ALTON — Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs made several stops in the Riverbend region Thursday, touting a bill that requires life insurance companies to pay death benefits.
He spoke to about 50 people at Senior Services Plus in Alton about a bill on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk that requires insurers to use the federal Death Master File to determine if a policy holder has died and the death benefits have not been paid.
HB 4633 was passed in May and is awaiting action by the governor.
The bill is an attempt to keep insurance policies from becoming unclaimed property because the beneficiaries don’t know about them.
The state treasurer is in charge of unclaimed money.
“We think when we put this money into your pocket, it circulates through the economy here and it does a lot more good for you and your neighbors than it does sitting in my vault in Springfield, or does a lot more good than sitting in some company’s bank account,” he said.
The bill requires insurers to “periodically match their policies…against the Death Master File.” Also called the DMF, it is used by the Social Security Administration and other agencies to fight waste and abuse. Frerichs said most insurance companies in Illinois use the list.
“This bill assures that if someone is prudent enough to buy a whole life policy, and they die and somehow the policy is lost, the next of kin will be paid,” state Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), who chairs the Illinois Senate’s Insurance Committee and a chief sponsor of the bill, said before the meeting. “I’ve been working on this for a number of years.”
However, some companies are opposed to the idea. According to Frerichs, the Kemper Corp. has filed suit against the treasurer’s office to block an audit to determine if companies are holding life insurance policies that could have been paid.
“I want to do everything I can to make sure all life insurance companies are held accountable,” Frerichs said.
Also speaking were Ryan Gruenenfelder, manager of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois and Wood River resident Sherry Maberry, who recently received payment of an unclaimed life insurance policy on her late mother that the family had been unaware of.
“We thought we had identified all of the policies she had, but a call from a friend confirmed we missed one,” she said, adding the friend had seen her mother’s name in an unclaimed property notice.
After filing a claim, she received a personal call from Frerichs telling her what she had to do, and he sent her the forms.
“I received a check right away for $3,000,” she added. “Without that call I would have never known there was a policy waiting on me. The insurance company did nothing to notify my family. That is why it is so important that this bill becomes law. My mom passed away seven years ago, it would have been nice to have the money earlier.”
In the afternoon Frerichs was scheduled to meet with members of the Jersey County Business Association.
“We’re going to be talking economic development up there,” he said. “We’ll be meeting with the Jersey County Business Association, talking about issues in the state and how we can help in Southern Illinois and the Metro East.”
Frerichs noted there was no set agenda.
“That’s the reason we get out of the office,” he said. “You get trapped in a bubble and we find we learn a lot more when we go out and we listen to people in the state and find out what their issues and concerns are.”
Reach reporter Scott Cousins at 618-208-6447.
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