Anyone who has had to rush to the vet with an emergency knows how costly accidental injury or unanticipated health issues can be. Fairly common events, such as a dog swallowing something sharp or otherwise harmful can easily result in medical bills of around $1,500. Double that amount for a torn knee ligament. When your child is the one hurt, the majority of us can turn to our health insurance provider for help, but that doesn’t work for our pets.
With veterinary inflation over 6%, the problem will only increase, and the temptation to take advantage of the fact that almost all treatments available to humans are now available to our pets will create difficult financial and emotional decisions for many who share their homes with companion animals. Anyone who is considering purchasing pet insurance should know the facts.
Currently, over 1 million pets are covered by some form of health insurance, which is still a very small percentage of the almost 200 million dogs, cats, and other small companion animals in the U.S. Statistics do indicated that it is growing in popularity, however.
Some companies are offering pet insurance as an optional benefit – one that employees can elect to pay for as a part of the overall benefits package. Like other specialty insurances, it attracts a small but significant number of people. Different types of pet insurance are available, and it is wise to consider all options before making a purchase.
How It Works
The average cost of a policy is between $20 and $60 per month. Pet owners pay veterinarians directly for their services and then make claims to the insurer for reimbursement. As in conventional health insurance, plans reimburse on a sliding scale with deductibles depending on the type of service. Reimbursement can take a few weeks, and there may be limitations for pre-existing conditions. In addition, policies may state maximum coverage for specific treatments, such as removing a foreign object from a pet’s stomach regardless of the final costs for the procedure.
In addition to limits for pre-existing conditions, some policies may not cover pets over a certain age, or they may decline or limit coverage for pets whose breeds are more likely to experience specific conditions, such as hip problems in German Shepherds, for example. However, more pet insurance providers are willing to offer coverage for all pets – at a price.
Is Pet Health Insurance for You?
That’s a very personal decision based on your pet, the age, breed, and current health status of your pet, your ability to pay for extensive treatment, and the area in which you live. The cost of pet health insurance can vary according to the cost of treatment in your area, and expert care may only be available to you by traveling to a more expensive region. Furthermore, not all policies are the same, so it is important to find one that covers what you need. This involves reading the policy carefully and knowing exactly what you are paying for.
If you are considering purchasing pet insurance, research it carefully. The Internet is a good place to start. You can find reputable companies that offer this product. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers a plan, for example. Your vet may have experience with these insurers, so s/he is a good resource in your quest. Websites that review pet health insurance often compare plans and may include comments from policy holders. All of these sources can help you make your decision, but your specific needs are the primary factors in any purchase of pet health insurance.
Despite the temptation to provide for our pets as we do our children, many people decide not to purchase pet insurance. There are other approaches as well.
- Set money aside for your pets. Set a goal for how much you will save each month. $10 a month will ad up, especially if there are no accidents or sudden illnesses.
- Consider vet recommendations carefully. A very significant percentage of pet owners feel the treatments suggested by vets are not necessary or are excessive. Consider all factors when deciding on a course of treatment.
- Limit snack. Like people, increasing numbers of pets are obese. They eat too much and don’t get enough exercise. This can result in big vet bills down the road.
- Exercise. Pets need exercise too! Take more walks. It will do both of you good and reduce health care bills too.
- Invest in well care. A little more money spent on pet food can help your pet stay healthier. A look at the ingredients in pet foods can be very surprising. And sometimes the higher priced brands do not have the nutritional quality of cheaper brands. Become an expert in your pet’s diet.
- Get regular check-ups and vaccinations. Visits to the vet have become more costly, as have costs for shots and medications. Yet regular care can save more money in time.