Getting insurance for people with heart problems is significantly more difficult compared to those on a better health class rating simply because of the higher health risk involved.
What are your chances of getting life insurance approval with a defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker installed?
Here’s the quick answer:
You can still get approved for life insurance even if you are a pacemaker or defibrillator patient.
However, you’ll most likely need to work with an insurance agent if you want to have better chances of getting a policy.
In the next few sections, we’ll take a look at the different factors involved in getting life insurance for people using defibrillators and pacemakers.
What is a defibrillator?
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) or automated implantable cardioverter defibrillator (AICD) is a device that goes inside the body (usually under the collarbone) and is attached into the heart and monitors for very rapid beats or chaotic beats that may cause cardiac arrest.
When it detects this sort of activity, it can send small, painless, electrical signals to the heart to restore it back to the normal heart rate.
Modern defibrillators (ICD) have the optional capability to serve as a pacemaker, stimulating the heart if its rate goes too slow.
Who needs an ICD?
ICDs are very useful in preventing sudden deaths in heart patients who suffer from fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia.
A doctor may recommend an ICD if the patient is suffering from life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia that may have been caused by:
- A heart attack or cardiac arrest
- A congenital heart disease that may trigger a sudden cardiac arrest
- Brugada syndrome
- Long QT syndrome
While there’s a possibility of living a near-normal lifestyle while having an ICD installed, there are certain do’s and don’ts for people living with ICD and/or pacemakers.
Aside from having some specific environments or situations trigger a negative effect on your ICD, certain physical activities should be avoided and specific actions taken to ensure that your ICD is in tip-top condition.
So what does this all mean?
It means that from an insurance company’s standpoint, people living with and ICD and pacemaker are tagged as high-risk individuals.
And since their business is to make money by guaranteeing a payout in the event of death, they naturally wouldn’t easily approve a high-risk individual. That’s just the way it is.
How to get life insurance approval with a defibrillator
Here’s the truth:
You can definitely try signing up for a life insurance policy if you have a defibrillator (ICD) installed.
But knowing the risks involved, bigger insurance companies usually just turn down such applications.
And merely sending out policy applications one-after-another isn’t good for your records if you always get the thumbs down from insurers.
Why it’s not a good idea to send out multiple applications
Because when a life insurance application is submitted through the regular process, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) is notified about it. Think of them as the clearinghouse for insurance companies.
Their main goal is to ensure that insurance companies can offer adequate and reasonable life insurance policies to their customers by providing them with medical and underwriting data.
Through them, underwriters of life insurance companies can determine if there are omissions or errors in the application submitted by the applicant.
And since it is the MIB’s job to provide accurate medical data and history to insurance companies, it will also include any unapproved policy applications that you may have sent.
The result? It may negatively impact your chances of getting approved in the future simply because the next insurance company may interpret it as a signal that it’s too risky to approve your request.
Here’s the bottom line: While there’s always the possibility of getting life insurance approval with a defibrillator from the “usual” life insurance companies, chances are they will likely turn down your request.
Remember, these bigger companies have a large customer base of healthy (low risk) individuals and operate to minimize the risk on their end (as any business should do). This means they have little incentive in approving high-risk applicants, unfortunately.
So what should you do if you have an ICD installed and want to get life insurance coverage?
Answer: Find an insurance company that caters to high-risk individuals.
Most good and well-seasoned insurance agents will tell you that finding a life insurance company specializing in high-risk cases is the first step.
After all, that’s the nature of business of these types of insurers. To cater specifically to folks who are considered risky under the usual underwriting standards.
By working with a company that specializes in high-risk insurance, you’ve already increased your chances of getting approved.
Questions typically asked for life insurance approval with a defibrillator
Once you (or your agent) have identified which insurance company to work with, expect to receive the following questions:
Your gender and DoB ddd
How old a person is when he or she had the heart issue identified and the ICD installed is crucial in assessing the mortality. So does a person’s gender as men and women generally have different mortality rates.
Why did you have an ICD implanted? Provide the exact details and reasons (e.g fibrillation, congenital disease, heart block, arrhythmia, atrioventricular block, etc.,)
The exact reason why you had the ICD implanted is perhaps the biggest consideration of all. Not all pacemaker and defibrillator implants were done with the same purpose. And if the reason is considered very high risk, then that would reflect on the type of coverage that you’ll get (if you’ll get approved, that is).
When did you have the ICD implanted?
The insurance company would want to know if you’ve had the ICD for at least 6-12 months without any complications.
Please advise on any complications or issues you may have experienced from the ICD? (e.g Infection, blood clots, ICD malfunction, etc.,)
This is why insurance companies will decline your application if you have just recently had the ICD implanted. They are looking for potential complications after the defibrillator was put in place. Expect that you’ll get rejected if there are any known issues that occurred after the device was installed.
