You have a couple of options here when it comes to the annuity that you purchased. If you are concerned about the solvency of the insurance company that purchased the annuity you can always look up their ratings at a free website such as insure.com I have paste the link below so that you can research the company further.
In addition, because you have owned the annuity for 8 years you may be out of the surrender period and able to either 1035 exchange it to another annuity provider of your choice or look to cash out of the product altogether. You should contact Transamerica Advisors and look into what the surrender value of the contract is. You can request an "in force illustration" or a recent copy of your statement should give you this information to determine whether or not that is a viable option.
If you need additional assistance I would recommend that you work with an annuity or life insurance expert who can help you navigate these waters and answer questions.
ML (Merrill Lynch) Life was purchased by Aegon and the name was changed to Transamerica Advisors. They have an A+ rating with AM Best. It's not the top rating, but I would not be concerned about their solvency. Based on your statement that you have no control over the continued participation, I'm assuming that you purchased an immediate annuity. Am I correct. If you're receiving distributions under annuitization, then you are stuck with Transamerica Advisors. I would not be concerned.
I agree with the comments made by the other advisors. The key is to determine if the annuity you purchased is fixed or variable as they each have their own set of guidelines to follow. As David mentioned you can evaluate Transamerica Advisors rating at insure.com to determine their solvency.
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The company you are with now, Transamerica, is a highly rated company. To find out more you may call the SEC or the state security commission to get any additional info.
Howard, I would not be so concerned with the solvency of Transamerica. Though I cannot predict the future, they appear to be very stable. Eight years ago was pretty close to the heyday of great living benefits for annuities. Though you may be out of your surrender period, you should look in to whether you have some riders that cannot be replaced today. If you do, you might want to stay with it. If you have nothing special and you are out of surrender charges, you may want to roll it in to an IRA investment account and lower your expenses. Call Transamerica and discuss what options you have. Typically, they are very professional and will explain your benefits. They probably will not, however, advise you that it is a great product or a terrible product.