ALBANY, NY --- Attorneys with the New York Insurance Department have released a written opinion confirming that insurance companies in the state have the right to pay claims by issuing debit or preloaded credit cards to claimants instead of conventional settlement checks. 

The New York Insurance Department issued the opinion at the request of an insurance company wishing to institute a program in which claimants could be paid with prepaid Visa cards.

The opinion, prepared by the department's Office of General Counsel, states that insurers can issue such prepaid cards to claimants on a voluntary basis as long as the funds are made accessible to the claimant within the normal timeframe for paying settlements, the insurer fully explains all aspects of its program and makes clear that the claimant's participation in the program is voluntary and that the claimant must opt in, and the insurer makes certain that the claimant has easy and ready access to the funds. 

The department's written opinion also stressed that the claimant, before opting in, must be made aware of all potential fees associated with the prepaid card in such a program.