Lawmakers Urged To Override Life Insurance Veto

Oct 13, 2017

The Illinois state treasurer is urging legislators to override one of Governor Bruce Rauner’s recent vetoes. Democrat Mike Frerichs says the legislation is needed to help people claim life insurance benefits.

Anthony Visnesky is 70. And after his father died, the family learned he had a life insurance policy he’d taken out some 50 years earlier, when he was a coal miner in Pennsylvania.

Visnesky says it wasn’t a huge sum of money, but “it was important for my mother to know that something that my father had done — in anticipation of having a family — was finally carried through."

Here’s the thing: the family only learned of the policy because of a program in the Illinois treasurer’s office.

Frerichs is trying to expand that program, forcing insurers to look for unclaimed policies as far back as 2000.

Frerichs claims many of the policies in question were issued in poor neighborhoods — on the hopes that beneficiaries would never collect.

Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs, at podium, is urging legislators to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of legislation dealing with life insurance.
Credit Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

“To sit down at their dining room table — and promise them that if something happened to them, they would be there to take care of their loved ones — and not honor that commitment, is wrong," Frerichs says. "That’s the wrong we are trying to right here today."

Rauner vetoed the measure in part because it did not treat all companies the same. Insurers with electronic records would have to go back through 2000, while those with paper records only had to go back five years.

Rauner also objected to a system in which third-party auditors collect finders fees for discovering unclaimed policies.

Brian Mackey covers state government for NPR Illinois. You can follow his reporting on Twitter and Facebook. A version of this story was first broadcast on September 1, 2017.