Pet Articles - Pet Insurance
What's The Real Deal On Pet Insurance?
by Blake Kritzberg
Even if you haven't had a run-in involving your pet of
late, pet insurance has probably crossed your mind. And
if you have, the bill for any non-routine care may have
cost you anywhere from a cool couple hundred to nearly
You might have wondered why people have health insurance
and most pets don't, when the medical costs seem practically
the same! And yet, navigating through the underbrush of
fine print involved in pet insurance may have put you
off. Is it worth the money? What do insurers really cover?
And why do some plans cost the moon while others seem
much more affordable? We'll try to clear a path through
the paper jungle.
Tip #1: Get Them in Young
Ideally, you'll want to identify right pet insurance plan
for you, and get your pet in young while she's still quite
healthy. The reason is, should your pet develop a long-term
health issue such as a thyroid problem, she won't be eligible
for many programs, having a "pre-existing condition."
If you stick with one quality program, though, you'll
probably be fine.
Tip #2: You Get What You Pay For
This may stick in the craw a bit, when you start looking
at insurance premiums. Some of them cost an awful lot!
Be sure to look ahead too, at estimated increases down
the road. The older your pet grows, the more the premiums
will cost. They will get quite stiff for an older pet,
even a healthy one.
So why should you pay out a mint for plan A, when plan
B offers coverage for half the price? The answer is: lack
of nasty surprises.
Let's face it, no one but an insurance adjuster can tell
what the fine print means when it comes to covering your
pet. But we do know this: on the cheaper plans, unhappy
things happen. Let's give an example -- let's say you
have two pugs, both covered by an inexpensive plan. One
sadly breaks his leg and needs several surgeries, costing
two thousand altogether.
You may think your inexpensive plan -- which happily,
covers 2K of expenses -- will handle it all. But when
you submit your claim, you discover that 2K is the maximum
coverage for both dogs, and your pug is only eligible
for half. Even worse, but very common, is a lower limit
per incident. In this case, Low Cost Pet Plan will respond
that it only covers $500 for this "incident,"
but if your poor pug breaks his leg three more times this
year, they'll be happy to help.
Tip #3: You Get What You Pay For
Yes, we know we said that already -- but we didn't say
Here's a horror story that can happen on a low-cost plan:
you have an insurer. You pay your premiums. But one day,
your aging pet develops diabetes. That year, when it comes
time to renew the plan and update the premiums, your insurer
sticks in an exclusion. As of that moment, they no longer
cover diabetes in your pet. Yes, they can do that -- and
you're out in the cold.
No less common -- and no more pleasant -- is the limited
payout per condition problem. Your low-cost insurer may
cover the first three years of your diabetic pet's vet
bills, but after that, you've run through her lifetime
allowance for diabetes. Now in her golden years, all her
medical costs come straight from your pocket.
What you want is a reputable company that agrees to insure
your pet for life, period. No tricks, no last-minute exclusions,
no lifetime condition limits. But to have these things,
you'll need to pay for them.
Tip #4: Follow the Wagging Tails
Pet insurance costs too much to be throwing darts in the
dark. You need to know which plans will come through for
you down the road after you've paid their premiums for
years. So do your research -- look for good word of mouth.
You can learn a lot with some smart surfing and Googling.
Although we haven't used either, we found many satisfied
buyers with PetPlan and Marks & Spencer. There are
other good plans as well, and plans that are best avoided.
The tip we like most is to ask your vet what she uses.
Yes! -- many vets insure their beloved animals, and are
scrupulous in who they choose.
Tip #5: Do You Even Need Insurance?
There's an argument -- and it's a good one -- that pet
insurance really serves no purpose. You can see the force
of this line of thought when you check out the premiums
of quality, reliable plans -- they're high. So why should
you pay out all that cash for what *might* happen, instead
of stashing it each month in your own high-interest savings
account and simply withdrawing what you need?
The answer is simple: discipline. Some people have the
discipline to pay their premiums, but not to establish
a separate account they won't touch except for emergency
pet expenses. Other than discipline, there's probably
no real reason why you shouldn't self-insure.
With one exception -- liability. Some plans offer extra
coverage if your dog injures someone and you get sued.
These aren't the kinds of things you can effectively save
up for on your own, so if you think it might be a problem,
pet insurance might truly be the route for you.
Tip #6: One More For the Road
Is your pet a prize purebred, with a pedigree reaching
back before William of Orange? Expect more vet costs over
its lifetime -- it's just a statistical fact. Perhaps
this subtle factor will help you decide whether you should
self-insure or go for a plan.
Peace of Mind: Priceless
We're animal lovers. And in the back of our minds lurks
the fear that Fido will someday come down with something
we can't afford to treat -- simultaneous renal failure
and diabetes, for example (to cite a sad chapter from
my own pet annals). The peace of mind in knowing you can
afford to care for your furry companion, no matter what
the future brings, is profound. That's why insurance was
developed, and that's why pet insurance might be the right
choice for you.
About the Author
Blake Kritzberg is proprietor of Poodle-oo: Fashion for
Toy Dogs. Stop by for toy dog couture and home decor,
free toy dog postcards and the Toy Dog Blog. http://www.poodle-oo.com/
Learn more about pet insurance: http://www.poodle-oo.com/pet-insurance.htm