Pet Insurance: The Other Healthcare Debate

Dog HealthcareIn May, DogTails explored the growing problem of canine cancer, reporting that 1 in 3 dog deaths are a result of the disease.  In a good sign for the future, veterinarians and researchers are making great strides to treat cancer and other illnesses that affect pets.  Yet with these high-tech treatments comes a higher price tag.

In light of the current recession and the rising cost of veterinary care, many pet owners are forced to make incredibly difficult decisions regarding treatment of their beloved pets.  While these treatment decisions will never be stress-free, pet health insurance may help ease the burden in many cases.

In this post, we will help you navigate the world of pet insurance.  We’ll focus on the decision to purchase, and for those owners who want to learn more about the options, we’ll discuss how to evaluate prices and plans.

What Is Pet Insurance, and Does My Dog Need It?

Pet insurance, like our health insurance, helps defray the costs of future medical bills.  Pet owners pay monthly, quarterly or annual payments to the insurance provider, who then covers a certain percentage of medical expenses incurred by the pet.

While many veterinarians recommend purchasing pet insurance, it is far from a requirement.  In fact, only 850,000 out of the 72 million dogs and 82 million cats kept as pets in the US were covered by insurance as of 2007.

With so few insured pets, you may be thinking, “do I really need pet insurance?”  In order to answer this question, you need think about the visit to the vet all pet owners dread.  Your dog is sick, but could survive if the vet performs an expensive medical procedure.  Do you pay for the treatment, no matter the price?

It is in gut-wrenching situations like this that pet insurance may prove important.  If you have insurance, you may be reimbursed for a significant percentage of the cost of the treatment (hundreds or even thousands of dollars).  In other words, you may be able to avoid the heart-breaking decision to put down a beloved pet that could have been saved.

Of course, the situation is not as simple as “buy insurance, save your pet.”  You need to think hard about how much you are able to put aside for pet healthcare.  Insurance is not cheap: it can cost from $300 to over $1,000 a year depending on the plan, not including deductibles owners will have to meet before being reimbursed.  And insurance does not cover all conditions, and never covers preexisting ones.  So, if you are seeking insurance for a pet with a documented medical condition, insurance will not cover any expenses related to that condition.

To decide whether or not pet insurance is right for you, you need to think realistically about what you would spend on a life-saving procedure for your pet.  If your number is very high, or if you can’t come up with a number at all, then pet insurance may be a good investment.  If you are more conservative in your estimate, then insurance may not be cost-effective for you.

What Plan Is Best for My Dog?

If you’ve crunched the numbers and decided that pet insurance is a good decision, go ahead and do your research.   Pet Insurance Review is a great place to start.  This extremely helpful site is designed to provide pet owners with all the information they need regarding pet insurance, including reviews, rates, and policy details.  Pet Insurance Review will even deliver quotes right to your inbox.  Simply provide the site with your pet’s name, age, sex, breed and your e-mail, and see your quotes in minutes.

Once you’ve received your quotes, make sure to look at more than just the price.  As Pet Insurance Review warns, “cheaper policies tend to provide less coverage.”  Look closely at the offerings of each plan, and pick the plan with your desired combination of coverage and price.

Finally, it is important to note that not all dogs and not all dog health conditions are covered by insurance.  Some insurers have age limits, and coverage prices and details vary from state to state.  Also, as we mentioned, no pet insurer covers preexisting conditions.  For this reason, vets often recommend that owners purchase insurance early in a dog’s life, to prevent exclusion of certain conditions that may develop later.

How Does It Work?

Pet insurance is different from most people’s health insurance, in that the pet owner pays the vet directly for all medical treatment and is then reimbursed by their insurer. These reimbursements can take up to a month to process, so setting aside some money for pet expenses in a savings account is also advisable to prepare for medical emergencies.

Also unlike our health insurance, pet insurance does not restrict owners to specific vets.  All pet insurance companies listed on Pet Insurance Review accept claims from all licensed vets.

We hope this post was helpful, and got you thinking about the important issue of pet healthcare planning.  We encourage you to share your pet insurance stories (good or bad) here on our blog, or via Facebook and Twitter.  Best wishes and good health to you and your dog!

2 Comments on “Pet Insurance: The Other Healthcare Debate

  1. Good points all around, especially those concerning how much an owner would be willing to authorize, if money didn’t play a role in the decision.

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