Getting Burial Insurance or Life Insurance When You are Living with a Pacemaker

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You’ve always provided for your family as well as you could. You’d like that to stay the same even if you were to pass away.

Funerals are expensive nowadays, no matter what style you choose. And of course, all the regular expenses of life still go on. Your family doesn’t need more stress while they’re grieving.

So you’re considering getting burial and life insurance but there’s a catch…

You’re one of the 3 million people currently living with a pacemaker worldwide.

You might be worrying if you can even get burial insurance or life insurance with a pacemaker. If they do insure you, what will the rates be like?

First, let us calm your fears.

Yes, you absolutely can obtain insurance even if you have a pacemaker.

Now the process might be a little different and it will affect the rates with some companies.

But there’s no need to worry because we’re breaking down everything you need to know about obtaining burial or life insurance when you have a pacemaker.

What Is a Pacemaker

A pacemaker is a tiny electronic device that gets implanted in your chest. It stimulates your heart to beat at the correct rate.

A pacemaker might be needed to treat conditions where the heart either beats too fast or too slow. These can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • After a heart attack
  • Heart block
  • Sick Sinus Syndrome
  • Heart failure
  • Bradycardia

Installing a pacemaker is actually a fairly minor surgery. A surgeon will make a small incision in the chest then thread a noodle-like wire through a vein into the heart. This monitors the heart rhythm.

The surgeon confirms the leads are in the right place and then connects them to a battery-powered generator. The device is then programmed to get your heartbeat to the correct rate. Once that is adjusted, the pacemaker is inserted into a small pocket underneath your collarbone.

You will likely stay in the hospital overnight just so the healthcare team can make sure the pacemaker is working but after that much of your follow up is done remotely.

A pacemaker insertion does qualify as a heart or circulatory surgery and we’ll talk more about why this is important later.

The Type of Pacemaker That You Have Usually Doesn’t Matter

Pacemakers come in two varieties, single chamber and dual chamber.

A single-chamber pacemaker uses one wire in either the upper chamber or the lower chamber of the right side of the heart.

A dual-chamber pacemaker has one wire in the right upper chamber and one lead in the right lower chamber of your heart.

Insurance companies do not differentiate between these two types of pacemakers. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that any insurance company will ask you which type you have.

So this isn’t something that you need to worry about.

How Long Ago Your Pacemaker Was Implanted

In general, just having a pacemaker isn’t considered a major risk factor by final expense or life insurance companies.  But how long ago it was put in is one factor that will have some influence on the underwriting process.

The amount of time that has elapsed since your pacemaker was implanted will affect your premiums and any potential waiting periods for full coverage.

We’ll break this down in detail in the rate discussion section below.

What About Battery Changes?

Pacemaker batteries last anywhere from 5-15 years, but on average need to be changed every 6-7 years. Pacemaker battery changes are considered a minor outpatient procedure.

You likely won’t even stay in the hospital overnight unless you have other medical conditions.

Some burial and life insurance companies will consider a pacemaker battery change as a heart or circulatory system surgery while others will not.

This makes choosing the correct broker very important. An experienced insurance broker will know which insurance companies view a pacemaker battery change as surgery and can direct you to the ones that don’t.

The Insurance Application Process

People with pacemakers are rarely declined for insurance as long as their other health conditionals are stabilized.

The application process for burial insurance or life insurance can vary slightly from company to company, but here’s what you can generally expect.

All types of insurance companies will ask you about your tobacco use history, alcohol use, and drug use.

Insurance companies will also review your prescription medications. From this list, they can get an idea of what illnesses you have now or in the past from the medications that were prescribed to treat them.

Health Questions About Your Pacemaker

While an insurance company may or may not specifically ask about a pacemaker, they will ask you about and recent heart or circulatory surgeries.

As mentioned previously, having a pacemaker inserted does qualify as a surgery.

The good news is that there is also usually a timeframe specified in the question. 12 months or 24 months are the most common.

If your surgery or most recent generator battery change were outside of the window specified in the question, you can truthfully answer this question “No”.

The most important thing is to just be honest. Again, it is unlikely for you to be completely declined for life or burial insurance based on the presence of a pacemaker alone.

Will They Ask for Medical Records?

Most companies do not request your medical records, although in some instances it might actually be beneficial for you to provide some.

The underwriter will mostly be concerned with your underlying medical conditions (including the one that needed a pacemaker), how they affect your health, and how well your doctor has treated them.

These conditions will affect your rates, but will not likely stop you from obtaining insurance.

What Can I Expect for Rates and Waiting Periods

As mentioned above, the amount of time since your pacemaker was placed will be the biggest factor in determining your rates for burial insurance or life insurance.

You likely will be considered at higher risk for insurance purposes, but this should not stop you from applying.

Now, its a little tricky to pinpoint the actual costs. The amount of insurance coverage, type, and duration will all play a part. This is true even for someone without a pacemaker.

But, in general, this is what you can expect if you fall into the following categories.

My Doctor Just Told Me That I Need a Pacemaker

If your cardiologist just told you that you need a pacemaker or you are currently in the hospital waiting to have one implanted, you likely will have to wait for a short period of time to apply.

One the pacemaker insertion is complete and you’ve had a few follow-up appointments, you’ll fall into the category below.

My Pacemaker Was Put in Less Than 12 Months Ago

If your pacemaker was implanted less than a year ago you can still get life or final expense insurance, but you will have to pay a slightly increased premium (most commonly 15-30% more).

You might also have a 2-year waiting period. If you pass away within this period the insurance company will refund your premium with some interest and pay this out to your beneficiaries. After the two years, you will have regular coverage.

While the increased premiums and waiting period can’t be avoided, an experienced insurance agency can have your situation reevaluated when you reach the 1-year mark.

You may be able to apply for a lower rate and full coverage without the waiting period at that time.

I’ve Had My Pacemaker for More Than 12 Months

Now, most underwriting companies will look back 2 years when asking you about your health conditions. But there are some burial and life insurance companies that only look back 1 year.

An expert insurance agent will be able to direct you to them.

If you are asked about heart or circulatory system surgeries in the last 12 months, you can honestly say “no”. Barring other health issues, you could expect normal rates and instant coverage.

Even if you do have to disclose your pacemaker surgery, the increased premiums and waiting period won’t be as long. And your agent can reevaluate when you hit the 2-year mark.

It’s Been More Than 24 Months Since My Pacemaker Was Put in

Congratulations, you are most likely free and clear on the pacemaker issue.

All but the strictest life insurance or burial insurance companies will offer you their standard rates. And the ones that won’t are a small minority your agent can help you avoid.

You should be able to obtain insurance with immediate coverage and the smallest premium that is available.

In Conclusion

Don’t let having a pacemaker stop you from applying for burial insurance or life insurance.

You can get affordable rates and terms even if you are living with a pacemaker. Choosing the right insurance broker to work with is key.

An experienced insurance agent will have worked with many carriers over the years and helped multiple people in your exact same situation.

Contact us today and let us help you find the best company to meet your insurance needs.

About Al Kushner
Al Kushner
He is a recognized financial educator, best-selling author, speaker, underwriting specialist and the founder & CEO of Superior Mutual, an independent insurance agency. He has helped families and individuals preserve, protect, and pass on a legacy since 1986. His mission is helping hard working seniors keep more of what they have worked a lifetime to save.

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