2019’s Best Life Insurance Companies Evaluated by Agents Who Know.
Who are the best life insurance companies in 2019? With so many insurers in the marketplace today, it’s really impossible to say that there is just one best. Let’s be honest – you’ve probably seen a lot of articles online that tell you who the best life insurance company is.
But the problem with these articles is that most of them are written by bloggers and media sites that have never actually interacted or worked with any of these carriers – ever.
Our Evaluation Method – Or, Why One Insurance Company is Better than the Rest
A key benefit to taking advice from an independent life insurance agent is that we are not a blogger or a consumer review website where just one bad conversation can cause someone to leave a disgruntled review about an insurance company.
We work with more than 40 life insurance carriers on a daily basis, so we know what to look for. We also know how to navigate the company’s underwriting guidelines to find the best company for you – we know better than to try and make up some overall general, one-size-fits-all assessment and say that one insurer is better than another one.
After all, how can someone tell you what the best life insurance provider is for you before they even know what it is that you need?
Given that, we have broken down our top picks for the best life insurance companies for 2019. These picks are based on various categories. Some companies are stronger in certain categories than are others, but we will give you a real, non-biased opinion that is coming from somebody who actually submits business to these carriers every day, deals with their claims teams every day, and interacts daily with their underwriters.
So, without further adieu, here are our top picks for the best life insurance companies in 2019:
Best Traditional / Fully Underwritten Coverage
Fully underwritten life insurance can provide you with a policy, often at a lower premium price, provided that you meet the health and other criteria that are outlined by the particular life insurance company.
With many upper-echelon life insurance carriers that are out there in the marketplace, it was tough to pick the very best one. But overall, in terms of its traditional / fully underwritten coverage, we went with Banner Life Insurance Company.
Banner Life and William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York are the companies that issue life insurance coverage under the Legal & General America brand.
Banner Life underwrites the entire INDIVIDUAL, as versus just a certain issue that could be considered an “impairment.” The company’s philosophy is to look at the total individual who is under consideration for coverage, touching every aspect in determining the best possible rate classification – every time.
Banner Life Insurance Company works with an expert team of medical directors in order to gain the necessary insight that is required to align best the mortality risk presented with the premium that is ultimately charged.
There are other areas where Banner Life Insurance Company stands out, too. For example, family history matters. As of August 2012, the company no longer considers a family history of cancer as being a factor that would prevent consideration from the company’s Preferred classes of underwriting (unless there are features in the applicant’s family history that would suggest that there may be a hereditary cancer syndrome).
In addition, there is a long list of health conditions that an applicant may have that could still render them eligible for a Preferred Plus rating through Banner Life.
- Cigarette smokers 3 years out
- Clients with treated Hypercholesterolemia
- Clients with treated Hypertension
- Clients with a combination of treated HTN/cholesterol
- Clients with treated or untreated total cholesterol under 300
- Clients who participate in recreational scuba diving up to 100 feet
- Clients with a family history of cancer*
*Note: Each of these health issues may have certain conditions and/or exceptions that apply.
Given its more attractive underwriting guidelines, Banner Life Insurance Company has a key focus on protecting wealth for its clients and policyholders.
This insurer has been in the life insurance business for more than 180 years, and today, Legal & General is considered to be the 7th largest insurance company in the words (as measured by assets under management). The company also has high ratings from the insurer rating agencies, which include an A+ from A.M. Best, a AA- from Standard & Poor’s, and an AA- from Fitch.
Best Life Insurance Company for Smokers / Tobacco Users
For those who are tobacco users – which can entail cigarette, pipe, and cigar smoking, as well as chewing tobacco or use of any other nicotine surrogates – the price for life insurance coverage can oftentimes be double, or even triple, that of a non-smoker, with all other factors being equal.
The best life insurance company for smokers, if you are a tobacco user, is the carrier who gives you the best chance to medically qualify at a preferred tobacco rate. As you can see in the example below this is how rates would look for a 40-year-old male at each rates class for a $250,000 20 year term policy.
You can see how much the preferred smoker rate will save an insured.
Also, Lincoln and Prudential could consider some of these types of users for their non-tobacco rates.
