A healthy heart has its own pacemaker that regulates the heartbeat rate. But some hearts do not beat regularly because of a problem called arrhythmia. Often, a pacemaker can correct this.
The pacemaker is a small electronic device that is placed under the skin, at the level of the chest, to treat certain heart rhythm disorders. Heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) are disorders of the electrical system of the heart, in which the heart beats faster or slower than normal and, in some cases, irregularly. The device sends electrical impulses to the heart muscle helping it to beat (contract) at a normal pace, which will ensure normal heart function.
How Much Does a Pacemaker Cost?
Depending on the type of pacemaker, the hospitalization period and the geographical location, patients that don’t have health insurance coverage would pay anywhere between $19,500 and $97,000 or even more for a pacemaker and heart-assist pacemaker. For example, the Wisconsin PricePoint, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, states that the average price of a defibrillator and heart assist implant is around $97,000 in that state area.
According to the Healthcare Bluebook, the patients in Columbus, OH area would pay around $20,000 for the pacemaker itself, anesthesia, pacemaker implant surgery, and a five-day hospital stay.
Patients in the Western United States would pay around $30,000 for the implant and the procedure, according to HealthGrades.com.
However, the Medicare health insurance company or other private health insurance companies might cover the costs of pacemakers. Patients with Medicare health insurance coverage would have to pay only $2,800, including the coinsurance and deductibles, at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. On the other hand, patients with private insurance would have to pay around $4,500.
Implantation of the permanent pacemaker in the chest is done through a minimally invasive surgery that requires hospitalization for 24-48 hours. It involves fixing the probes to the heart tissue, to the desired chamber (atrium and/or ventricle/ventricles, depending on the type of device) and they will be attached to the pulse generator, which will be fixed either under the skin (most common procedure) or under the pectoral muscle. The procedure is performed by the interventionist arrhythmologist under local anesthesia, in the electrophysiology room (similar to an operating room), under fluoroscopic control (an imaging procedure through which real-time video images are obtained using X-rays).
After implantation of the pacemaker, the patient will remain in the hospital overnight, so that the cardiologist will be able to check the heart rate and ensure that the device works normally. The next day, a chest x-ray will be done to check if the pacemaker and wires are in place, and also an electrocardiogram will be done to record the heart rate. Before leaving the hospital, your cardiologist will check that the device is programmed correctly and will ensure that it can send information remotely.
What are the extra costs?
According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, the pacemaker surgery costs would greatly depend on whether it is performed on an outpatient basis or on an inpatient basis.
For example, the average daily hospital charge in Wisconsin is $24,000, with an average stay of almost six days. Extended hospital stays can add up to $22,000 to more than $68,000 per day on your medical bill.
Important things to consider
The Pacemaker Club is a great resource for those who receive pacemakers. They offer discussion boards and tips on how to find physicians throughout the country, as well as other helpful information about heart health care issues like insurance coverage rates in your area or complications from devices such as pacingators (pacemaker-induced inflammation).
The Heart Rhythm Society has information on end-of-life preparations. This organization estimates that about 20% of people with pacemakers experience painful shocks in their final weeks, so it’s important to know how this could affect you and what your options are for managing or avoiding these issues when the time comes.
The pacemaker is the only effective method of treating bradyarrhythmias.
The wearer of a pacemaker can lead an absolutely normal life, with little precautions related to the presence of the device.
The new devices are compatible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exploration.
All devices are compatible with CT/X-ray exploration, ultrasound exams.
The battery life of modern pacemakers is about 10 years but varies depending on the stimulator model and stimulation needed (in patients who are intermittently stimulated, the battery lasts longer). Talk to your cardiologist about how you will know when the battery needs to be replaced.
It’s safe to talk on a cell phone but keep it at least 2 inches away from your pacemaker. When talking on the phone, hold it to the ear opposite the chest where the pacemaker was implanted. Do not keep the phone in the shirt pocket at the implant site; for some modern phones (for example, the latest iPhone model) the probability of interference with the stimulator is higher.
How can I save money?
Orthopedists and hospitals in the United States often offer discounts to cash-paying/uninsured customers. For instance, uninsured patients going to the Washington Hospital Healthcare System would get a 35%. Also, there is a financial assistance program offered to uninsured patients that meet certain criteria.