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Eye On Boise

Meridian woman still on her six-year crusade for improvements to life insurance lapse-notification laws

Though legislation passed and was signed into law last year regarding notification of a lapse in life insurance policies, Kathy Peterson of Meridian is still on her crusade – now in its sixth year – to expand the notification to include at least an option, at the choice of the insurance customer, for a certified-mail warning. Peterson objected to last year’s bill and ended up testifying against it, saying it didn’t go far enough by just requiring first-class mail notifications to two different people.

After her mother died in 2012, Peterson and her siblings never got the $100,000 life insurance payment because, they were told, the policy had lapsed. The insurance company said her mother had stopped paying and they notified her by mail; Peterson says her mother, who paid premiums for almost 30 years, was told both by phone and by letter in 2007 that the policy was paid in full, and that she never got anything in the mail threatening to cancel it after that. Peterson went to court, but the case was dismissed. That’s when she began to push for the bill.

“It’s not going to change what happened to our family, but it’s going to make things better,” she said Monday.

But the woman who’s walked the Capitol’s halls with signs promoting her bill for years now is feeling stymied this year. She’s lined up a new sponsor, Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow. But Foreman informed her today that Senate Commerce Chairman Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, is declining to hold an introductory hearing on her bill. “I feel a great injustice here,” Peterson said. “I want to be able to have a chance to make the law stronger and better.”

Patrick said, “I gave it a print hearing a few years ago. I supported changes, (state Insurance) Director (Dean) Cameron supported changes. She said, ‘No, I would not change it.’” Patrick said, “The current proposal is a little different – it sounds reasonable.” But, he said, he has concerns about how it would work. Peterson envisions the customer who wants the certified mail option paying up-front for that. But he said often multiple notices are required, and it’s not clear who would pay for those. “Her latest proposal, it sounds good, but it’s not workable,” Patrick said. “That’s the bottom line.”

“She’s very dedicated – she works very hard,” Patrick said. “I have to give her credit for that. Obviously she had a traumatic thing in her life, and I can appreciate that.”

Patrick said lawmakers “tried really hard” with last year’s bill, but Peterson testified against it.

“I do sympathize with her – I actually do,” he said. But, he said, “The way it is written right now, it won’t work without changes.”

Peterson said she’s incensed that a committee chairman in the Idaho Legislature can block a bill from being heard, but committee chairs do have that power. Patrick said he might reconsider if Peterson brought in a broader group of supporters he could work with on possible changes.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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