- Chew/Dip users
- Marijuana users
- Cigar users
- Nicotine Patch users
- Pipe Smokers
Best Life Insurance Company If you’ve Filed for Bankruptcy
While you may not think that filing for bankruptcy would affect your ability to purchase life insurance, the reality is that in addition to reviewing health details, insurance carriers will also oftentimes look at financial factors when deciding whether or not to take on an applicant for coverage.
There are often certain life and health-related factors that are associated with filing for bankruptcy, such as depression and even possible suicide, that can make an applicant more risky to an insurance company.
Likewise, when a person files for bankruptcy, it obviously has an effect on their financial situation. This, too, can make an insurance company take a closer look, as there may or may not be any assets for the applicant to protect.
With regard to the best life insurance company for those who have claimed bankruptcy, there was actually a tie between three top carriers. These are Banner Life, Prudential, and Lincoln Life Insurance Company.
Best Life Insurance Company If You Have HIV
Those who have been diagnosed with HIV will often have difficulty obtaining life insurance coverage. However, over the past few years, some carriers have stepped up and started offering life insurance protection. The best carriers in this category are John Hancock and Symetra.
Symetra will allow an applicant to obtain permanent coverage of up to $1 million. If you apply for coverage with either of these carriers, though, it is important to know that some specific criteria must be met.
For example, with Symetra, the proposed insured must be at least age 35 or older.
Other factors include the following:
• HIV+ diagnosis was made at least three years before applying for coverage
• The applicant’s family health history must be disclosed
• The applicant must also currently be on HAART treatment
• The applicant’s medical history will be reviewed – in particular, all virus load count (and this will typically be reviewed ongoing, every six months)
• There must be no other significant health issues
And, while it is possible to secure life insurance coverage through Symetra if you have HIV, the policy will have a minimum Table rating of 6 (or 250%). This means that the premium for the coverage will be a minimum of 2.5 times higher than that of a Standard policy rating, all other factors being equal.
John Hancock Life Insurance Company offers both term and permanent life insurance coverage to the applicant with HIV. These policies must have a minimum face amount of $250,000 (and a maximum of $2 million). Here, too, there are some set criteria that must be met by the applicant, such as:
• Being between age 30 and 65
• A minimum of five years of compliance with ART – with no lapses or delays in treatment
• A CD4 count of 350 cells/mm3 or higher for at least two years, including a current CD4 count
• Current and prior two-year viral loads must be undetectable
• Current negative hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing
The applicant must also be followed and monitored ongoing by a qualified physician.
Best Life Insurance Company for Simplified Issue or No Medical Exam
While a simplified issue or no medical exam policy may be beneficial to those who have health issues, the even bigger advantages of going with a simplified issue policy are the speed of underwriting, and no blood and urine testing.
This means that there are no cholesterol level readings, as well as testing for A1C levels, creatine levels and many other things that a life insurance company can find out about you with your blood and urine specimens.
In this case, while there isn’t necessarily a better chance of being approved with these types of policies, there are just fewer things for the insurance company to rate you on, in turn, speeding up the approval process – sometimes to even the same day that you apply for the policy. So, if you have numerous motor vehicle infractions or you take an inordinate number of prescription medications, you could be declined for the coverage, or you could be approved at a higher rate of premium.
In this category, we choose SBLI (Savings Bank Life Insurance Company). There are several reasons for this pick. First, SBLI offers no medical exam coverage for all rate classes – which opens up the opportunity to get better placement, as well as a better premium rate, even with no paramedic exam required. SBLI is the first ever carrier to offer Preferred Plus Rates with no medical exam needed.
In addition, SBLI offers face amounts of coverage up to $500,000 – which is on the higher end for life insurance policies that don’t require a medical examination to qualify. On its no exam term life, policies can be purchased for 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, or even 30-years, depending on the age of the applicant.
SBLI has been in the insurance industry since 1907, so the company has well over a century of experience – which means it has endured through the Great Depression, along with numerous market and economic ups and downs.
