Aetna Life Insurance Review (Coverage Comparisons & More)

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Key Info Company Specifics
Year Founded 1853
Current Executives CEO - Larry J. Merlo
COO - Jonathan C. Roberts
CFO - Eva Boratto
Number of Employees 49,828
Total Sales / Total Assets $60,535,000,000 / $57,103,000,000
HQ Address 151 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06156
Phone Number 1-800-872-3862
Company Website www.aetna.com
Premiums Written-Group Life / Individual Life $938,986,033 / $21,081,802
Financial Standing $594,000,000
Best For Age: 85 Years and Older

A life insurance policy is one of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to your family’s financial security. If they’re dependent on your income, your unexpected death could leave them in dire financial straits.

A life insurance policy could give them the money they need to maintain their lifestyle, acclimate to a life without you, and succeed in the future.

Life insurance policies are usually purchased in one of two ways: directly at retail or as an employee benefit through work. Employer-sponsored life insurance plans are known as group plans.

For years, one of the largest providers of group insurance was Aetna. This past year was the first in nearly 170 years that Aetna hasn’t offered life insurance. In 2017, they sold their life insurance division to fellow group insurer The Hartford.

If you have a supplemental life insurance policy still serviced by Aetna through a health insurance plan, read on for a brief overview of the company.

If you’re currently shopping for coverage, this article will provide you with some valuable life insurance information to help you make an informed purchase.

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Aetna’s Ratings

The following third-party ratings give insight into Aetna’s financial strength, business practices, and quality of customer service.

Rating Agency Aetna's Rating
A.M. Best A
BBB A+
Moody's A2
S&P A-
NAIC Complaint Index - Group 1.13
Consumer Affair 1.8/5 stars

– A.M. Best

A.M. Best ratings measure an insurer’s financial strength and its ability to pay all of its policy obligations. Aetna has an A rating, meaning they have an excellent ability to meet their financial commitments.

– Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The BBB assigns one of 13 letter grades based on factors such as time in business, open complaints, resolved complaints, and federal action against a company. Aetna currently holds a perfect A+ rating.

– Moody’s

Similar to A.M. Best, Moody’s long-term obligation ratings measure an insurer’s credit risk. Aetna holds an upper-mid-grade rating of A2, representing a low credit risk.

– Standard & Poor’s (S&P)

S&P ratings also measure an insurer’s credit risk. Aetna earned a strong A- rating, again representing a low credit risk.

– NAIC Complaint Index

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Complaint Index compares the number of complaints registered against an insurer each year with that of other companies.

The NAIC sets the index at an average score of 1.00. Aetna has a current score of 1.13, slightly above the industry standard.

– Consumer Affairs

Consumer news and resource site Consumer Affairs assigns satisfaction ratings based on actual customer reviews. Aetna has an overall rating of 1.8 out of five stars based on 164 total reviews.

Company History

Aetna was initially founded in the early 1800s as the Aetna Fire Insurance Company, aptly named after Mount Etna (the most active volcano in Europe at the time).

In 1850, the company organized an annuity fund to sell life insurance. Three years later, the annuity department separated from the original company and incorporated it as the Aetna Life Insurance Company.

Over the next 150 years, the company would grow to become one of the largest providers of group health and life insurance plans.

In October 2017, Aetna announced it was selling its group life and disability business to financial service company The Hartford for $1.4 billion to focus on its health insurance offerings.

A few months later, CVS Health announced a plan to buy Aetna for $69 billion, a deal that finalized in October 2019.

– Aetna’s Market Share

Before divesting their life insurance business, Aetna regularly made the list of top 10 writers of group life insurance by market share.

Year Direct Premiums Written Market Share Rank
2013 $992,859,000 3.4% 9
2014 $1,079,745,000 3.6% 9
2015 $1,064,110,000 3.2% 10
2016 $955,344,000 3.0% 9
2018 $946,226,000 2.8% 10

Their purchaser, The Hartford Financial Services Group (which operates under the business name The Hartford), is also a mainstay on the top 10 list.

