When you buy a life insurance policy, you want to be confident that the company will be able to pay your beneficiaries even if the financial markets take a hit.
To guarantee this, life insurance companies are heavily regulated, with built-in protections that safeguard consumers and pay claims even if your insurance company does file for bankruptcy. To be safe, evaluate the financial health of an insurer before you buy a policy.
You’re protected if your life insurance company goes bankrupt
Insurance company bankruptcies have gone bankrupt before, but it happens very rarely.  And previous economic crises have helped the industry better prepare for market instability.
Regulators will usually try to rehabilitate an insurance company before liquidating it. If that proves insufficient, the company’s statutory reserves, reinsurance agreements, and state guaranty associations will help it meet its obligations to customers.
1. Statutory reserves
Life insurance companies are legally required to keep a specified amount of cash reserves on hand to pay out death benefits in a worst-case scenario. The exact amount varies from state to state and risk to risk, but it’s usually a minimum 8% to 12% of the insurer’s total revenue.
The actual amount kept in reserve depends on a company’s number of policyholders, potential benefits it might need to pay out, revenue, access to stocks and bonds, and more.
2. Reinsurance requirements
Reinsurance is protection that life insurance companies buy to insure their ability to pay out claims. By insuring their policies, insurance companies spread their risk of financial loss among several companies.
Reinsurance also helps life insurance companies pay out when there’s a surge in the death rate — whether from a natural disaster or a global health crisis.
Unless their policies are reinsured, insurers in the U.S. can only issue policies with a maximum limit of 10% of the company’s net worth.  So if a life insurer wants to grow, it has to be reinsured.
For policyholders, it means that if your insurer goes bankrupt, its reinsurer can pick up the slack. This limits risk for everyone and ensures that your beneficiaries still get the death benefit.
3. Mandatory membership in guaranty associations
Guaranty associations, such as the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations (NOLHGA), protect your policy if a provider does go under. Guaranty associations are funded by a portion of insurers’ profits, and membership in a guaranty association is mandatory for life insurance companies.
If a life insurance company is deemed insolvent, a guaranty association manages any liquidated assets and fills any obligations to creditors. The association transfers coverage for any living policyholders to another insurer. In that situation, if a policyholder passes away, their beneficiaries still get the death benefit, but the amount will vary from state to state.
The death benefit from a guaranty association is usually capped at $300,000 and $100,000 for the policy’s cash value if there is one.  The amount paid out could vary based on the state where you reside and can be higher in some states.
Are guaranty associations reliable?
Guaranty associations are regulated by state governments to ensure legal compliance and consumer protection. Since its founding in 1983, the National Organization of Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Associations has assisted its member guaranty organizations in guaranteeing more than $28.7 billion in coverage benefits and contributed $9.7 billion toward fulfillment of insurer promises. 
Choosing a financially strong life insurance company
The first thing you can do to protect yourself from a life insurance company’s bankruptcy is to choose a licensed insurer that is in good financial health. You can research an insurer’s financial standing with credit agencies such as AM Best, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s.
It’s good to know that there are protections if your provider files for bankruptcy, but it’s better to know that your life insurance company has very little chance of going bankrupt in the first place.
AM Best financial ratings and definitions
The best-known ratings agency is AM Best — it’s one of the rating systems that Policygenius uses to choose which providers we work with. We only work with insurance companies that have at least an “excellent” (A-) financial rating, so when you purchase insurance through Policygenius, you know your policy is going to be with a financially healthy carrier with little chance of bankruptcy.
Policygenius’s life insurance reviews break it down for you so you can get a sense of each company’s financial strength.
Is life insurance FDIC-insured?
The FDIC doesn’t insure life insurance companies or policies, even if you buy the policy from an FDIC-insured financial institution. The FDIC’s function is to insure money deposited in banks, such as checking and savings accounts and money orders. As a rule, the agency doesn’t cover insurance products or investment accounts.