Pet Health Insurance
April 28, 2010
“I wish there was health insurance for pets”. We hear this regularly when we are discussing costs of long term or emergency medical treatments with pet owners.
The fact is, there are several companies out there offering health insurance for animals. Some large corporations actually have payroll deduction programs to offer pet health insurance for their employees!
A pet owner’s financial situation often affects a veterinarian’s ability to provide quality care. Sadly, about a third of pet owners say they would euthanize their pet if treatment costs ranged from $500 to$1000. It doesn’t take much to reach that amount in an emergency situation. Just as in human health care, the advanced technology and equipment required to provide high-quality care comes literally at a high price – one that can strain even middle income budgets. Pet insurance can make it easier for owners to make decisions about the welfare of their pet without having to stress over personal finances.
The most successful pet insurance companies offer several plans. Some include preventive care and others are strictly for serious illness. Insuring puppies is relatively cheap and one plan provides enough coupons for puppy food to actually pay for your puppy’s first year of coverage. Like people, as your pet ages, plans get more expensive and riders are applied for pre-existing conditions. The best time to get health insurance is just after the first puppy or kitten wellness exam.
Unlike human insurance, the veterinary staff does not execute plans. The owner is required to fill out the forms (which are usually very simple) and mail them to the insurance company. The owner is then reimbursed according to the plan, usually 50%-80%. Because of this set-up, owners must still be prepared to pay their veterinarian before their reimbursement money arrives. Usually it only takes 4-7 days for a claim to be fulfilled.
Do some research before you choose an insurance company. In recent years over 50 pet insurance companies have come and gone, so choose one that has been around a while. Some companies work like the preferred provider plans that are offered for humans.
After receiving online quotes, I discovered that a middle aged dog, would cost about $50 per month for routine care like vaccinations, illness and emergency coverage. Puppies can be covered for as little as $20/month, but this only covers common problems and accidents. You would be on your own to cover the cost of vaccinations and preventatives. Considering the cost of pet health care, $20 per month seems a good investment, as long as you do file for your reimbursements.
Sometimes coverage does not include any medications that are not FDA approved for use in dogs or cats. Be sure to ask your veterinarian about this because we often use “human” drugs when veterinary approved drugs are unavailable or when there is a significant cost savings with the human generic form of the drug. Most plans do not cover nutritional supplements or vitamins. This could affect you if your pet is on omega fatty acid supplements for skin problems or glucosamine/chondroitin sulfates for arthritis.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends high deductible insurance for pets. These policies have low premiums but would cover your pet if there is a major emergence like a dog-fight or automobile accident. To learn more about the AAHA pet insurance recommendations go to http://www.healthypet.com.
VPI is the largest and most well known pet insurance company and can be reached at http://www.petinsurance.com. This company even offers coverage for Microchips.
A simple web search will bring up more companies to explore.