News Local/State

Frerichs Calls On Governor To Sign Insurance Death Benefits Bill

Savoy resident Doris McGee, State Treasurer Mike Frerichs and Andre Jordan, of AARP Illinois.

Savoy resident Doris McGee, State Treasurer Mike Frerichs and Andre Jordan, associate director of AARP Illinois, at a news conference in Champaign, calling on Gov. Rauner to sign lHB302, which expands insurers' responsibility to contact beneficiaries about unclaimed death benefits. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

A bill on Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk would require insurers to notify families of any death benefits they may be due from lapsed life insurance policies going back to the beginning of the century.

State Treasurer Mike Frerichs backed the bill (HB302), which won approval in the General Assembly in May — and now he’s calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to sign it.

Last year, Governor Rauner signed another bill requiring insurance companies to notify families of unclaimed benefits for insurance policies in effect from this year forward. This new bill covers past policies as far back as 2000.

At a news conference in Champaign Wednesday, Frerichs said that unlike the bipartisan support enjoyed by first measure, this new bill passed the General Assembly on near-party line votes with Republicans in opposition. Frerichs says happened even though GOP-led legislatures overwhelmingly approved similar bills that passed in Florida and West Virginia.

“And they took something that should not be a partisan issue and made it one. If you look at the role calls in the House and the Senate, it was mostly a partisan vote”, said Frerichs. “And the last time I checked, death doesn’t knock on just Democrats’ doors. It affects everyone.”

Frerichs says that under this legislation, insurance companies would check Social Security data to note if a policyholder has died, and then notify the beneficiaries.

In Illinois, unclaimed life insurance benefits are considered unclaimed property, and one of the state treasurer’s duties is to get such property to its rightful owner. The state treasurer’s office runs newspaper ads listing the names of beneficiaries of unclaimed death benefits. And at Wednesday’s news conference, Doris McGee of Savoy spoke about how she her mother was able to received death benefits she had not known about, after it was listed in a state treasurer’s advertisement.

McGee says the benefits came from a policy taken out by her late father that she and her mother had not known about. McGee says the legislation requiring insurance companies to contact the beneficiaries of lapsed policies could help a lot of people.

“There may be money out there that their grandfathers and their grandmothers worked very hard to have for their families”, said McGee. “And while it may have been money for a casket or a burial, or it may be a large sum that someone left for their church, it’s very important that these families get the money that’s due to them.”

McGee says her mother suffers from dementia, and would not be able to seek out the death benefits on her own.

HB302 also has the support of the AARP, the Illinois Funeral Directors Association, the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights and the National Association of Social Workers-Illinois Chapter.