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CA Department of Insurance

Symetra Insurance Company changes its use of the Death Master File

News: 2014 Press Release

For Release: November 25, 2014
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Symetra Insurance Company changes its use of the Death Master File
Commissioner Jones urges other insurers to follow Symetra’s example for consumers’ benefit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced a $1.2 million multistate market conduct examination settlement agreement was reached with the Symetra Life and Symetra National Life Insurance Companies. As part of the settlement, Symetra has agreed to a number of business practice reforms concerning its use of the Social Security Death Master File database. Symetra joins 14 other life insurers that agreed such reforms in using the Death Master File database to search for deceased policyholders and make benefit payments.

"Symetra has agreed to do the right thing for consumers by making necessary changes to ensure the proper use of the Death Master database," said Commissioner Dave Jones. "I urge other life insurers to follow this example by using the Death Master database to identify deceased policyholders and pay benefits to beneficiaries when they are owed."

Symetra will now compare all company records against the Death Master File to determine if there are unclaimed death benefits and conduct a thorough search for beneficiaries to whom unclaimed benefits may be owed. Symetra also agreed to make a payment, which will be disbursed among the states that participated in the settlement. The company will pay $1.2 million to the participating states. California was managing lead state on the exam.

California and a handful of other states are leading a national investigation of life insurers to ensure life insurance companies are complying with the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act. As a result, insurers have returned more than $1 billion to beneficiaries nationwide.

The Death Master File, created by the Social Security Administration, provides insurers with the names of people in the United States who are deceased and have social security numbers. With this information, an insurer can identify deceased policyholders and pay out benefits; however, in some cases the Death Master File is only being used by insurers for purposes that only benefit the insurers, such as identifying deceased annuitants and cutting off annuity payments. The California Department of Insurance and its other state partners are working with life insurers to reform business practices in regards to the use of the Death Master File.

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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