Pet insurance

Is it worth it?

If all dog owners had to worry about were a checkup, the yearly shots, and an occasional injury, per insurance wouldn’t be necessary.

But the fact is that today, pet medical care rivals what’s available to humans in complexity and cost. For example, an MRI is a diagnostic tool once reserved for humans but now available for pets as well–at an average cost of $1,200. Sophisticated procedures such as radiation therapy, can start at $900 and quickly reach $5,000.

And it’s not as if it can’t happen to you. Statistics show that one out of three pets will need emergency treatment every year, and two out of three experience at least one major health crisis in their lifetimes.

Given these catastrophic and skyrocketing costs, and with monthly premiums as low as $25, pet insurance may be a worthwhile option for you and your animals.

How does pet insurance work?

In many ways, pet insurance plans aren’t much different from what’s available for humans. Most cover accidents and illnesses, and some have preventive medicine options available as well. They all have a deductible, and all have exclusions for preexisting conditions.

Be sure to read the policy to understand the specifics of the plan you are choosing. Here’s a look at some of the pet insurance companies.

  • Healthy Paws covers any accident or illness including hereditary and congenital conditions. They are one of only two companies to offer unlimited lifetime benefits with no per incident or annual limits on your claims.
  • VPI covers accidents and illnesses based on a pre-defined benefit schedule and have a long list of exclusions. They offer a $14,000 policy term maximum and an annual deductible. They offer a wellness plan for an additional monthly fee.
  • Pets Best covers accidents and illnesses but has some exclusions. Read the policy to be sure of coverage. They offer a $20,000 lifetime limit on claims and have a per incident deductible. They also offer a wellness plan for an additional monthly fee.
  • 24PetWatch has $1,500 – $5,000 per incident limits for accidents and $18,000 lifetime limits for illnesses. They limit reimbursement to 70% of the veterinary below which is less than most other companies.
  • Embrace Pet Insurance covers accidents and illnesses including hereditary and congenital conditions with annual claim limits of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 a year. They offer a wellness plan for an additional monthly fee.
  • ASPCA pet health insurance offers a number of plans, from those that cover accidents and injuries only up to lifelong plans for older or chronically ill dogs. The midrange plan has a limit of $7,000 per year and $1,500 per incident.

Ask the right questions before you buy

Just as in human health insurance, there are some fairly major differences among policies, so make sure you get the answers to the following questions (along with any others you may have) before you sign on the dotted line:

  • What is covered? Is the pet insurance plan easy to understand? Look closely at coverage and exclusions. For example, congenital and hereditary conditions (like heart defects, eye cataracts or diabetes) are very expensive to treat and must be covered.
  • How is Reimbursement calculated? Look for companies that pay on the actual veterinary bill and not on benefit schedules to ensure the highest reimbursement on claims.
  • Are there claim limits? Limits or caps applied per incident, per year, or over the pet’s lifetime can impact how much you get reimbursed.
  • How good is their customer care? Insurance is all about service once the policy is purchased. What are their customers saying about their care and claims experience?

What to do next

Work with your favorite internet search engine; you’ll easily find a number of independent sites that will help you find and compare various insurance plans and carriers. Give some thought to your dog’s specific needs, too, like chronic conditions and age.

Once you’ve done your homework, it’s as easy as a phone call or an online sign-up to get your dog protected.