Mar 31 2016

Pet Health insurance- is it worth it?

Have you ever thought about purchasing pet insurance for your pet? If it something you’ve never considered, it might be worth doing the research, and decide for yourself if it’s a worthy investment for your four-legged companions.

Every year, 1 in 3 pets end up at the vet due to unexpected accidents or illnesses. Pet insurance is generally designed to cover emergency situations, much like car or house insurance is- but dissimilar to human health insurance. Usually, regular vet visits, routine vaccinations, and the ‘maintenance’ care items such as dental cleanings are not covered. Often, the aim of pet insurance is to provide for the unexpected expenses that come with accidents and the debilitating diseases that can develop with age. However, there are some insurance policies that are starting to cover routine care and maintenance.

Often, when faced with accidental situations or a devastating diagnosis, pet owners have to decide on courses of action and treatments due based on the associated price tags- medical tests, procedures, surgeries and the like can cost several hundreds, even thousands of dollars.  The benefit of having pet insurance in such a situation is that without having to worry about the costs of the necessary treatments, you can make the best medical decisions for your pet. Otherwise, you may be faced with the possibility of staggeringly high medical bills with no way to pay for them, which can influence and impact the decisions you ultimately make for your pet.

Like car or home insurance, pet insurance is something you hope to never have to need- but if you do, it can potentially save you thousands in medical bills.  For some, it may seem like a waste of money, if you’re paying a monthly premium for something you don’t ever seems to need. Perhaps you’ve always had pets that have been healthy and not incurred many expenses, other than routine checkups and vaccinations. But if you don’t have it, and then are faced with a medical emergency or chronic diagnosis with your pet, you just may wish you had sprung for it. It is impossible to know if you would ever need pet insurance, but hindsight can be 20/20.

If you have the financial means to cover unexpected medical expenses for your pet, you may not need insurance, but if you live on a budget with carefully managed finances, you may not have the flexibility to direct a large sum of money, suddenly and without warning, towards your pet’s health care. Think about how facing a large medical bill would impact your life, finances, and decision making process. For some, knowing that they have insurance for a valuable member of their family provides considerable peace of mind, knowing they will be covered in the event of an emergency or illness.

When deciding whether pet insurance is something you want to invest in, you need to think about your and your pet’s lifestyles, along with their breed, family history, and the conditions that they may be predisposed to. It is generally easier and cheaper to acquire pet insurance when your pet is young. As they age, premiums and deductibles can often increase, and the list of ‘preexisting conditions’ that may not be covered can grow. Policies are all different in what they cover, the limits they set for individual conditions or body parts, the deductibles you will have to pay, percentage of coverage, etc.  Serious conditions can also mean referral to specialists, where the veterinarians, the equipment and technology used can have a much higher price tag than your regular vet as well.

Usually, veterinarians do not take insurance directly, like, say, your dentist does- you will have to pay up front, then submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement. So, you need to have the funds available for payment either way. Often though, what you are reimbursed does not fully cover the costs of the bills, so you are still paying out of pocket.

Many people report having a difficult time with getting insurers to reimburse costs; insurers are notorious for finding small loopholes,  pointing to small details in a pet’s medical history to label something as chronic, ongoing, or preexisting, and therefore not covered.

Some people find it more worthwhile, instead of paying, say, a $40 premium every month,  to simply direct that money into a separate savings account, to save for a medical emergency or the treatments that may come up as a dog ages. This can be a good idea for some; but, if your dog were to get hit by a car only a couple months after starting that savings account, you wouldn’t have much saved yet to pay for those medical expenses. However, if you pet ends up being generally healthy, you could potentially end up with a large lump sum after a number of years, which still could potentially never need to be used.

So, it seems the decision on whether to take out pet insurance can be quite the double-edged sword, and certainly not a cut and dry decision to make. On one hand, you could be paying premiums for years and never have the need to make a claim, feeling like you’ve wasted what amounts to a large amount of money. Or, something could happen that requires you to make a claim, and either you do not receive the full reimbursement amount and still end up paying out of pocket, or the insurance company comes back and labels your claim as something preexisting and therefore not covered. But on the other hand, you could sign up for insurance, and a year later, your dog has an accident that requires many surgeries and hospital stays, and your insurance company covers quite a hefty portion of the medical bills, saving you from forking over large amount of money.

Whether or not pet insurance is a worthy investment is a decision only you and your family can make, based on your own personal circumstances. It seems to be an incredibly individualistic decision, based on a wide range of factors that influence each pet owner differently.  For most owners, the best way to come to a decision is to do your due diligence, researching the plans and coverage available to you- there are many companies and insurance policies out there for pets, all offering slightly different coverage- and discuss your findings and other influential factors with your family. Make sure you thoroughly research the companies, the policies, and fully understand what each plan covers. Then make a personal decision based on what you learn and how you believe you would act, faced with an emergency or critical illness involving your pet.

LifeLearn Team |