pacemaker

Getting life insurance with a pacemaker

How does life insurance work when it comes to pacemakers?

Pacemakers are help your heart keep the right pace. They do this by stimulating it with electrical impulses to cause heart beats in the right times. There are a wide range of heart conditions that involve irregular heartbeats, so these devices save a lot of lives.

The technology has progressed a lot recently, and many life insurance providers, who may have previously been hesitant to offer cover to people with pacemakers, may now be more willing to offer tailored covered.

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How do I get life insurance with a pacemaker?

The two general options available are medical and no-medical life insurance. In both cases, however, you will generally need to disclose your pacemaker to the insurer and can expect higher premiums than many other people.

Counter-intuitively, insurers that do extensive medical tests in their applications may help you find lower premiums than no-medical life insurance providers, even with a pacemaker.

As the devices get more reliable, this may become increasingly true. It may also be particularly true for people with relatively stable and reliable cardiac conditions or who have had a pacemaker for a long time without incident.

Whether you might be able to find more effective cover with a full medical or a no-medical life insurance policy may depend on the underlying condition which necessitates a pacemaker in the first place. This underlying condition, rather than the pacemaker itself, is a much more accurate indication of the risk and many reputable, thorough insurers will want to consider this in detail.

For example, consider how insurers might respond to a few different common cardiac conditions that often necessitate pacemakers.

Tachycardia

This is a significantly elevated heart rate. It might be caused by a range of factors including alcohol abuse, medication side effects or certain diseases. Depending on the cause, a pacemaker might be a permanent or temporary measure to control your heart rate, which affects how an insurer will cover you. If it’s only temporary, then an insurer might be more hesitant to offer cover because your health may change significantly in the near future.

The cause of the tachycardia can also have an impact. For example, if you need a pacemaker for tachycardia as a result of substance abuse, then insurers may consider that the health issues may not be limited to cardiac problems.

Congenital heart blocks

A heart block has nothing to do with blocked arteries, but refers to the blockage of the cardiac electrical signals that control the beat of your heart. This problem can be present from birth, in which case it’s known as a congenital heart block. Since you’ve had a pacemaker installed for a long time (at least 18 years), your insurer may regard it as relatively safe and stable.

However, insurers will still ask whether you experience chest pains, discomfort or other sensations which may indicate problems down the line, while the age of the device may also play a part.

Bradycardia

Bradycardia (a slow heart beat) is one of the most straightforward uses for a pacemaker. The doctor adjusts it to an appropriate setting, and if one’s heart rate drops below the appropriate threshold, it can jolt it back up.

According to the European Society of Cardiology, patients who have pacemakers for bradycardia have their life expectancy restored to normal. As a result, you may be able to get premiums as normal, or almost normal, despite your pacemaker.

Other conditions

A range of other conditions, ranging from irregular heartbeats to some types of chronic heart disease, can necessitate the use of pacemakers as well. Overall, the impact on your life insurance premiums is due more to the underlying condition than the presence of a pacemaker itself.

As such, if you have a pacemaker for a relatively safe condition like bradycardia, you may find more effective cover with a thorough, full-medical life insurance provider, especially if you are otherwise in good health by declaring it as a pre-existing condition.

Conversely, if you have a more serious form of heart disease, especially a chronic one, then you might find yourself faced with near-unaffordable premiums or policies that specifically exclude cover for cardiac-related conditions. You may want to look into the different types of no-medical life insurance which might be available, such as group life insurance.

Similarly, if you have related conditions, such as diabetes, then you may want to look more at the no-medical options.

Questions an insurer may ask about your pacemaker

Insurers generally want to get as complete an understanding of your health issues as possible and will want to know about the underlying condition as well as catch any potential effects or interactions which may be a direct result of having a pacemaker.

  • Do you see a cardiologist regularly? Insurers want to know that you’re taking proactive steps to manage your health, and will often also want to see your previous test or examination results, such as x-rays, echocardiograms (EKGs) and more.
  • How long have you had the pacemaker? If it’s been implanted recently, such as within the last 12 months, insurers might decline cover until it’s had time to settle.
  • Are you taking any medications? This is generally asked of almost every applicant as a matter of course, but the insurer may look specifically for medications that can have cardiac effects or which may indicate an exceptionally severe condition.
  • Have you experienced any chest pains recently? These are generally not considered a good sign. Conversely, if you previously had chest pains which stopped after getting a pacemaker, then your insurer might take this relatively positively.

What if I’ve previously been denied cover due to my pacemaker?

Some insurers will accept what others have declined. An insurer without the staff or experience to accurately judge medical risks might err on the side of caution, while a larger or more dedicated life insurance provider might be able to get more accurate insight into your risk levels.

As such, being declined by one insurer shouldn’t be the end of your search, and you shouldn’t assume you’ll get the same response everywhere.

However, it’s also worth noting that insurers will typically ask whether you’ve previously applied for life insurance elsewhere, and if you were rejected, why. This will typically not affect your premiums, as it is not a specific indication of risk, but having an arm’s length list of previous applications might not improve your odds of getting cover.

Where to begin?

Large, prominent and well-supported insurers may be more likely to have the experience and resources to more accurately understand the medical risks associated with pacemakers and cardiac issues.

These insurers also generally focus on thorough, medical-test-required cover and as such may be a good place to begin your search. By starting at the top, you can determine if you might need to start looking at the non-medical life insurance options instead.

Alternatively, you may also be able to find the right cover with a life insurance broker. However, this may not be ideal if you’re looking to keep premiums down as brokerage fees might be included in your ongoing costs.

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Andrew Munro

Andrew writes for finder.com, comparing products, writing guides and looking for new ways to help people make smart decisions. He's a fan of insurance, business news and cryptocurrency.

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