Each year carriers dole out hundreds of billions of dollars to settle claims, typically by cutting checks. But insurers increasingly are turning to stored-value debit card systems.One of the latest companies to do so is Portland, Ore.-based Standard Insurance Co., which will begin offering Visa-branded cards as an alternative to checks for group long-term disability claims presented after Jan. 1. Among the reasons insurers are embracing stored-value cards is to increase the speed at which funds get to policyholders.

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