AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company has announced that it is offering new rates on its Athena Universal Life policy with a built-in lapse protection rider.

AXA Equitable said that Athena Universal Life – Lapse Protection Rider (Athena UL-LPR) provides a guaranteed death benefit for a premium that may often be less expensive than whole life insurance.

The lapse protection rider, which is automatically included in every Athena UL-LPR policy, ensures coverage will not lapse for a specific period of time – even if the policy’s account value falls to zero.

With Athena UL-LPR policy, premiums are guaranteed not to increase, regardless of changes in interest rates or policy charges, so long as certain requirements are met. The premium requirements can’t be increased by AXA Equitable for any reason.

Depending on current and anticipated future needs, the Athena UL-LPR product also offers a choice of optional riders for an additional cost, including a long-term care services rider.

Claude Methot, senior vice president and chief product officer at AXA Equitable Life, said: Today, we’ve enhanced Athena UL-LPR by offering more competitive rates in ‘short-pay’ situations, in which the policyholder makes larger but a limited number of planned premium payments in early policy years, rather than smaller payments over a longer period.