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The state has been slapping insurers with penalties for failing to offer a full payout to beneficiaries.

Pennsylvania has started implementing a crackdown on life insurance companies that have been discovered to be failing to pay out full benefits to the beneficiaries of policies soon after those policy owners have died.

So far in 2015, the state has recovered $70.4 million for almost 4,300 beneficiaries in Pennsylvania.

This is all a part of a broader effort by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance, which involves a number of other states, as well. The participating states are conducting a closer investigation into the life insurance industry’s typical business practices. According to the department’s spokesperson, Ron Ruman, this investigation started in 2014. He added that “It is being done because insurance regulators around the country began to receive too many inquiries and complaints about policy benefits not being paid. It will continue until the issue has been resolved and regulators believe essentially everyone involved has gotten the benefits due them.”

A breakdown of the recovered life insurance payments for various counties was not available due to confidentiality issues.

Life Insurance ProcessThe main focus of this investigation is into the way that these insurance companies have been using the Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration in a “selective” way, explained Ruman.

He also pointed out that while some insurers are using the data from the DMF appropriately in order to be able to effectively identify a policyholder’s beneficiaries when that customer has died, there are others who don’t take that extra step. He stated that some insurance companies use the DMF in order to cease annuity payments benefits, but don’t then begin the process of finding beneficiaries and paying them their insurance benefits.

The process, he said, is that “When someone dies, Social Security notes this on (its) file, and companies … are notified.” The life insurance companies are then supposed to use that data and match it against their own files in order to determine whether or not the deceased individual is among their customers. It is technically up to the heir to claim benefits. If that does not occur, then the insurance company is required to turn the inheritance over to the Bureau of Unclaimed Property, from the State Treasury. That said, they can hang onto the funds for three years after the death of the policyholder before doing so.

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