Year Direct Premiums Written Market Share Rank
2013 $1,253,243,000 4.3% 7
2014 $1,257,665,000 4.2% 7
2015 $1,292,513,000 3.9% 9
2016 $1,263,003,000 4.0% 8
2017 $1,330,721,000 3.7% 10
2018 $1,334,463,000 3.9% 8

– Aetna’s Position for the Future

While Aetna itself doesn’t currently have a future in the life insurance business, its core health insurance business is going strong.

Combining one of the largest health insurance providers (Aetna) with the largest drug store chains (CVS) has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the healthcare industry.

Aetna’s previous life insurance business will also still have an impact on the industry now that it is in the hands of their former competitor. According to The Hartford, their acquisition of Aetna’s business makes them the second-largest provider of group and disability insurance in the country.

If those 2018 numbers hold steady into 2019, the combined market share of the two companies (6.7 percent) would easily make them a top-five writer of group insurance for a long time to come.

Shopping for Life Insurance

A life insurance agent or financial planner can help you determine exactly how much coverage you’ll need. If you’re reading this guide, likely, you’ve already realized the importance of owning a life insurance policy. If you’re still unsure about the need for life insurance, consider this.

According to the 2018 Insurance Barometer Study from Life Happens and LIMRA:

  • 35 percent of households would feel a financial impact within one month of the primary wage earner’s death
  • 90 percent agree that the primary wage earner should carry insurance
  • 60 percent of all people living in the United States have life insurance
  • 20 percent of those with a policy feel their coverage is insufficient

If you’re one of those without sufficient coverage, Aetna is no longer an option for you. However, there are still nearly 1,000 life insurance companies from which to choose, including some with that require no medical exam to qualify.

Here are some key things to keep in mind as you shop.

Life insurance needs to cover two types of obligations: immediate and future. Immediate obligations are the things that need to be paid soon after your death. Future obligations are your family’s needs for years to come.

Some examples of immediate obligations include:

  • Funeral costs
  • Medical bills
  • Mortgage balances
  • Personal loans
  • Credit card debt

Future obligations can include:

  • Income replacement
  • Spouse’s retirement
  • Emergency savings fund
  • Children’s college tuition

A life insurance agent or financial planner can help you determine exactly how much coverage you’ll need. For now, here is an example using a basic life insurance calculator.

Imagine you’re the primary wage earner of a family of four with an annual salary of $75,000. You have a remaining mortgage balance of $55,000 and an outstanding credit card balance of $2,500.

Your spouse works, but you’d like to leave five years’ worth of income to establish an emergency savings fund. You’d also like to set aside $20,000 for each child for college tuition.

After factoring in an average funeral cost of around $7,500, your insurance needs are as follows:

  • Immediate need: $55,000 mortgage + $2,500 credit card + $7,500 funeral costs = $65,000
  • Long-term need: $375,000 income replacement + $40,000 college tuition = $415,000
  • Total need: $480,000

Your total need necessitates a life insurance policy with a face value of around $500,000.

– Average Male vs. Female Life Insurance Rates

To give you an idea of how much a life insurance policy will cost you, here is a breakdown of the combined average premium of the top 10 insurers by market share for a 20-year, $100,000 term policy for key demographics.

Demographic Annual Premium: Male Annual Premium: Female
25-year-old non-smoker $178.54 $160.57
25-year-old smoker $321.76 $248.75
35-year-old non-smoker $165.91 $178.54
35-year-old smoker $286.18 $321.76
45-year-old non-smoker $185.04 $165.91
45-year-old smoker $360.23 $286.18
55-year-old non-smoker $240.25 $185.04
55-year-old smoker $493.20 $360.23
65-year-old non-smoker $267.89 $240.25
65-year-old smoker $637.51 $493.20
Average non-smoker $406.94 $267.89
Average smoker $991.63 $637.51

Coverage Offered

Most companies offer a wide selection of different life insurance policies to meet varying financial needs. You can also customize many policies with additional riders that add extra protection for you and your loved ones.

– Types of Coverage Offered

Life insurance policies fall into one of two general categories, term or whole.

Term policies only pay if the death occurs within a set time frame, usually between 10-30 years.

