Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Dead Pool…

Recently, my friend Bob (be sure to check out his blog, Health Insurance 411) sent me an article about a new product: The Social Security Death Index Database. Briefly, the company makes available “a database of all reported deaths of reported Social Security number holders.” That is, if you’re in the Social Security system (and who isn’t?), and you die, you “make the list.”
So Bob and I had a brief email conversation about WHY someone (or some company) might need this information, and under what circumstances that need would be so great as to justify paying over $600 a year for this information.
We speculated that perhaps funeral directors would find it helpful, or even insurance agents (“Pardon me, Mrs Thompson, but I see that your husband has passed away. Did he have enough life insurance? Do you?”). But neither of us could figure out exactly who would pay for this kind of information, or to what purpose(s) it would/could be put.
So I moseyed on over to the site (which is easily navigable, and informative as well). I was surprised at the number of applications for such information:

- Bill collectors (kinda adds new meaning to “deadbeat”)
- Anyone who must be HIPAA compliant (medical providers, insurers)
- Mass marketers (who would presumably prefer that their lists remain current)

I’m still not sure how I feel about this. I guess it’s (technically) public knowledge, and I suppose that it could be a useful tool in certain businesses. But I’m also a little “creeped out” at the thought that news of my demise would be disseminated in that fashion.
Maybe I’m overreacting [ed: nooo!], but I just find this to be an unsettling development.
This is definitely a post for which I’d welcome feedback.
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