Pet Insurance

MoneyFinances Of Pets

Written by Dayna Baxter, Originally published in April 2012.
As the economy changes year to year, people are finding that the cost of quality veterinary medicine for their pets exceeds their budget, especially when it comes to unforeseen injuries, illnesses and surgical needs. Unfortunately, the cost of running a streamlined, state-ofthe art veterinary facility is not decreasing either. When pet owners opt for conservative veterinary medical care due to financial constraints, veterinarians are then disabled from employing the highest quality medical standards in diagnosing and treating these pets. So what is the solution?

Although pet insurance has been around for over a decade, the sheer number of companies and plans as well as an existing negative stigma has deterred many from investigating the true benefits. Luckily the stigma is false, and excellent plans do exist. Over the last year, I have researched all of the available pet insurance plans: what they have to offer, how much they cost, and all of the fine print. I eliminated a number of plans for obvious reasons and tapered the group down to four viable selections (listed below). What seems most economically beneficial for clients is an insurance plan that covers a pet for injury and illness only. Much like many human health plans, general wellness care can be included with a higher premium. Wellness costs are relatively fixed, while the costs of “sick” visits, diagnostics and hospitalization can significantly add up over time. Injury and illness plans cover anything outside of the realm of a healthy pet exam, including: accidents, chronic recurrent conditions and nonelective surgeries. When selecting a plan, you’ll want to pay attention to deductibles, % reimbursement, disqualifying conditions, monthly premiums, limits, and exclusions. Premiums are based on breed, age and geographic location, with elderly and purebred pets requiring a higher fee. It is important to note that any disease or condition diagnosed prior to enrolling for pet insurance would be considered pre-existing and would not be covered. Therefore, the goal is to sign your pet up when he or she is healthy and preferably young. In general, the four plans I selected offer premiums ranging from a mere $10-20/ month for cats, and $30-50/month for dogs. Although one more monthly bill may seem unpleasant, imagine your dog having an acute episode of vomiting associated with intestinal obstruction from an ingested sock. You may be faced with deciding the fate of your loved one based on a $2500 estimate provided by the emergency clinic. With insurance on board, this complicated emergency surgery would cost only $500, and a life would be saved. Similarly, the cost of managing a diabetic cat may equal ~$10,000 over the life of a pet. Paying only 1/5 of that cost is well worth the marginal monthly fee. Some plans include coverage for cost-prohibitive, corrective surgeries (e.g. hip replacement surgery ~$8,000) for hip dysplasia or similar congenital orthopedic conditions. Many plans have exclusions for such issues, so choosing the right plan is essential.

The goal in maintaining health insurance for your pet is to allow you to do whatever is necessary to keep your pet healthy regardless of cost. With the right selection and a reasonable monthly fee, the plan will save you hundreds and probably thousands over the years and is likely to improve the quality of life and longevity of your pet.

WHAT TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING A PET INSURANCE PLAN

❖❖Which plan covers accidents & illness only?
❖❖ How will I have to pay for incidents at the time of my vet visit?
❖❖ What is the % coverage or “coinsurance” for each claim?
❖❖ What is the deductible and is the deductible annual or per incident?
❖❖ Is there a per incident limit? Does that renew each year or is it for the life of the pet?
❖❖ Is there an annual limit?
❖❖ Is there a lifetime limit?
❖❖ Does this plan cover chronic, recurrent conditions like ear infections, allergies or even heart or kidney disease? For the life of the pet?
❖❖ Are there any conditions that would disqualify me from coverage? For example diabetes, hyperthyroidism?
❖❖ Are there breed-associated diseases that are not covered e.g. Dachshunds with back disease?
❖❖ Can I cancel the plan at any time – is there a penalty?
❖❖ Can you cancel the plan on me for any reason other than failure to pay?
❖❖ Do you compensate based on what I was charged or what is customary?
❖❖ How long does it take to get reimbursed?
❖❖ Can I appeal if I disagree with how my claim was handled?
❖❖ Are there age restrictions? Breed restrictions?
❖❖ As long as I am covered before diagnosis, will you cover hereditary or congenital disease?
❖❖ Do you cover appointments with the board certified behaviorist, board certified internal medicine specialist?
❖❖ Do you cover alternative therapies such as acupuncture as long as it is prescribed and performed by a licensed vet?
❖❖ After I apply – how long before I am covered for accidents, illness?
❖❖ Is there any dental coverage?
❖❖ Do you offer any discounts?
❖❖ How long have you been in business? How many subscribers do you have?
❖❖ What will this cost me per month?
❖❖ What if I lapse in a payment – even just a month?
❖❖ As long as I am covered, if my dog gets sick will the exam, all diagnostic tests, hospitalization, medications and surgery be covered?
❖❖ Are there certain conditions that he/she is not covered for until they are insured for a certain period of time? e.g. ACL tears/12 months?
❖❖ Can I go to any licensed veterinarian and be covered?
❖❖ Emergency coverage?
❖❖ What about corrective surgery for hereditary disorders like hip dysplasia in Labs or elongated soft palate in Bulldogs?
❖❖ Can you change the terms of the contract or raise the rates at any time? Will my yearly rate be affected by how much has been reimbursed over the years?

PET INSURANCE CONTACTS

❖❖ Pet Plan: Silver plan or Gold plan – Joseph (484) 845-1293
❖❖ PurinaCare (Regular Plan): Gabe Silva (210) 471-0481
❖❖ Pets’s Best/Aetna (First Plan): (877) 738- 7237 Laura from vet services
❖❖ ASPCA (Level 2 w/continuing care option): Jaclyn (877) 738-2677 x2
❖❖ VPI – Major medical plan – Kristin (866) 838-4874 x5892

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