Data matching is important to connect lost benefits with lost beneficiaries. Columbian Mutual learned this the hard way. According to a January 2022, press release from the New York Department of Financial Services (“Department”), Columbian Mutual Life Insurance Company entered into a settlement with the Department over the insurance company’s “fail[ure] to cross-check all Columbian Mutual policies against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (“DMF”) on a quarterly and annual basis.”
The Department observed that “[s]ometimes, individuals may not know that they were named as beneficiaries under life insurance policies or annuities. Insurers are uniquely suited, however, to initiate and facilitate the death claims process to locate beneficiaries. Among other things, insurers have the means to determine whether insureds have died by reviewing the DMF.” This is where the importance of data matching comes into play. Thousands of beneficiaries of Columbian Mutual death benefits went undistributed.
Data matching puts money in the hands of the people that are entitled to it, and conversely, a failure to do effective data matching means that consumers are having money that they are entitled to left on the table because they were never told they are owed benefits.
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More