The company is strong and stable financially, and it has a great reputation for paying out claims quickly. This is backed up with its high insurer ratings, which include an A (Excellent) from A.M. Best Company, and an A- (Strong) from Standard & Poor’s. SBLI also has an A+ grade from the Better Business Bureau.
Best Pre Existing Conditions Carrier
While some people are easily able to qualify for life insurance based on their good health, others may not be quite so lucky. The good news is, though, that just because you have certain health issues, it doesn’t mean that you have to go without life insurance coverage altogether – and, not only are there coverage options for you, but there are often several alternatives from good, solid life insurance carriers.
Here again, we have several companies that are good at insuring high-risk individuals, so we went with Banner, Prudential, and AIG. We’ve used these companies for years, and continue to recommend them, particularly for life insurance applicants who are considered to be higher risk.
For example, with Banner Life, we were able to place a life insurance policy for a female who was three years out of treatment from breast cancer. The company issued a policy at a standard rate with an extra flat charge on the premium for three years, and then the premium will move back to the standard rates.
With AIG, we had a female applicant approved whose T2 had squamous cell cancer/melanoma, as well as non-cancerous moles, and another female who was approved, even though she suffered from abnormal kidney function.
We also had an applicant who was approved by AIG, even with her history of multiple strokes and seizure treatment. This particular applicant was also receiving VA service disability. But even with their higher risk health issues, all of these individuals are not protected with life insurance coverage.
Lowest Cost Life Insurance Company
The purchase of life insurance protection will typically include premium cost considerations. And, while buying a life insurance policy should not be based solely on its premium price, it can be helpful to know where to turn when looking to save some money and provide coverage and peace of mind for your loved ones.
When reviewing inexpensive life insurance coverage, we wanted to make sure that cheap life insurance rates didn’t equate to “cheap” life insurance coverage. So, in addition to comparing premium quotes, we also took it a few steps further and looked at the companies’ ratings, and customer satisfaction.
We also want to point out that, because all situations are different, there really isn’t just one single insurance company that will always have the lowest premium cost. That is because there is a long list of criteria that will ultimately determine how much your insurance coverage will cost. And, if you are in excellent health, there will likely be numerous insurance carriers that will provide you with excellent rates.
Again, it is important to note that, just like any other product or service that you purchase, the prices can often vary, based on the specific parameters – which is why most people will do some price comparisons before moving forward with a purchase. So, in order to truly find the lowest cost life insurance company for you, it can be beneficial to work with an independent life insurance agency that can offer coverage from numerous different carriers. Not only will you be able to make a direct cost comparison that is based on your age, gender, and other coverage parameters, but you will also be able to do so in an unbiased way, since independent life insurance brokers don’t typically have an incentive to sell one insurer over another.
Best for Financial Strength
Although it isn’t typically something that people do before purchasing life insurance coverage, it can be wise to check out an insurer’s financial strength ratings. This can help you to get a better idea of an insurer’s stability, as well as its ability to pay its claims.
Getting the best grade from all four of the major rating agencies can be a difficult task. However, there is one company that currently stands in that position. New York Life Insurance Company (as well as its subsidiary, New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corporation), have both earned the highest financial strength ratings that are awarded to an insurer. These include an A++ by A.M Best, an AA+ from Standard & Poor’s, an Aaa from Moody’s Investor Service, and a AAA by Fitch Ratings.
A close second is Northwestern Mutual. In addition to being noted as one of the “World’s Most Admired” companies in Fortune Magazine’s 2015 annual survey, the company has extremely high insurer ratings, which include an A++ from A.M. Best (the highest possible), a AAA from Fitch Ratings (also the highest possible), a Aaa from Moody’s Investors Service (ditto), and an AA+ from Standard & Poor’s, which is the second highest possible rating.
Best Term Conversion Guidelines
If you’re not familiar with a policy conversion option, this is the ability to “convert” a term life insurance policy over to a permanent life insurance option. By converting a term policy to a permanent policy, you can oftentimes lock in both your coverage and your premium, for the remainder of your life.
In many cases, being able to convert your policy from a term to permanent policy will NOT require the insurance company’s underwriters to take another look at your health, to qualify.
