Do You Need Pet Insurance?
This is a subject that can rile up passions on both sides – for or against. There are people who say that it is the best way to provide the best possible care for your pet – without going into major debt. Like a life vest, you can consider it to be a preventive measure.
Then there are those people who say use a credit card and insurance is not worth the expense.
An Independent View of Pet Insurance
This is a topic that you will need to individually decide about for you and your furriends. We are try to help this discussion along with a series to provide some facts about insurance providers and what they do cover when it comes to expenses.
We start off our series with veterinarian Dan Kenney, DVM, talking about both sides of this issue:
A Wrong Attitude?
I think that people often have the wrong attitude about insuring pets. 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 insurance premiums. This person doesn’t understand the purpose of animal 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.
A Health Savings Account for Max or Tigger?
I’m all for having a so-called “animal health savings account,” but not instead of animal insurance. The reason is obvious. What if two months into your savings plan, your furry friend becomes seriously sick or injured and requires treatment totaling several thousand dollars? You’d be a little short. That’s when the insured policy comes in handy. And situations like that happen all the time in veterinary hospitals around the country.
Too Many Exclusions?
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 it 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.
Serious Injuries vs Relatively Healthy
If you’ve ever had an animal that was seriously injured or ill, where you spent hundreds to perhaps thousands of dollars for them to be treated, you are likely more receptive to the idea of buying pet insurance. In fact, in hindsight, you’ve probably thought that insurance would have come in handy. You may have even purchased a pet policy 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.
How Much Is Too Much?
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.
Why Is Another Vet Involved?
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.
Specialization To Increase
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.
Difference Between Pay Models of Human vs Pet Care
Another factor to consider is the current reimbursement model used by pet insuring 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 policy is a contract between you and the pet insurer. Although some 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.
Costs Will Continue To Rise
I believe that more and more, pet owners will purchase an animal policy 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.
FCVC believes that an informed pet parent is the best pet parent. We are happy to answer your questions about the costs of pet care, both preventive and emergency. We hope you found Part 1 of this series thoughtful and informing.
Related articles – In Part 2 and Part 3 – We talk about what CareCredit is and start a comparison of three pet insurance vendors.
Attribution – From our friends at PreventiveVet.com