Pet health insurance is for those unexpected accidents, catastrophes and illnesses that we just can’t plan for and sure as heck didn’t expect. They can include anything from the dog eating something he shouldn’t, a cat getting into a fight, the onset of diabetes or a heart condition – or a terrible disease like feline leukemia, congestive heart failure, or cancer. Pets are subject to nearly every single illness, accident and disease as humans, so, just like people, they need health insurance to protect them. Our pets are part of our family, so of course we want to keep them happy, health and safe. But unfortunately, it’s impossible for us to protect them from an illness or an accident. And with the rising cost of veterinary care, bills can add up quickly. In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about health insurance for pets so you can make an informed decision, and find a policy that’s right for you, and that you can afford.
Many families are not in a position to cover an unexpected veterinary cost. My own personal vet once referred to what he called, “economic euthanasia.” That’s where there is actually help that can save the animal’s life, but the family just simply cannot afford it.
Bottom line: If you cannot afford unexpected vet bills, you need to get health insurance for your pet. Don’t wait until you’re faced with a difficult and painful choice between your pet and your finances.
More and more people are getting health insurance for pets than ever before. These plans not only protect your pet, but they also save you money. Pet health insurance is one of the fastest growing insurance products in the United States. For many families, pets are considered part of the family, and they should receive the same commitment to their care and well-being as other family members! With the rising advances in medical technology in the veterinary field comes rising costs as well for vet care. Getting health insurance for pets is a great way to manage those costs, and could very possibly even save your pet’s life. More and more families are protecting their pets, and their finances, by purchasing a quality, affordable pet health insurance plan.
Pet Insurance Basics
Most pet health insurance plans have a few basic features in common:
- They are paid for via monthly premiums.
- You can choose what you want your deductible to be (either annually or per incident).
- You can select what level of reimbursement you get (or what co-pays you’ll have).
- They will cover any licensed veterinarian.
- You usually pay your vet first, then get reimbursed by the pet insurance company. (By the way, there’s a credit card called, CareCredit that you can use for vet bills. They offer low rates and even have interest free payment plans if your vet bill is over $200. When I originally applied, they approved me with a $300 credit limit. I used the card for a couple small vet bills, made the payments, and very quickly they increased my credit limit to $3,500). Check them out HERE.)
There can be, however, big differences between companies which can impact your claim coverage and reimbursement levels, so it’s important to do your research when shopping for a pet health insurance plan. For example, if a company covers a $50 vet visit, but then only pays $500 toward a $3,000 cancer treatment, then that company really isn’t providing much value. It’s important to understand the whole picture. Just stay with me – by the time you finish this article, you’ll have a very good understanding of what to look for.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Different pet insurance companies offer different types of coverage. Some questions to ask are:
What is my deductible? This is the amount you’re responsible for before benefits kick in. Deductibles can be computed on an annual basis, or per incident (annual is usually recommended).
How much will I be reimbursed for my vet bills? This is the percentage of the remaining cost (after the
deductible), you can expect the insurance company to cover. Usually you can choose from 70%, 80%, or 90% reimbursement levels, with higher reimbursement levels resulting in a more expensive monthly premium. That’s the same way health insurance works for people – if you want a lower deductible, you pay a higher monthly premium. It really is just a matter of whether you’re more comfortable paying a bit more each month to get the higher reimbursement level when you do have expenses – or – save money with a lower premium each month, and accept the risk of high vet bills occurring. Just like with health insurance for people, it’s so hard to decide sans a crystal ball! My personal opinion is: if you can afford a big vet bill – if you can at least charge it on a credit card without ruining yourself financially, then it’s probably ok to go with a cheaper monthly premium. But seriously – if you cannot afford unexpected vet expenses, you should pay a bit more each month to make sure you’re covered if something happens!
Is there a limit to my benefits? You should look for companies who don’t have an annual or lifetime limit on the dollar amount they’ll pay to reimburse you for vet bills. If your pet suffers from a serious illness or injury, you’ll be glad your coverage doesn’t have a cut-off point.
Are there any coverage exclusions? You’ll want to look for companies that cover all illnesses, and all accidents. That should include hereditary and genetic conditions, and you should make sure they don’t exclude conditions based on breed.
You need to know that no policy will cover pre-existing conditions. This is a really big motivator to get health insurance for your pet now, before they are diagnosed with anything. Also, most policies don’t cover wellness care either – the regular annual vet exams and regular vaccines. If you find a company that covers this, you may find that what they charge for that coverage is more than it would cost you to just pay for these things yourself. The main objective for getting pet insurance is not to cover the regular vet expenses that you expect and can plan for. Rather, it’s to cover unexpected illnesses and accidents.
You should choose a policy that allows you to use any vet. Pet health insurance differs from people health insurance in that you usually pay the vet directly, then get reimbursed. You should also look for a policy that will reimburse you for the actual vet bill – not some sort of benefit schedule of what they estimate things to cost. And make sure their claims process is easy. Look for companies that will let you process your claim online or with an app. Physical forms can be time consuming and delay your reimbursement.
So How Do You Choose a Company?
PetInsuranceReview.com has listed Healthy Paws Pet Insurance as the #1 customer-rated pet insurance plan, and for good reason. Their commitment to customer service and support sets them apart, in addition to an easy-to-use mobile app for claims processing.
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance offers cat and dog insurance that covers injuries, illnesses, genetic conditions, and emergency care. With one plan to make sign up easy, you’re able to choose your deductible amount and coverage, and Healthy Paws pays a flat percentage of covered costs thereafter. Working on a reimbursement basis, you submit your hospital or vet bill via the mobile app, and Healthy Paws issues you a check.