Today, many life insurers offer the option to convert. But as far as the best life insurance company in this area, we went with Mutual of Omaha.
One reason for this is because you have the option to convert up to age 75, where most other companies will only allow conversion up to age 70. That additional five years can make a big difference, too – especially if an insured contracts an adverse health issue during that time.
We had a few runner-ups in this category, too. These include Lincoln Life Insurance Company, Ameritas, and North American Life Insurance Company.
Lincoln offers competitive rates for people under and over age 50 at the time of application – and, on the company’s LifeElements level term policy – which provides coverage for up to 30 years – you are able to convert over to a permanent life insurance policy that has the same death benefit, with no underwriting required.
Ameritas is another well established and highly rated company (A+ from Standard & Poor’s and A from A.M. Best). With this insurer, you can generally convert from term to permanent coverage with no medical exam, and you may be able to put conversion credits towards the new coverage.
With North American Life, insureds can typically convert term coverage over to a permanent policy during the level term period, or through age 69 – whichever is earlier – and without a medical exam. This company has been in the insurance arena since the 1880s, so they have a long-standing reputation in the industry.
Best Policy Riders
Adding additional riders to a life insurance policy can be a great way to help “customize” the coverage to better-fit current and/or future anticipated needs. Some of the most popular riders that we see added include Disability Income, Critical Illness, and Chronic Illness
When it comes to having the best policy riders, there was actually more than just one insurance company that we felt was best. One reason for this is because there is a long list of life insurance policy riders to choose from today. So, the best life insurance company for you in this area is likely to be the one that provides the policy “customization” option(s) that you need.
Our picks for the best life insurance companies for policy riders include (in no particular order):
Living Benefit Riders
What would a check for $25,000, or $50,000, or $100,000 mean to you if you were stricken with a heart attack, stroke, cancer or a severe illness? With a living benefit rider on your life insurance policy, receiving these funds could be a possibility.
A living benefits rider on a life insurance policy allows a policy owner to “accelerate” the payout of the policy’s death benefits. This will typically require that the insured is diagnosed with a particular health condition and/or needs assistance with basic daily living activities.
By being able to access the policy’s proceeds, the insured can use the funds for any number of needs, such as paying for medical expenses, travel costs to and from treatments, or any other item of their choosing.
Some carriers will allow you to accelerate and receive up to 95% of the death benefit amount. The premium may then be adjusted going forward so that you are paying for the remainder of the death benefit. And, upon death, the policy’s beneficiary will receive the amount of the death benefit that remains in the policy.
In the living benefit riders category, we chose Phoenix life. With this company, you may be able to accelerate up to 95% of the policy’s death benefit if you qualify based on any of the following:
Critical illness – This includes heart attack, stroke, cancer, kidney failure, major organ transplant, and/or ALS
Chronic illness – Chronic illness qualification means that you are unable to perform, without substantial assistance for at least 90 days, at least two of the following six activities of daily living: bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, and / or transferring, or that you are diagnosed with severe cognitive impairment.
Terminal illness – This means that you are terminally ill, with a life expectancy of 12 months or less.
Best Long Term Care Rider
Today, because people are, on average, living longer lives, long-term care has become a major issue – especially due to its cost. A stand-alone long-term care insurance policy can be extremely costly. And, if you already have certain health issues, you may not qualify for this type of insurance coverage. Enter the long-term care benefit rider on life insurance policies.
With a long term care rider, you can accelerate the life insurance policy’s death benefit to pay for long-term care needs. These can include expenses for home health care, assisted living, and / or care that is received in a nursing home or adult day care center. The money may also be used for other qualifying services – or for any need that you see fit.
In this category, we chose Nationwide. This company’s CareMatters option is extremely flexible.
Unlike reimbursement LTC products that carry restrictions on certain expenses, CareMatters® helps clients receive the care they want and need at claim time.
Key features include:
100% guaranteed monthly cash benefit*
No restrictions, including the option to pay for informal care from family and friends
No monthly bills or receipts to submit
The most significant benefit with this rider is the cash indemnity benefits. Once the policy owner qualifies for long-term care, the entire monthly benefit amount is sent to the policy owner every month. Excess benefits that are not needed for long-term care can be used for any other need.
