With healthcare in the news so much lately, many of our clients have asked us about health insurance policies for their pets.

Many aspects of veterinary medicine are based on human medicine. So, it stands to reason that as human healthcare costs rise, pet healthcare costs will also rise.

As you can imagine, there can be quite a bit of variation between companies based on all of the features offered. There can also be quite a bit of variation within companies on the types of policies offered. But here are a few points for you to consider when evaluating whether or not pet health insurance is worth the cost:

  • Do the math: If the amount you would spend in premiums for “Wellness Care” is more than you would actually spend at the vet’s, then that policy may not be worth your investment. You may want to look at a “major medical” policy instead. Visits to the emergency room or specialty hospital can run into thousands of dollars. Insurance can be very helpful in these unexpected situations.
  • Although many companies will insure pets of any age, none of them will cover pre-existing conditions. For this reason, it is worth considering enrolling your pet in a health plan at a young age, so that conditions that develop later in life will be covered.
  • Consider establishing a “medical savings account” for your pet so that you have financial reserves to cover medical expenses as your pet ages. Setting aside a little bit each week can establish a sizeable financial cushion. You can also use this fund to cover deductibles, co-pays, and expenses not covered by insurance.
  • Read the fine print. Make sure you understand what is covered, and what is not. For example, if your dog’s breed is prone to hip dysplasia or cancer, or dental disease, make sure you know whether or not these conditions are covered. Some companies will charge additional fees to cover certain conditions.
  • Pay attention to deductibles and plan renewal policy. Know what is covered, and how much your out-of-pocket expenses will be. Also, take note of any changes that may occur upon annual plan renewal. Some companies may consider anything that happened in the previous year to be “pre-existing” upon renewal, which may mean the problem is not covered if it happens again.
  • Some employers now offer pet insurance as a benefit. If that’s the case, and your cost is minimal-to-none, take the benefit!
  • Keep in mind that most veterinary practices do not accept health insurance directly. In most instances, you are required to pay the veterinarian and then submit your claims directly to the insurance company for reimbursement. We are happy to assist you in that process.
  • Be sure to evaluate overall customer service of the company. Are you able to speak with a representative or is everything handled on line? How long are you on hold? How long does it take for the company to respond to your needs, whether it be claims processing, email, or coverage questions? What is the processing time for a claim? And, very importantly, what is the appeals process if you disagree with a decision? As with any company, make sure they will be there to help you in a timely manner when you need it most.

As healthcare costs rise, consideration can be given to pet health insurance. There are several websites that offer comparisons of the major pet health insurance plans. Look for an unbiased review source, such as consumerreports.org or reviews.com, rather than comparisons offered by individual companies. Or, better yet, ask friends and family for their experiences with pet insurance.