New York state officials say they recovered more than $1.1 billion in unpaid life insurance benefits to consumers nationwide as a result of an investigation of the life insurance industry.
A final report by the state's Department of Financial Services said unpaid benefits were recovered for more than 100,000 consumers across the country, including 25,000 New Yorkers.
"Going forward, we will continue these efforts to ensure consumers get every single penny they are entitled to," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
The investigation found that many life insurance companies regularly received a list of recent deaths from the Social Security Administration but were not using the list to determine if a policyholder had died. Beneficiaries who did not know their loved ones had life insurance did not file claims, and the policies went unpaid. As a result thousands of families did not receive the life insurance benefits to which they were entitled.
Meanwhile, insurers often used the list of recent deaths to verify the status of people receiving annuity checks, according to the investigation. When a death was verified, the insurance companies stopped the annuity payment.
The Department of Financial Services directed insurers to use the U.S.Social Security Administration's Death Master File to investigate policies for which no claims have been made and to find beneficiaries who are eligible for benefits but have not filed claims. New York was the first state to order the cross-check policy. Other states have followed.
The Cuomo administration launched a free online Lost Policy Finder in partnership with the insurance industry to help New Yorkers locate lost or misplaced life insurance policies and annuity contracts.