Whole policies have no term and pay whenever a death occurs, regardless of age. Many also build cash value by placing a portion of your premiums into an interest-bearing account.

Whole policies can also come with two benefit options: fixed and increasing.

With a fixed death benefit, the policy premiums decrease over time as the cash value increases so the payout is always equal to the initial face value. This can be beneficial for those who don’t want to pay higher premiums in their later retirement years.

With an increasing death benefit, the premiums and face value remain the same over time. As the cash value increases, the overall death benefit increases.

Whole policies have multiple variations: traditional whole life, universal life, guaranteed universal life, indexed universal life, and variable universal life.

Read on for a brief overview of each policy type.

– Term

A term policy is payable only if the death of the insured occurs within a specified period or before a specified age.

Once the term has passed, the insurer cancels the coverage. There are generally no refunds on the premiums paid. Most policies can also be converted to a permanent policy before they expire.

– Whole

A traditional whole life policy (sometimes called ordinary life) is the most common form of permanent insurance. It is also one of the simplest. The insurer places a portion of your annual premiums in a cash account that grows at a fixed interest rate (typically around 3-8 percent).

Traditional whole life policies are the least risky option when it comes to permanent insurance as you are guaranteed positive growth. Cash accounts that are dependent on investments have the potential to lose money.

They are also the least flexible. Most of the time, you can’t change your death benefit or adjust your premium payments.

– Universal

Universal policies offer the flexibility to set monthly premiums, change coverage amounts, and make lump-sum payments to keep premiums low.

Your cash value grows at a fixed rate, similar to an ordinary life policy. Universal policies offer more flexibility than the traditional option, but investment options than other universal and variable policies.

– Indexed Universal

Indexed universal life policies have all the flexibility of a universal policy, along with the potential for higher cash value accumulation.

Rather than a fixed-interest savings account, indexed policies allocate the cash value amounts to an equity index account such as the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq 100. As the index grows, so does your cash value.

Indexed policies are riskier in that growth is not guaranteed. Because of that, some also come with the option to pause the index investment and temporarily allocate your cash value to a fixed-interest account.

– Variable

Variable policies allow you to invest your cash value in stocks, bonds, and money market mutual funds, similar to an IRA or 401K.

These policies come with the greatest risk. Depending on how the stock market performs, you could lose a significant portion of your cash value and possibly even see your face value decrease. Fortunately, some policies do come with minimum death benefit guarantees.

– Variable Universal

As their name implies, variable-universal policies combine the benefits of universal and variable coverage. You get the investment options of a variable policy and the flexibility to adjust your premiums and face values like a universal policy.

– Guaranteed Universal

Guaranteed universal life policies are one step between a term policy and a traditional whole life policy. They are permanent policies with fixed premiums and guaranteed no-lapse coverage.

The difference is that guaranteed universal policies do not accumulate a cash value. They are more like term policies that never expire as long as you make your premium payments.

– Guaranteed Acceptance Whole Life

Guaranteed accepted whole life policies are commonly referred to as final expense policies or burial insurance. They are special whole life policies with low face values meant only to cover funeral expenses and perhaps some small financial obligations such as credit card debt.

Your payments never go up, and your coverage never goes down as long as you live. Face values typically range from $2,000-$25,000. Because the face values are so low, they are often the most affordable permanent life insurance policies. They offer guaranteed acceptance with no medical exam.

Like guaranteed universal policies, guaranteed acceptance policies do not accumulate a cash value, which could be a drawback for someone who wants to use their policy as an investment.

– Burial & Final Expense

Burial and final expense policies are whole life policies with low face values meant only to cover funeral expenses and small financial obligations, like outstanding credit card debt.

Premiums are fixed, and your death benefit is guaranteed. Face values typically range from $2,000-$25,000.

Because the face values are so low, they are often the most affordable permanent life insurance policies. They offer guaranteed acceptance with no medical exam.

