With so many uncertainties still ongoing in the world right now, you may be tempted to pass by this article altogether. And I would understand. I mean, it’s just a pet blog. But our fur babies do offer unconditional love and acceptance. And that is very calming in a stormy, ambivalent time. Furthermore, accidents happen. Like the one a patient told me about regarding his standard Poodle, that tried following him to work. His fur baby ended up getting hit by a car; $50,000 and minus one leg later, he feels like insurance would’ve helped him out. So, let’s examine health insurance for them. Is pet insurance worth it? Does it live up to the hype?
I was surprised to find out that pet insurance first got its start in Sweden over 100 years ago. Additionally, its emphasis was on farm animals and cattle. But before long, in 1924, the first dog in Sweden was insured. Then, in 1982, America’s beloved Lassie was the first dog statewide to receive health insurance, due to her popularity. And as of 2019, 90% of dogs and 50% of cats have health insurance in Sweden.
As pet owners realized the benefits of health insurance, in 2007, NAPHIA, or the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, was established, by reputable and experienced pet health insurance companies and professionals, to create standards for the industry.
In a previous post, I briefly mentioned that many people adopted pets as pandemic companions. However, I didn’t mention an exact number or percentage. But, during the past couple of years, even though ~33% of American pet parents adopted pets, most didn’t get health plans for their fur babies. Therefore, keep reading to find out the pros and cons of getting your pet health coverage.
Pros of Getting Pet Health Insurance:
- premiums are usually less for young pets and cats
- deductibles are acceptable
- you can choose your vet
- easy to compare options
- and you can do more for your pet
With so many advances in veterinary medicine, pet parents no longer have to choose between a mountain of debt or letting their animal go. Also, in the past there weren’t as many options to treat animals like there are today. However, those options can be costly. And pet insurance seeks to mitigate those costs. Although, there are disadvantages to pet insurance as well.
Cons of Getting Pet Health Insurance:
- premiums are higher for older pets and dogs
- you have to pay the vet up-front before getting reimbursed from the insurance co.
- insurance plans don’t cover everything
- plans have limits
- and you could spend more on your pets with insurance than without it
Most US pet insurance policies are accident and injury, or coverage with added wellness care. And that makes sense when you first get your pet. You might not think your puppy or kitten has a debilitating disease or a genetic problem. So, if you get insurance, you might consider only accident and injury, thinking down the road, something could happen to them. Like the car accident I mentioned earlier. Or what about this other story I heard about a cat eating hair, and it got stuck in its bowels; that ended up costing the pet parent around $1500.
Should You Get Pet Health Insurance
Although, what happens if your pet doesn’t ever have an accident or illness? Not every pet will have an illness or an accident, so they won’t necessarily need any insurance.
For example, my own history with pets: since being married, we’ve had 3 Shelties, 3 cats (that we still have), and one Aussie. And I’m not counting the chickens. Our first Sheltie, Kirby, died of old age; Roxy was hit by a car and died instantly, and Moses died of old age. So, routine care was all those dogs needed. Now we have 3 cats and an Aussie, and thus far, they too have only needed routine care.
I looked at our options for insurance on just Poppy and Sophie, to get an idea. Since we’ve been providing routine care for our pets anyway, I just looked into accident and illness. Therefore, for both pets, it was somewhere around $40- $50 a month. But that’s just the insurance. Hypothetically, if I got the insurance and had to take one of them to the vet, because they got sick or injured, then I’d have to pay whatever the vet charged me. Then I’d file the claim, and once the deductible was met, eventually get reimbursed based on whatever I chose to get reimbursed back–70-90% of the claim. There’s a maximum, unless I choose lifetime.
So, if your pet doesn’t ever have an accident or illness, that’s great news! However, you’re stuck making those insurance payments, unless you cancel the policy. Or you purchase a wellness policy for your pet instead.
What do Veterinarians Say
AVMA, or American Veterinary Medical Association, states on its website that it “endorses the concept of pet health insurance to help defray the cost of veterinary medical care….” And then it lists some caveats about viable pet insurance. I include that because when I asked my father-in-law his take on pet insurance, he said to read the fine print. Additionally, if you go to the AVMAs site regarding pet health insurance, they re-iterate time and again, to read the fine print, make sure how they handle pre-existing conditions, etc.
Thus, according to my mother-in-law, who worked many years with my father-in-law in his practice, pet health insurance “is usually used to get pet parents in the door. However, most people don’t follow through with the things the contract covers. And when they have something really wrong with their animal, they find out it’s not covered by the contract.” (Italics, mine; substituted for people.)
Still, 1 out of every 3 pets need emergency veterinary care each year. And even though emergency veterinary care can run between $800 and $1500, less than 56% of Americans can afford an unexpected $1000 bill, of any kind.
Other Things to Consider
Usually no pet insurance plans cover pre-existing conditions. And that includes the accidents and illnesses that I mentioned earlier in this post, not just genetic issues. Therefore, getting a pet plan before they get sick or injured makes more sense than after. However, only you can make that decision. And there are different factors that can affect the cost of a pet insurance policy: where you live, kind of pet, breed, age, percentage you want to be reimbursed, maximum, and of course, if your pet has been sick or injured.
Although, there are alternatives to pet insurance if you can’t afford it, depending on the circumstances. Or if your pet is denied due to hereditary or pre-existing conditions. Some examples are:
- Pawp: it has no deductibles, no payments; and it’s more of an emergency plan
- Care-credit for pets: not only is there financing for people and health, but also for fur babies
- Community health sharing plan: it’s like if insurance and crowdfunding had a baby
- Pet care savings account: just what it sounds like, a bank account
Most of us love our pets. They’re like family, and we’d be devastated if something happened to them. But at the same time, we don’t want to lose the farm, metaphorically, if we can’t afford an unforeseen vet bill.
On a side note, I read an article on things veterinarians dislike; whether or not it’s true or false, I don’t know. But the comments were horrible. People saying that if you didn’t have insurance on your pet that you didn’t deserve to have pets, which I don’t agree with. There are so many animals in shelters or on the streets. If a loving family takes in a pet off the street or out of a shelter, feeds it, loves it, and gives it a good home, but doesn’t provide insurance, that family has still done more good for that animal.
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