By Tamara Sevigny
With extensive new treatments available to pets, veterinary bills are sky high. Pet insurance is an option many pet owners are considering. But do the benefits outweigh the costs?
Pet insurance can cost $2,000-$6,000 over the life of an average pet. Owners need to determine if they would ever shell out that much at once for treatment or if they are better off putting the money into pet insurance premiums.
If you are the type to do anything to save your pet, including spending thousands of dollars on medical treatments then pet insurance could be an excellent alternative to going into debt.
Better care, higher costs
Veterinary science has changed considerably in recent years. Treatments once reserved for humans are now available for animals, from radiation and chemotherapy to kidney transplants. Once fatal conditions are now treatable at costs ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and even more.
These changes in veterinary science brought considerable rise to overall costs of veterinary care in the U.S. This inflation is causing a significant rise in the pet insurance industry. American Demographics magazine estimated that 5% of pet owners now have pet insurance, while in 1995 only 1% carried pet insurance.
Things to consider
If you think pet insurance is the way to go, while choosing a carrier watch for deductibles, exclusions and surcharges. Policies typically have deductibles, co-pays and caps that limit how much will be paid out annually. Pre-existing problems and hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and Retrievers may be excluded.
But that does not mean that the other benefits won’t be incredibly beneficial. For example, many policies at least partially cover wellness visits and even dental cleanings. In addition accidents are unpredictable, do happen, and can be costly. An injured dog needing a $5,000 surgery could potentially cost you only $500 with a monthly premium around $39.
The older your animal is the more you’ll pay in premiums. Some insurers won’t start new policies on pets older then age 9, other may tack on a heavy surcharge. But starting your policy when your pet is young will keep the premiums lower at an older age.
Choose the right carrier, plan
Shop around. Plans and premiums vary widely. Things to compare are annual premiums, co-pays, deductibles, caps (yearly or over the lifetime of the pet) and exclusions. Always ask for discounts on multiple pet policies. Also, check with the state insurance department as pet insurers should be registered with state regulators. Lastly, scrutinize the policy and understand the exclusions.
Some well known companies include:
PetCare Pet Insurance,(866) 373-7387
Petshealth Care Plan,(800) 807-6724
Premier Pet Insurance,(877) 774-2273
Veterinary Pet Insurance,(800) 872-7387
Premiums and coverage for pet insurance – Item/ Standard plan/Superior plan
Deductible / $50 / $50
Co-pay* / 10% to 50% / 10% to 50%
Cap per accident/illness / $2,500 / $4,500
Annual cap / $9,000 / $14,000
Kitten premium** / $93 / $162
Mature dog premium*** / $254 / $471
Adult cat**** / $94 / $164
Adult dog***** / $134 / $239
*The co-pay varies by condition, level of coverage and veterinary costs in your area. The standard plan pays $780 for removing a foreign object from an animal’s intestines; the Superior plan pays $1,363. *Kitten premium: Annual premium for a domestic shorthair less than a year old living in Los Angeles. ***Mature dog premium: Annual premium for an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever living in Los Angeles. ****3-year-old adult cat in Seattle.*****3-year-old adult mixed-breed in Seattle.
Source: Veterinary Pet Insurance