Hundreds of Walmart stores have a new product on shelves along with groceries, electronics, and home supplies: life insurance.
MetLife started selling prepaid life-insurance cards last month at about 200 Walmart stores in Georgia and South Carolina. It’s a pilot program to bring one-year, non-renewable policies into the retail market, right in front of customers’ eyes as they browse other consumer goods, a MetLife spokesman said.
The MetLife cards in Walmart are packaged in colorful boxes with the company’s trademark, Snoopy. The boxes are color coded to mark different prices for four age groups: blue for 18-44; yellow for 45-54; green for 55-59 and red for 60-65. MetLife offers two different death benefits — $10,000 or $25,000 — and price depends on a person’s age category.
For example, $10,000 in coverage would cost $69 for a person between 18 and 44 years old, and $25,000 in coverage would be $429 for a person 60 to 65 years old.
The policies are only good for a year. If the card expires before the card holder, the insurer doesn’t pay.
The customer can buy another non-renewable one-year policy the following year. Each time, however, a the customer has to answer questions about his or her health. The program was never officially announced by the company, which is testing the promotion to see how it works.
“There are many Americans who want and know they need life insurance, but they don’t have it,” said MetLife spokesman Shane Winn. “Taking the first step can be difficult, and we know from research that providing a convenient, simple, affordable product can make that first step possible.”
MetLife, which has major operations in Bloomfield, isn’t the only company to bring insurance into the retail space.
In January, Aetna announced it was starting to offer wellness cards at Best Buy. For $19.99, a person could buy a card with a customer code on the back that gave the consumer access to one of three online programs: a five-week program for people quitting cigarettes that gets to the root causes of smoking; a stress-management program that explains how to implement calming techniques; and a 12-week weight management program that helps people “change their emotional relationship with food,” according to Aetna.
The MetLife policies available at Walmart are different from usual life insurance plans, which have an annual premium and continue coverage for years. The policies sold at Walmart expire after one year.
The cards are sold at Walmart stores, but a customer isn’t guaranteed coverage just by checking out at the cash register. Coverage is only approved after a potential policyholder calls a toll-free number and answers six questions about his or her health. If the customer is rejected, he or she can return the card at Walmart to get a cash refund.
The life insurance industry, in general, has made strides to make coverage more attractive — and more simple — to young professionals. MetLife launched a campaign around the Super Bowl titled “I can do this,” which was an attempt to demystify life insurance. Last year, AXA Equitable introduced a video game about life insurance. Separately, health insurers are improving the way they market directly to customers as the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, mandates online health exchanges for the sale of health plans starting in the fall of 2013 for the following year.
Winn, the MetLife spokesman, said it was too early to tell if the company will offer the cards at Walmarts in other states.