– Riders

Riders can be added to each policy to customize your coverage further. The most common riders are as follows:

  • Child Protection Rider: Provides life insurance coverage for all eligible children
  • Disability Waiver of Premium Rider: If you become disabled, your premiums will be waived for the duration of the disability or to the end of the policy term
  • Accelerated Death Benefit Rider: If you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness with less than six months to live, you can access up a portion of the policy death benefit up to a set maximum
  • Accidental Death Benefit Rider: Pays an additional death benefit on top of the base policy’s death benefit if the death resulted from qualifying accidental injuries
  • Guaranteed Insurability Rider: Allows you to increase your death benefit coverage in the future without additional underwriting
  • Spouse Term Rider: Allows you to insure your spouse under your policy

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– Factors That Affect Your Rate

Anything that increases your risk of an early death increases the chance the insurer will have to pay out on your policy. Higher risk leads to higher life insurance premiums.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common risk factors insurers take into consideration.

– Demographic

Several demographics can have a big impact on your life insurance premium.

Age: Age is one of the most important factors in determining insurability. After all, the older you are, the closer you are to dying. Some insurers also limit coverage amounts for people over certain ages.

Gender: Gender also plays a key role. Statistically, women have a longer life expectancy than men. Because of that, men nearly always pay higher premiums than women.

– Current Health & Family Medical History

Healthy people generally have a longer life expectancy. The healthier you are, the lower your premiums.

To determine your overall health, insurers will require you to fill out a health questionnaire and may request access to your medical records. Some require a complete medical exam and bloodwork. Even if a policy does not require a medical exam, underwriters still have access to public prescription and Medical Information Bureau (MIB) records.

Many health conditions also have a hereditary component. Therefore, insurers will also ask about the health history of your immediate family. A blemish on your family tree could increase your rate.

– High-Risk Occupations

By nature, some jobs carry a higher risk than others.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows police officers, firefighters, construction workers, and the like have higher incidences of accidental death than most. A dangerous job will likely result in a higher risk classification.

– High-Risk Habits

High-risk habits outside of work can also result in costlier life insurance.

The most common high-risk habit that insurers look for is tobacco use. Smokers almost universally pay higher rates than their non-smoking counterparts in every demographic. For example, looking back at the previous rate table, you can see that a 25-year-old male non-smoker pays an average of $178.54 a year for a 20-year, $100,000 term policy.

A 25-year-old smoker pays $321.76 for the same coverage. That’s an extra $2,864 over the life of the policy. That difference only grows higher the older you are.

In addition to smoking, insurers will also ask about any other high-risk hobbies, such as skydiving, skiing, flying, or any other regular activity deemed to be potentially dangerous.

A single excursion isn’t going to change your risk classification, but a regular, ongoing hobby could.

– Veteran or Active Military Status

Military status falls under the category of high-risk occupations. Most insurers charge higher rates to active duty military service members, and some don’t sell them policies at all.

– Getting the Best Rates

Life insurers base their premiums on three factors: mortality, interest, and company expenses.

Insurers use statistical mortality tables to estimate how many people in each demographic they insure are likely to die each year. They increase rates to minimize their losses based on that data.

Current interest rates also influence premiums. Just like a bank does with your deposits, insurers increase their profits by investing the premiums you pay in bonds, stocks, mortgages, etc. If they expect a lower return on those investments, they could raise premiums as a result.

A company’s operating expenses also come into play. Like any business, the more the company spends running it, the more they charge you for the product. Rates can also vary from state-to-state, though the NAIC is currently encouraging states to adopt laws that would provide more uniformity nationwide.

With so many variables at play, what can you do to get the best rates?

Many factors, such as gender and family medical history, are beyond your control. The best way to lower your rates is to change the areas you can.

First, stay healthy. A life insurance medical exam will look for the basics: BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Many of those measures can be improved through diet and exercise. If you do smoke, not only is it important to quit, it’s important to drop the habit as quickly as possible.

Some insurers require you to be tobacco-free for a year or more before they will consider giving you a non-smoking rate. You’ll have to prove it with a medical test, as well.

Next, buy early. As discussed, every year that passes before you buy a policy is going to result in a higher rate.