Have you had any episodes of your heart condition/disease since the ICD was implanted? Kindly provide the details if yes.
Same as the above though this one specifically asks for any heart-specific diseases that may have popped up (not caused by the device necessarily) after the implant.
What medication are you currently taking?
Underwriters are concerned with the type of medication that you are taking in accordance with your heart problems. There are certain medications that may be deemed as red flags by your insurer. Best to be accurate in your explanation and provide them with every piece of data they need so that and adequate assessment can be made.
Have you used tobacco products in the last few years?
If a cardiac arrest or similar scenario resulted in an ICD implant yet you still smoke or have just recently quit, it will negatively affect your underwriting scores and significantly decrease your chances of getting approved.
Life insurance with a defibrillator – What to expect
While anyone looking to get life insurance would be happy to have the choice to pick a term or whole life insurance policy, in reality, patients with implanted defibrillators don’t have such a luxury.
As we’ve stated earlier, the best quote you can get will be from an insurer who specializes in such high-risk cases.
While rates will be far from what you would normally get from traditional life insurance, it will still likely be a better option than your last resort, which is a guaranteed issue policy.
What is a guaranteed life insurance policy, you ask?
It’s a type of life insurance wherein the company can’t deny or reject coverage as long as the participant is paying premiums. Also, there’s usually no medical underwriting required, that’s why the premiums are much higher.
The reason why it’s deemed as last resort is because the death benefit is so small compared to regular life insurance.
While traditional and whole life insurance can easily approve a death benefit of a few hundred thousand dollars to millions of dollars, a guaranteed-issue policy typically ranges from just $10,000 to $25,000.
However, do note that it’s still a case-by-case basis and the actual quote will depend on a number of factors.
Aside from the heart issue or disease itself (why the ICD was installed in the first place), there’s also the risk of infections, device malfunction, and other potential events that might trigger these.
But while it will be most likely a high-risk policy, there’s no guaranteed fixed quote or rating when getting life insurance approval with a defibrillator.
The best you can do is to find a suitable insurer by yourself or with the help of a insurance agent.
Also, expect that the insurer will be more stringent in terms of requirements and documentation regarding your condition.
Whatever reasons may have been considered to get you implanted with the defibrillator, the insurer will need complete medical records and data so they can make an accurate assessment.
What you can do to increase your chances of life insurance approval with a defibrillator
With the odds of getting approval against you due to the high-risk nature of your condition, you need to do everything you can to improve your chances. Here are some things to consider before you sign up for a policy.
Improve your overall health
Life insurance companies determine a person’s insurability by calculating their mortality risk. This includes your overall health, age, lifestyle, and family history. While having a defibrillator implant almost guarantees a more expensive policy, so does certain related health issues, like diabetes or smoking.
The point? Try your best to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. Remember, life insurance underwriting is not an exact science. One person can be assessed differently from another even if they both seem well and healthy. And if you have a heart condition and require an ICD to prevent sudden cardiac arrests and other life-threatening situations, it will help if other aspects of your health are in tip-top condition.
Imagine trying to get life insurance approval with a defibrillator when you also smoke and are overweight. Naturally, your chances of getting a policy are diminished further.
A combination of regular check-ups both for your health and the ICD itself are ideal.
Timing is crucial
If the defibrillator was recently installed (less than 3-6 months), the insurance company might have to put you in a waiting period.
This is because most issues with the implant will manifest within the first couple of months. So naturally, they would want to be made aware of that.
Work with a Professional
Let’s face it: Getting life insurance approval with a defibrillator ain’t easy.
People with pacemakers actually have better chances and options compared to individuals with ICDs implanted. While similar in a number of things, they are actually, in fact, different when it comes to what they do and why they are utilized.
Working with an insurance agent may help increase your chances of getting decent rates for your existing condition.
Through their experience and knowledge, they can point you to the best possible insurer that will provide you with what you need. Granted, it’s still not easy. However, working with an agent may open up better opportunities and options versus doing it all on your own.
In general, obtaining life insurance coverage when you have a heart condition is harder simply because it’s the heart that we’re talking about—the main body organ that links and keeps all processes in our body working. Clearly, any damage or issues with it will raise a red flag on life insurance due to the high amount of risk involved.
The biggest factor considered when getting life insurance with a defibrillator is the reason why it needed to be implanted. So don’t lose all hope yet if you have an ICD and you want to get coverage—as with regular life insurance, due diligence from both you and the insurer will come into play to determine what type of coverage you can get.
If you are looking for more information about possible life insurance options, reach out to us directly to receive a free quote.