I don’t have to tell you that the cost of health care is skyrocketing. If you have been to the vet lately, you know that health care for pets is also getting more and more expensive.
Various and better treatment options are also available these days, and our pets are living longer because of them.
Pet health insurance has been available for a number of years, but is just now beginning to be more common. Pet insurance is more like major medical policies than the comprehensive policies most of us have. The pet health policies don’t cover routine office visits (although riders may be available from some companies) or immunizations.
You are free to use any veterinarian that you choose, and to opt for whatever tests or treatment you desire.
There are no co-pays. You pay the full amount then submit a claim for reimbursement.
Reimbursements are based on occurrence, rather than the treatment. Insurance companies selling health insurance for people usually set acceptable fees for procedures, and determine which procedures they will cover.
Most pet insurance policies will cover any procedure or test for illnesses and injuries that they cover. They will pay up to a certain amount for each occurrence of that injury or illness, up to the policy limit.
Certain illnesses may be excluded, as are any pre-existing conditions. The excluded illnesses and conditions may be breed specific and vary by company and policy.
Some policies have additional coverage for items such as accidental death of the pet, lost pet recovery, spay-neuter procedures and other extras. Some plans will charge the same premium as your pet ages (based on its age when you sign up), and others will increase as the pet gets older. Most companies have an age limit for beginning coverage.
There are two major carriers, offering a variety of policies. They are PetCare Pet Insurance (www.petinsurance.com, 888-899-4875) and Pethealth Inc., owned by Petco. Pethealth offers insurance under a number of different names, including ShelterCare and PetCare (www.petcareinsurance.com).
Premium costs range from $10 to $22 a month for cats, and from $11 to $75 a month for dogs, depending on age, breed and coverage chosen.
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that the average dog owner will spend just under $500 per year on vet bills. It is hard to know whether you will save money or not by purchasing insurance. Certainly in the case of catastrophic illness or injury the insurance could be of great benefit. Like all insurance policies, you purchase it in the hopes that you never need to use it, but you pay a lot of money “just in case”.
When deciding if pet insurance is right for you, consider the pet’s lifestyle. If it is mostly an indoor pet, the chances of it becoming ill or injured will be less than if it lives outside a great deal of the time.
One great benefit of having the insurance is that it will allow you to do more for your pet if it does become ill. The peace of mind you may get from having pet insurance may be worth the cost.