Scott Beeman, head of Aetna Life Insurance, which recently introduced expedited payments and funeral planning to their services, knows the value of speedy life insurance claims processing from personal experience. His father died when he was 11 years old.
“Any mail that was received for my father, we sat on a dining room table, and I don’t think my mom opened up my father’s mail until six or seven months after his death. And I would bet, somewhere in that pile of mail, was a claimant kit,” said Beeman.
He’s referring to the life insurance industry’s standard process of sending out a generic package or template of information to be filled out by the beneficiary in order to receive a death benefit payment. The problem is, the claimant kit could be left unopened for some time during bereavement, and then questions and mail time lag can add weeks to the claim process.
The average time it takes most life insurance companies to process an average claim ranges from 100-200 days from date of death to date of payment, and for some of the tardiest carriers out there, it could take more than 200 days. That’s six to seven months of waiting for a life insurance benefit payment. If you’re counting on that money to pay for a funeral, you are in a heap of trouble.
However, Aetna has a different approach to processing claims that makes their standard process 20% to 30% faster than other insurers. They don’t use a claimant kit, and they don’t require original death certificates because of the time it takes to get them from the appropriate authorities. “Those two things alone could save anywhere from a minimum of 10 days to a maximum of 100 days or more on a claim,” said Beeman.
Aetna also has an expedited service model called Beneficiary Management Services, where Aetna acts as the HR office on behalf of the employers who carry their life insurance. It means that Aetna files the claim using a team of beneficiary management analysts who are also bereavement counselors.
They help the bereaved beneficiary any way they can, making sure they realize all the benefits they can have, gathering the necessary documents for the claim, and submitting the claim. This service reduces Aetna’s standard claims processing time from about 100 days to approximately 50 days.
And now, Aetna is offering even faster expedited claims payments, within 24 to 48 hours. This service is combined with funeral planning services through Everest Funeral Planning, which include:
- 24X7 Advisor Assistance to discuss funeral planning issues with consumers, including choosing a funeral home, finding a cemetery, purchasing a casket and others.
- PriceFinder Research Reports to help consumers compare costs at local funeral homes. The PriceFinder database is the only nationwide database of funeral home prices.
- Online Planning Tools, including the “10 Key Decisions” and “My Wishes” planning guides. The personal information consumers enter into these tools is stored and maintained in a secure data warehouse.
In addition, this new offering also provides resources for families after the member has passed away. They include:
- Family Assistance and Plan Implementation – Advisors work with the family to understand their wishes and then communicate the personal funeral plan to the funeral home, providing 24-hour assistance throughout the funeral process.
- Negotiation Assistance – Advisors gather pricing information and present it to the family in an easy-to-read format; they negotiate funeral service pricing with local funeral homes; and help the family compare prices of caskets and other products or services.
A 2006 survey of Aetna customers indicated people said “I don’t like buying group life insurance because it only helps people after I die, it doesn’t help me while I’m living.” As a result, Aetna Life Essentials program started offering wellness services: discounts on fitness center memberships, fitness equipment, hearing and vision services, as well as personalized counseling for employees and beneficiaries who are suffering from disabilities or a serious medical condition. This is in addition to legal, financial and emotional services also offered through the value-added program.
Beeman said, “Being part of a health company at Aetna, we see the life insurance as just one continuum and the death benefit as one point of that continuum, to provide a benefit to our overall membership. Everest allows members who have to plan funerals for loved ones while they’re at work to be more efficient, helping them plan their own funerals or funerals for other loved ones who might not be living near them.”
“At a time of need, by expediting the claim payment, and having a funeral concierge there, we remove two barriers that prevent most people from being able to emotionally heal themselves and their families – their focus on the financials and the planning activities.”
As I’ve said in my presentations on funeral planning for those who don’t plan to die, just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead – and your family will benefit from the conversation. This new service will go a long way toward getting the conversation started.