For example, the average rate on a 20-year, $100,000 policy for a 45-year-old male non-smoker is around $267 per year. That same policy for a 55-year-old costs $525. That 10-year jump represents an increase of $5,160 over the life of the policy.

Finally, it’s important to pay your premiums on time. Like any bill, late payments result in penalties and could even lead to the cancellation of your policy. If you have a policy canceled for non-payment, you can expect additional fees to get it reinstated, or higher rates at the next insurer.

Canceling Your Policy

Many policies (particularly universal policies) allow you to adjust your coverage if your financial situation changes during the course of your policy. If you do need to cancel your policy completely, you can do so at any time, though early termination could result in fees.

Many term policies impose penalties if the plan is canceled before a certain date (for example, if you cancel before 10 years on a 20-year policy).

When you cancel permanent plans, insurers typically charge a surrender fee, which is assessed against the cash value. The insurer will then pay you a surrender value, which is your cash value minus the fees.

Outside of the surrender value, there are rarely refunds on insurance premiums. The only time you can expect to receive a refund is if you prepaid premiums.

– How to Cancel

You can either cancel your policy through your life insurance agent or by requesting a cancellation form from customer support. The form will need to be filled out and submitted either electronically or via mail.

You can rarely cancel your policy online.

How to Make a Claim

The overall process of filing a death benefit claim follows a general industry standard:

  • Initiate a claim
  • Fill out company-specific paperwork
  • Submit the paperwork along with a death certificate and any other requested documents
  • Choose a disbursement method
  • Receive the benefits.

You can usually initiate a claim with your life insurance agent, over the phone with customer service, or through an online claim portal on your insurer’s website.

For a group policy, you can often file a claim through the employer who sponsored it.

To initiate a claim, you’ll need the following:

  • A certified copy of the death certificate
  • Eligibility information and signed beneficiary records from your employer
  • Police or fire reports from the investigating agency if your death is the result of an accident
  • Claim form

How to Get a Quote Online

Many insurers provide quotes for term policies on their respective websites. Rates for permanent policies are dependent on a lot more factors.

Because of that, few give online quotes for whole, universal, and variable policies online. Rather, the website will refer you to a local agent in your area to discuss your options and find your rates.

You can also use the convenient quote tools on this page to find rates from top insurers.

The Bottom Line

Aetna no longer sells life insurance policies, but you still have plenty of options for finding coverage. All of the information in this guide applies to their successor, The Hartford, and every other competitor on the market.

While shopping for a life insurance policy, remember these simple tips:

  • Buy from a reputable company
  • Compare policies
  • Get quotes

With that advice in mind in mind (along with the rest of this guide), you should be able to find the best policy to guarantee your family’s financial security no matter what life throws your way.

Life Insurance FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about life insurance.

#1 – Do insurers offer no-exam life insurance policies?

Depending on your age and health history, some insurers may waive the medical exams on term policies. Final expense and burial insurance are also usually no-exam policies.

#2 – Can I purchase supplemental coverage?

Many insurers offer Medicare supplement plans and long-term care coverage.

#3 – How do I pay my life insurance premiums?

You can typically have your payments automatically debited from your checking account every month by filling out an authorization form. You can also make manual electronic payments from a savings or checking account online.

#4 – How easy is it to change my beneficiary?

You will need to fill out a beneficiary change form, which can be filled and submitted directly online or by mail.

#5 – Can I make withdrawals on my life insurance policy?

Universal and variable policies allow for a partial withdrawal or partial surrender on your interest accrued during specified periods.

You can also take out loans against your cash value. Policy loans must be paid back with interest. If they aren’t repaid at the time of your death, you could reduce or forfeit your death benefit.

#6 – How long does it take insurers to pay death benefits on a life insurance policy?

Death benefits are typically paid within 30 days of processing a claim. There could be delays if the death was the result of an accident, crime, or if it occurred longer than two years prior.

#7 – Are the life insurance benefits taxable?

Life insurance benefits are non-taxable when they are paid directly to a beneficiary, such as a spouse or a child.

However, if you name your estate as the beneficiary, the benefits become a part of the estate and are then subject to estate taxes. The current maximum estate tax rates are nearly 40 percent.

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