Is Health Insurance the Best Policy for Your Pet?
Your pet is a member of the family. When he or she isn’t feeling well, you want to do whatever you can to help — and these days, there’s a lot of help available. Many advances in human medicine also work for pets. Vets can now use MRIs, ultrasound, laser surgery, endoscopy and other techniques to diagnose and treat cats and dogs.
Great news...until you see the bill!
While being able to extend your pet’s life is priceless, sophisticated medical procedures don’t come cheap. Not only are the diagnostics themselves expensive, but they uncover problems that couldn’t previously be detected. Treating these conditions can cost thousands of dollars.
That’s why people get health insurance policies for their pets. But before you do, shop around, look at the fine print, and do the math.
The older your pet, the higher your premiums are likely to be. In fact, you may not be able to obtain coverage for an older pet at all. Many policies won’t generate a policy for a pet older than nine.
Of course, the younger you start, the longer you’ll pay premiums. This can cost you thousands of dollars by the end of your pet’s life.
AVERAGE COSTS OF MEDICAL TREATMENTS
Hip replacement - $2400
Liver cancer - $8500
Dogs & Cats
Tooth extraction - $900
Abscess - $450
Malignant skin tumor - $1500
Bladder stone - $1000
In addition to your monthly premiums, you make have to pay a deductible before your coverage kicks in. Your plan may also require co-pays. When you’re considering different companies’ policies, be sure to factor in your overall costs, not just how much you’ll pay in premiums.
Something else to consider is the maximum amount an insurer will pay. Many companies cap their payments annually or according to the medical event.
What's Not Covered
If your pet’s breed is prone to a genetic condition, such as hip dysplasia in Golden Retrievers or kidney disease in Persian cats, examine the exclusions section of the policy. Many insurers won’t cover medical issues that are common to a breed, and these may be the conditions for which you most need financial help.
You’re also likely to be disappointed if your pet has a pre-existing condition. In this case, you might be better off taking the amount you’d pay in premiums and putting it into a savings account every month. If your pet needs it, it will be there. If not, it will go to you instead of to the insurance company.
What is Covered
When it comes to expensive surgery or treatment for unforeseen problems — like an accident or a serious disease — having pet insurance can really pay. The cost of treating cancer, for example, can approach $10,000. Sewing up injuries from a fight with another animal can be costly and swallowing an object can result in an intestinal blockage that requires surgery.
Determine the Value of Insurance
While no one knows what the future will bring, you can still get a sense of whether pet health insurance makes sense for you.
Know your personality. Even people who say they wouldn’t spend more than $500 or $1000 on a medical episode often change their minds when emotions take hold. Think carefully about how you’d feel.
Calculate your outlay. Multiply the monthly premium by 12 (on average, most plans cost from $20-$40 a month), then by the number of years you can expect your pet to live. A cat or a small dog might typically live for 15 or 16 years, while a large dog might survive for 11 or 12. How does this sum compare with the cost of a couple of medical procedures like a tooth extraction or a trip to the emergency vet for eating something toxic?
Ask about discounts. Do you have more than one pet? You may be able to lower your premium with a multiple pet discount.
Every pet is different. So is every plan.
Insurance companies and plans vary considerably. Your best bet is to research and compare online. Only by taking your specific information into account can you make the decision that’s best for you.