Once the insured person qualifies for benefits and satisfies the elimination period (90 calendar days), the long-term care benefits will help the policy owner cover the costs of qualified care, including:
• Home health care
• Nursing home care
• Assisted living
• Adult day care
• Family care (receive care from people you already know and trust by paying a family member or friend to care for you)
• Household services (cleaning person, pet sitter)
• Home safety improvements (guard rails, ramps, handicap accommodations, accessibility upgrades)
• Certified alternative-style long-term care services
• State-certified long-term care coverage options developed in the future
CareMatters is available to those who are between the age of 40 and 75 who are seeking long-term care coverage with the financial protection of life insurance, and flexibility of benefit use. And, because this rider is built on a life insurance policy, there is death benefit funds to leave to heirs, as well as the assurance that you will always get back the premium that you put in.
Disability Income Rider
The disability income rider can provide financial protection to the policy holder if he or she becomes disabled due to an illness or injury and is unable to work. There are actually a couple of ways this coverage can work. For instance, it could pay out a monthly income of 1 or 2% of the policy’s face amount. It can also waive the monthly premium on the policy – which can help to keep the policy in force, even if the insured isn’t able to pay the future premiums on it.
Here we chose three companies – Assurity, Transamerica, and United of Omaha.
With Assurity, the rider is available to add to a life insurance policy for those who are between the ages of 18 and 60, and who are also a Table 4 risk class or better. The amount of the monthly benefit can range between $300 and $3,000. (Note that there are some limits to this amount. For instance, it is limited to 60% of the insured’s gross income – up to $3,000 per month in most states. In California, this limit is 40% of the individual’s gross monthly income. Also, the amount that is paid out per month cannot exceed 1.5% of the face amount of the base life insurance policy).
The disability benefits can be paid out for up to two years after the insured satisfies an elimination period of 90 days. Here, the coverage period will run to age 60, or to the end of the level premium period – whichever occurs sooner. If an insured is already under claim, the benefits will continue until he or she is age 62.
Transamerica also offers a top-rated living benefit rider. This is available to those who are between age 18 and 50, and if an insured qualifies, monthly benefits of between $300 and $2,000 will be paid out, after they have satisfied a 90 day waiting period. As with Assurity, the Transamerica rider also has some limits in that the monthly dollar amount of benefit is limited to 66% of the insured’s income, up to $3,000 per month, and the benefit cannot exceed 2% of the base policy’s face amount. Benefits can be paid out for up to two years.
The coverage period with Transamerica’s disability rider runs up to the insured’s age 60, or to the end of the level premium period – whichever occurs sooner. And, if already under claim, the benefits will be paid out to the insured until they reach the age of 62.
United of Omaha offers a disability rider on its Term Express life insurance products. The issue age to obtain this rider is between 18 and 50, with monthly benefit amounts that can range between $250 and $3,000. This amount can be limited, though, to 60% of the insured’s gross monthly income, up to $3,000 per month, or to 1.5% of the base policy amount. These benefits are paid out after the insured undergoes a 90 day waiting period.
The United of Omaha plan rider has an option of either an 18-month or a 30-month benefit period. Coverage can last to age 60 or the end of the level premium period, whichever happens first. If the insured is already on the claim, the benefits can continue.
With this plan, the definition of disability is “any occupation” (as versus “own occupation”). This means that as long as the insured is unable to perform the duties of any occupation that he or she is qualified to do, the benefits would be paid out.
Best Guaranteed Issue Companies
In some cases, an individual may not be able to qualify for a life insurance policy that requires full underwriting. This could be due to advanced age and / or because of an adverse health condition.
With a guaranteed issue policy, though, there is no underwriting to contend with. In fact, as long as you continue to pay the premium, the policy will be issued and will remain in force. One type of life insurance coverage that frequently falls under the guaranteed issue category is burial insurance.
Burial insurance – which is also often referred to as final expense or funeral insurance – is geared towards paying out funds that will cover the cost of the insured’s funeral, and other final expenses, such as a memorial service, a burial plot and headstone, flowers, etc.
