed to 1 million beneficiaries.

“Disclosure is paramount,” said Thomas R. Sullivan, co- chair of the working group, at its first meeting yesterday. “That seems to be the central issue.”

Retained-asset accounts let insurers keep proceeds of a life insurance policy in their general corporate accounts, earning investment income, while providing the beneficiary with a checkbook-like account that’s not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The NAIC heard testimony from Peter Gallanis of the National Organization of Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Associations that the accounts are covered by state insurance backstops. While beneficiaries can draw drafts on the funds, they don’t always clear as easily as checks.

Blog Archive