July 22, 2010
Pet Insurance: The Other Healthcare Debate
In 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.