Even if you haven’t had a incident involving your pet of late, pet insurance has probably crossed your mind. And if you have, the bill for any non-routine care may have cost you anywhere from just a couple hundred dollars to well over a thousand.
You may have wondered why people have health insurance and most pets don’t, when the medical costs seem practically the same! And yet, navigating through the pages of fine print involved in pet insurance may have put you off. It is worth the money? What do insurers really cover? Do they even cover medical devices such as dog wheelchairs and carts or the rental of them just for the recovery period? And why do some plans cost the moon while others seem much more affordable? We will try to clear a path through the confusion.
#1: Start Them in Young
Ideally, you’ll want to identify right pet insurance plan for you and your dog or cat, and get your pet in young while they are still quite healthy. The reason is, should your pet develop a long-term health issue such as a thyroid problem, they won’t be eligible for many programs, having a “pre-existing condition.” If you stick with one quality program, though, you’ll probably be ok.
#2: You Get What You Pay For
When you start looking at insurance premiums. Some of them cost an awful lot! Be sure to look ahead as well, at estimated increases down the road. The older your pet gets, the more the premiums will be. They will get quite expensive for an older pet, even a healthy one.
So why should you pay out a lot for plan A, when plan B offers coverage for half the price? The answer is: less chance of nasty surprises.
Let’s face it, no one but an insurance adjuster can tell what the fine print means when it comes to covering your pet. But we do know this: on the cheaper plans, unhappy things happen. Here is an example — let’s say you have two labs, both covered by an inexpensive plan. One sadly breaks its leg and needs several surgeries, costing two thousand altogether.
You may think your inexpensive plan — which happily, covers 2K of expenses — will handle it all. But when you submit your claim, you discover that 2K is the maximum coverage for both dogs, and your Dog is only eligible for half and doesn’t even cover the cost of the Wheelchair or cart or the Rental period required for his recovery or even the rest of his life. Even worse, but very common, is a lower limit per incident. In this case, Low Cost Pet Plan will respond that it only covers $500 for this “incident,” but if your poor Lab breaks its leg three more times this year, they’ll be happy to help.
#3: You Get What You Pay For
Yes, we know we said that already — but we can’t say it enough.
Here’s a horror story that can happen on a low-cost plan: you have an insurer. You pay your premiums. But one day, your aging pet develops diabetes. That year, when it comes time to renew the plan and update the premiums, your insurer sticks in an exclusion. As of that moment, they no longer cover diabetes in your pet. Yes, they can do that — and you’re out in the cold.
No less common — and no more pleasant — is the limited payout per condition problem. Your low-cost insurer may cover the first three years of your diabetic pet’s vet bills, but after that, you’ve run through her lifetime allowance for diabetes. Now in her golden years, all her medical costs come straight from your pocket.
What you want is a reputable company that agrees to insure your pet for life, period. No tricks, no last-minute exclusions, no lifetime condition
limits. But to have these things, you’ll need to pay for them.
#4: Follow the Wagging Tails
Pet insurance costs too much to be throwing darts in the dark. You need to know which plans will come through for you down the road after you’ve paid their premiums for years. So do your research — look for good word of mouth. You can learn a lot with some smart surfing and Googling.
There are good plans and plans that are best avoided. The tip we like most is to ask your vet what she uses. Yes! — many vets insure their beloved animals, and are scrupulous in who they choose.
Tip #5: Do You Even Need Insurance?
There’s an argument — and it’s a good one — that pet insurance really serves no purpose. You can see the force of this line of thought when you check out the premiums of quality, reliable plans — they’re high. So why should you pay out all that cash for what “might” happen, instead of saving it each month in your own high-interest savings account and simply withdrawing what you need?
The answer is simple: discipline. Some people have the discipline to pay their premiums, but not to establish a separate account they won’t touch except for emergency pet expenses. Other than discipline, there’s probably no real reason why you shouldn’t self-insure.
With one exception — liability. Some plans offer extra coverage if your dog injures someone and you get sued. These aren’t the kinds of things you can effectively save up for on your own, so if you think it might be a problem, pet insurance might truly be the route for you.
Tip #6: One More For the Road
Is your pet a prize purebred, with a pedigree reaching back before Duke of Chesterfield? Expect more vet costs over its lifetime — it’s just a statistical fact. Perhaps this subtle factor will help you decide whether you should self-insure or invest in a plan.
Priceless Peace of Mind
We’re all animal lovers. And in the back of our minds is the fear that Fluffy will someday come down with something we can’t afford to treat — simultaneous renal failure and diabetes, for example (to cite a sad chapter from my own pet diary). The peace of mind in knowing you can afford to care for your furry companion, no matter what the future brings, is profound. That’s why insurance was developed, and that’s why pet insurance might be the right choice for you.