The most common question pet owners ask about pet insurance is: "Is pet insurance worth it?" It’s a valid question and one worth exploring.
I think that people often have the wrong attitude about pet insurance. For example, it's not uncommon for someone to say they would rather just open up a savings account to pay their veterinary expenses rather than "waste" money on pet insurance premiums. This person doesn't understand the purpose of pet insurance.
People buy insurance of any kind to help them pay for large, unexpected or unplanned expenses for which they would have trouble paying for out-of-pocket.
Pet Insurance Tips:
- People buy insurance of any kind to help them pay for large, unexpected or unplanned expenses for which they would have trouble paying for out-of-pocket.
- There are a dozen companies offering policies in the United States and coverage has vastly improved.
- If you are willing to spend $5,000 or $10,000, but you’re worried about how you would afford it, then you should at least look into purchasing pet insurance.
I'm all for having a so-called "pet health savings account," but not instead of pet insurance. The reason is obvious. What if two months into your savings plan, your pet becomes seriously sick or injured and requires treatment totaling several thousand dollars? You'd be a little short. That's when a pet insurance policy comes in handy. And situations like that happen all the time in veterinary hospitals around the country.
Another comment I hear a lot is: "There are too many exclusions, like hereditary problems and chronic diseases, to make it worth it." If you believe this, perhaps you haven't looked into pet insurance lately. There are a dozen companies offering policies in the United States and coverage has vastly improved. And most companies now allow you to customize your policy by selecting from several deductible and copay options to find a premium that fits your budget.
If you've ever had a pet that was seriously injured or ill, where you spent hundreds to perhaps thousands of dollars for your pet to be treated, you are likely more receptive to the idea of buying pet insurance. In fact, in hindsight, you've probably thought that pet insurance would have come in handy. You may have even purchased pet insurance just because of such an event.
On the other hand, if your pets have always been relatively healthy and you've never been faced with a large, unexpected vet bill, you might be thinking, "Something like that has never happened to me and probably won't, so buying pet insurance would just be a waste of money." Unfortunately, you can't tell the future, and while they say "hindsight is 20/20," it's too late to do you much good.
Perhaps you know some pet owners who scoff at the notion of spending much money at all on their pets. They have the attitude that if anything were to cost more than say $500, they'll just have the pet euthanized and go out and get a replacement pet. Pet insurance would indeed be a waste of money for these pet owners.
Surveys have been done asking pet owners how much they would spend to save their ill or injured pet. A large percentage of pet owners respond that they would be willing to spend "any amount" to save their pet. It has been my experience as a veterinarian, however, that when I present the cost of a diagnostic and treatment plan to pet owners, and it's no longer a theoretical question on a survey - but reality, some aren't so sure of the answer anymore.
Often, your veterinarian will want to refer serious emergencies or complicated surgeries or medical cases to a specialty or emergency hospital. Specialty and emergency hospitals (when needed) play an important role in providing quality healthcare for your pet, and can often be the difference between the successful or unsuccessful treatment of your pet. But because these hospitals often deal with life-threatening problems that need intensive care, the fees are usually higher than what you would pay at your regular veterinarian's hospital.
I believe specialization in veterinary medicine will only increase in the future. Therefore, odds are that your veterinarian will refer your pet to an emergency or specialty hospital one or more times during your pet’s lifetime. This will usually involve a large and often unexpected veterinary bill.
So, if your pet were seriously sick or injured and required major surgery and/or an extended hospital stay, would you be willing to spend $5,000 or $10,000 if required? If your answer is yes, but you’re worried about how you would afford it, then you should at least look into purchasing pet insurance.
Another factor to consider is the current reimbursement model used by pet insurance companies. Right now, you pay your veterinarian, file a claim, and receive a reimbursement of all eligible expenses (minus the deductible and copay up to the limits of the policy). This differs from what we are accustomed to with our own health insurance. The pet insurance policy is a contract between you and the pet insurance company. Although some pet insurance companies will pay your veterinarian directly in the case of a very large bill, not all (probably not many) veterinarians are willing to accept this type of arrangement.
Therefore, you must ask, "Do I have sufficient money in the bank or available credit to pay the veterinarian and then wait for reimbursement from the insurance company?" If not, then unfortunately pet insurance may not be an option for you at this time.
I believe that more and more, pet owners will purchase pet insurance in the future because technology and the costs of delivering quality healthcare to pets have outpaced the ability of many pet owners to pay for it. While pet owners and veterinarians can potentially benefit from third party payment to help pay for the healthcare of pets, I'm convinced the real winners will be the pets.
For more information on pet health insurance, head to this great pet insurance guide website and check out their really handy toolkit. (You can also hear an interview with me!)