Bill strengthens protection on life insurance in Florida

Florida lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that beefs up requirements on life insurance companies to make sure families get they benefits they deserve.

“With the passage of this bill, hundreds of thousands of Florida families will now gain access to life insurance benefits that have been left to them by loved ones – sometimes years ago – that they otherwise may have never received,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said in a statement. “These Florida families will now be made whole, and will now receive funds that can cover an expense, pay a bill, or help save for the future.”

HB 1041, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach  — and the Senate companion that passed Thursday, SB 966 by Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers — applies tougher conditions on all life insurers writing policies in the state, not just who have already reached settlements with Florida and other states.

About $8 billion has been returned to consumers nationwide, including about a half billion in Florida, officials said. By failing to use readily-available technology to check things like death rolls, many companies are “intentionally shielding themselves” from knowledge about policyholders’ deaths and therefore failing to pay out benefits, regulators have said.

“I am proud to stand on the right side of this consumer-friendly public policy,” Hager said.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in a statement he applauded actions that “will help to reunite millions of dollars of life insurance benefits with their rightful owners in our state.”

He said, “By searching all their records, both going forward and then retroactively to 1992 against the United States Social Security Death Master File, life insurance companies would have to make a reasonable effort to investigate a claim when they have actual knowledge of a life insurance policyholders death and either return those monies to the beneficiary or report and remit it to the CFO’s unclaimed property unit, who will forever have these funds available for the owners to collect.”

Posted 9:00 AM

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