Unlike most pet insurance companies, Healthy Paws does not have limits on claims. The premiums are low, and Consumer Reports repeatedly found that “Healthy Paws’ plan was the only one that paid more than it cost.”
Healthy Paws is my top recommendation for pet health insurance. You can read my full review of Heathy Paws HERE.
How Pet Insurance Saves You Money
Because of the increased quality of pet medical care, the cost has increased; veterinary care is expensive. And as a result of the medical advances, pet lifespans have also increased. Even the most responsible pet parents may not be be able to pay for an emergency procedure. Something as simple as surgery to remove something your pet swallowed can run upwards of $3,000. I personally know a young family who adopted a male kitten whose name was Smudgy. Smudgy ate string, and it got caught up in his intestines. The estimate for the surgery to save him was $1,000. This family had two small children. The parents just could not afford the surgery. So, they were forced to put Smudgy down. I’m not sharing this to be dramatic; it actually happened. And unfortunately, this not an uncommon occurrence. At a recent visit at my vet’s office, I sat in the waiting room with a family who was anxiously awaiting their Jack Russell Terrier to come out of surgery. The vet eventually came to the waiting room, held out her hand to the family and said, “Here it is!” The dog had swallowed a large eraser! I do wonder whether that family had pet health insurance or if they had to endure the financial hardship of paying for that surgery to save their dog.
Pet insurance covers unexpected costs. Emergency veterinary care is the most expensive and also the most stressful. I remember an incident when my dachshund could not breath. It was after hours, so I rushed her to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital. They wanted $95 before they would even look at the dog. My dog could not breath; she was in serious danger. I’m so grateful I was able to pay that money so my dog could get the emergency care she needed. (This dog was diagnosed and eventually died of congestive heart failure. I’ve had two dogs with this, and believe me when I tell you, it is a very expensive disease and usually lasts for the last couple years of their lives).
Let’s Take a Look at How Having a Pet Health Insurance Works
Say you live in New York and have a Yorkshire Terrier puppy. You’d likely pay roughly $42/month for the best Healthy Paws policy available, with 90% reimbursement and a $100 deductible. That’s $42/month x 12 months = $504 yearly for pet insurance.
Surgery to remove foreign object: $3,500 for one surgery
Amount covered by this particular policy: $3,050 after meeting deductible of $100
Amount paid by you: $450 not covered by pet insurance
The math speaks for itself; even with the highest monthly premium, one emergency makes the policy more than worth it.
Pet insurance means you are prepared. If there’s a health issue with your pet, you want to be able to focus on your pet’s recovery and NOT have to worry about the cost.
I think the math we just did on one single incident answers that question. Investing in pet insurance can help save the life of your pet, and help keep you out of the red. It’s common to see pet owners wishing they’d purchased insurance plans before their pet became ill or got injured. Here are two additional articles that discuss whether pet health insurance is worth the money – these are based on my own personal experience:
Most families rely on savings (if they have it) for emergencies. Unfortunately, having a pet with the sudden onset of an illness can wipe those savings out completely. Diagnoses can lead to expensive urgent care including surgeries and follow-up. I personally have experienced this. I had a doxy with Cushings Disease. Every several months she had to have blood work that cost over $300. And her medicine cost about $95 per month. And that was years ago – I have no idea what these things would cost now. I had a Boston Terrier with Congestive Heart Failure. He had to have x-rays of his heart, blood pressure tests, blood work – all more than once. And he had to take two medications – one for the heart condition and other for water retention. It cost well over $100 per month for his medications. The doxy who had Cushings Disease fell on the ice one winter and badly twisted her back. The emergency vet visit and x-ray, alone with the prescribed muscles relaxers that were all she needed, thank God, cost me $1,000. I had a cat with a bladder stone. The surgery to remove it was $700, and that didn’t include the original vet visit, urinalysis, bloodwork, and x-ray it took to diagnose it.
Consumer Reports says, “A serious illness or injury can take a financial toll, even when the patient is a pet. Cancer treatments can easily run $5,000; surgery to fix a torn ACL from, say, a poorly executed jump off the sofa can cost about $3,300. Pet insurance is sold with the promise that by helping to cover some of your pet’s medical bills, you won’t be forced to consider ‘economic euthanasia’ in the direst circumstances.”
I know this is all very scary and upsetting. But please believe me when I tell you, no matter how young and healthy you think your pet is, things happen. The heartache is bad enough, let alone having financial worries about it as well.
So is it worth it? It is, in fact, a personal decision, and an emotional one as well. If you’ve ever had a major medical bill for a pet, you know the answer: absolutely yes. More people are choosing to protect themselves from unexpected veterinary bills by purchasing a quality pet health insurance plan.
Should You Protect Them with Pet Health Insurance?
Our pets are like family members. We protect them like they’re our children! We feed them, bathe them, even buy them clothes. When your pet is sick or hurt, you worry about their well-being, and unfortunately, whether or not you can afford the bill to get the medical care they need. Pet medical care is becoming more expensive. I’m happy to be able to recommend Healthy Paws Pet Insurance to protect you and your pet. PetInsuranceReview.com yields Healthy Paws Pet Insurance as the favorite in the category. It’s the #1 customer-rated pet insurance plan due to their commitment to customer service and support, as well as access to providing the best pet insurance coverage available.
More of My Two Cents 🙂
I’d like to end by showing you two videos I made about pet health insurance where I speak, in detail, about my own personal experience with my pets and their vet bills. It’s the best way I know to help you make the decision I so wish I would’ve made years ago. Here’s a hint…I had a $20,000 dachshund! Debra 🙂