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CFO Jeff Atwater Testifies Before House Regulatory Affairs Committee

2/24/2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This morning, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater testified before the Florida House Regulatory Affairs Committee in support of HB 1041, sponsored by Representative Bill Hager, which strengthens the rights of life insurance beneficiaries. HB 1041 and its Senate companion, SB 966 sponsored by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, have successfully and unanimously passed all committee stops and yesterday, SB 966 passed unanimously on the Senate floor.
 
In addition to CFO Atwater’s testimony, a consumer joined the committee meeting to share her personal story. Jackie Bigoney, of Tallahassee, shared the story of her father’s life insurance policy that for five years was not paid to her mother, who was the listed beneficiary on the policy. Jackie’s father died in 2007, but her mother did not know the life insurance policy existed and the Bigoneys were not contacted by the insurance company. Jackie’s family did not receive the benefits they were due until nearly five years after her father’s death. If not for the settlement agreement the insurance company later reached with the state, it is suspected that they would likely have never received the money they were due.
 
Jackie’s story is one of thousands of stories of Florida families that did not receive life insurance benefit payouts in a timely manner – or ever – because of systemic practices within the life insurance industry to stall or withhold payouts. By claiming that they didn’t know an insured had died, that they could not find a beneficiary or by stating that they didn’t have to contact a beneficiary, companies improperly held onto billions of dollars in unpaid, overdue life insurance policies.
 
However, HB 1041 / SB 966 would change this practice by holding the life insurance industry accountable for checking policies dating back to 1992 against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, the industry standard record of life and death, and attempting to contact the listed beneficiary when a policyholder is believed to have died. If a beneficiary cannot be found after a prescribed period of time, the insurance company must turn the policy over to the State of Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program, overseen by CFO Atwater, where the state will continue to look for the appropriate loved one.
 
So far, more than 20 of the nation’s largest 40 insurance companies have reached settlement agreements to perform these actions. This legislation hopes to codify what has been achieved in those settlement agreements and hold the remaining insurance companies that do business in the state of Florida to the same standards of doing the right thing for their policyholders.
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).