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- 2013 - December - 18th -

Pension fund seeking life insurance ideas

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

The Police and Fire Pension Fund has joined the discussion about using life insurance policies as a way to ease the city's pension hardship.

Last week, a group pitched placing policies on a portion of members and using the death benefits to pay survivors and other associated costs.

That group met with City Council President Bill Gulliford and members of the Jacksonville Retirement Reform Task Force and others.

On Tuesday, the pension fund issued a Request for Information for using life insurance-based plans to build assets and provide members with pre- and post-retirement death benefits.

But, unlike some models, the fund has spelled out several considerations to be used during its evaluation.

A solution can't be based on mortality nor depend on employees or retirees dying to solve the underfunding issue.

It also can't use the future sale of policies to help and must provide current and future death benefits to all current and retired employees and their spouses.

Fund Administrator John Keane said the fund has looked at the option for the past two years.

Under a type of split-plan life insurance, members and beneficiaries would receive some form of death benefit, while the other portion would pay the insurance provider and chip away at the city's unfunded liability.

For the police and fire pension fund, that sits at about $1.7 billion.

Who pays the premiums depends on the type of plan, Keane said.

The fund or a private investor can, with the later returns depending on the makeup.

For example, Keane used a member with a $100,000 policy.

Upon that member's death, the beneficiary could receive $25,000, with the fund and private investor splitting the remaining $75,000.

Or, if the fund used its money to pay the premiums, it would receive the remainder.

As for any solution not being based on mortality or employees dying, Keane said it's not the direction the fund would want to proceed.

Depending on the plan, assets can be improved over the life of that plan that will help the fund and aren't solely dependent on an employee dying, though employees still receive the benefit.

"We are not looking for a death merchant," Keane said. "We are looking for a viable program … that can provide a supplemental benefit and provide cash infusion."

Interested companies have until Jan. 3 to respond with their ideas.

"The trustees are exploring all possible options," Keane said. "This is another one brought to our attention."

dchapman@baileypub.com

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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