The recent health care debate in Congress highlights the fact that costs increase every year. That applies to pets as well as people, to the tune of $16 billion spent on pet health care in 2015. That’s why an increasing number of owners are purchasing pet health insurance. Consider this: You can spend $5,000 or more on pet cancer treatments, according to Consumer Reports. Nonetheless, the market for pet insurance has plenty of growth potential, as only 1 percent of pets are covered by insurance policies in North America.
Unlike the standardized Affordable Care (Obamacare) policies in the U.S., pet insurance policies significantly differ from one issuer to another. Each insurer offers a unique combination of premiums, coverage and co-pays. Some insurers pay vets directly, but most reimburse owners after the fact. You can usually pick any vet you like – network policies are rare.
Reimbursements for covered pet care costs might be based on customary local costs, but many policies pay a fixed percentage of the treatment expenses you shell out. Annual caps in the $5K to $15K range often apply, although some policies don’t limit annual costs. Your pet’s species, breed, general health and pre-existing conditions will determine your access to, and cost of, pet insurance. Beware that policies may exclude specific coverages, such as hip dysplasia in breeds prone to it.
Evaluating pet insurance plans requires you to consider several factors that affect costs. For example, you can buy policies that cover only illness and/or accidents, while others pay for wellness services, such as flea treatments, routine examinations, etc. In 2014, accident-only policies charged annual premiums of $132 for cats and $158 for dogs, whereas accident/illness policies averaged $285 for cats and $473 for dogs.
Here are important reasons to own pet insurance:
Treatment costs: Many pet owners do not approve of euthanasia as the only alternative when they can’t afford several thousand dollars to treat their pets. A monthly premium of $50 or less gives owners a better option that can prolong their pets’ lives.
Risky lifestyles: Illness and accidents are more likely for indoor/outdoor pets. Roaming the neighborhood can expose your dog or cat to threats that indoor-only pets don’t face.
Expensive pets: You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy a purebred cat or dog. You’ll spend even more if you professionally breed your pet or show it in competitions. You can protect your investment via pet insurance by reducing your out-of-pocket costs should your pet need medical care.
Member of family: Many owners consider their pets as family members and will spare no expense to care for them. These owners consider pet insurance just as important as health insurance for human family members. By purchasing insurance, owners aren’t forced to choose between their wallets and their pets.
The worry factor: When your pet is injured or becomes ill, a good insurance policy will decrease your concerns about paying for care. Pet insurance is a welcome relief to the stresses of modern life.
Enabling the vet: Veterinarians are trained to treat many pet ailments, and sometimes it can get expensive. If you don’t have pet insurance, your vet might not have the financial resources to absorb the expenses. Purchasing pet insurance gives your vet the financial ability to treat your pet despite high costs.
There are additional steps you can take to reduce your pet care costs. Neutering/spaying your pet can diminish the risk of certain health problems, and insurers may charge less for neutered pets. You can also cut care costs by ensuring your pet is vaccinated and free of parasites.
If you choose to buy pet insurance, it’s prudent to compare the costs and benefits of several policies, and then select one that best addresses your requirements.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.