The coverage on these types of policies is typically in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 – although in some cases, it can be more. When you purchase a burial / final expense life insurance policy, it is important to understand how the death benefit will be paid out. This is because some policies will pay out 100% of the stated benefit, regardless of when the insured dies.
In other cases, though, a graded death benefit may be used. This means that only a portion of the benefit will be paid out, or only the premiums paid in (possibly with some additional interest), to the beneficiary if the insured dies within the first two years of being covered. (This payout method is to help in hedging the insurance company’s risk, as many burial policies are purchased by individuals who are older. Also, these policies do not typically require a medical exam in order to qualify, so the insured can represent more risk of a payout to the insurance carrier).
We had several picks in this area, including American General, Gerber Life, Kemper, MetLife, and Mutual of Omaha. A comparison chart lists these companies’ burial expense policy details.
Best for DUI History
Having a history of DUI can hinder the ability to get life insurance coverage – especially at a low cost. The biggest reason for this is because most life insurance carriers will consider a history of DUI as riskier, and in turn, it heightens the chances that the insurance company may have to pay out a claim. For best with DUI history, we chose Banner Life Insurance Company.
With Banner Life, applicants who have no DWI, DUI, reckless driving, license revocation or license suspension in the past three years are considered for a standard plus rate class.
Best Life Insurance Company for Applicants Who are Overweight
Life insurance underwriter will look at many factors when determining your eligibility for coverage, as well as when determining the appropriate amount of premium to charge if your application for coverage is approved. One of the critical criteria that are examined is your height and weight – particularly your weight concerning your height.
For people who are overweight, it could cause an issue with being approved for life insurance coverage – at least at a favorable premium rate. This is because being overweight could lead to some severe health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.
There are, however, some life insurance companies that will look more favorably on overweight applicants than others. For that reason, we choose two companies that we feel fare well in this category. These are Phoenix and Prudential Life Insurance Company.
As an example, with Phoenix, the underwriters will give an applicant a huge “cushion,” as compared to most other carriers.
Prudential also underwriter those who are overweight in a somewhat similar manner. Prudential is best if you need over $500,000 in death benefit and Pheonix is not an option. Prudential has the most aggressive substandard height and weight chart around.
While just a few pounds may not seem like a lot, if you are right on the borderline on the height and weight factors, it could mean the difference between getting a Preferred or a Preferred Plus rate – and that can add up over 30 years.
Best Life Insurance Company for High Cholesterol
Having a high cholesterol level could make you more of a risky candidate for life insurance coverage. This is because high cholesterol can put you at risk of certain medical issues, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke. Because of this higher risk, it could have an impact on the premium you pay for life insurance – or even whether or not you will qualify for a policy at all.
In the category of the best life insurance company for high cholesterol, we went again with SBLI. With SBLI, you can have high cholesterol and control it with medications and still get preferred premium rates.
In this case, if you do have high cholesterol, SBLI tends to be the most “forgiving” company in that it will allow an applicant to have a reading of 5.0 CHL/HDL Ratio and total cholesterol of 120 – 300 range for preferred plus rates. This is the case, regardless of whether the high cholesterol issue is being treated or it remains untreated
Best company for a table shave situation
If you can not qualify for a standard life insurance rate, an insurance company can rate the policy and add additional premium known as a table rate. The best company if you need a table shaved from an underwriting approval is Nationwide. We have had the most success with Nationwide when it comes to these situations.
Also, if a carrier will not shave a table then look to Banner. They rate sub-standard rates off of a standard plus rate class vs. common carriers standard rate, which can make a huge difference in premium.
Best Life Insurance Company for Foreign Travel
While you may enjoy traveling to foreign countries, doing so could have an effect on your life insurance coverage if the unexpected should occur while you are away from home. For this reason, if you have a history of foreign travel, and you plan to continue doing so, there are some companies that may be better to obtain your life insurance coverage from.
In this case, we went with Prudential. When applying for your life insurance with Prudential, though, the underwriters will still want to know about where you are going, how long you will be there, the purpose of your travel, and approximately how long you typically spend outside of the United States in any given year.