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Pet Health Insurance

Is this an option for your pet?


Pet health care insurance isn't a new idea -- it has been around for many years, but many people haven't been aware of it until recently in the United States. Additionally, the availability of pet insurance plans been limited and the policy restrictions have been prohibitive in many cases.

The last few years have seen changes in the pet insurance industry. Some say for the better. Pet owners with insurance are now able to provide levels of care that previously were cost prohibitive. Others aren't so sure. Some fear that adding insurance to veterinary medicine will follow the path of insurance red tape and problems found in human health care fields.

Veterinary medicine is one of the few health care professions that is not financially based on insurance. Unlike most medical, surgical, dental, and pharmacy cases in human medicine, veterinary patients (the owners thereof) are responsible for veterinary costs incurred -- including preventive/routine care, emergency and disease conditions.

Pet health policies are similar to human insurance policies; annual premiums, deductibles, and different coverage plans based on what the owner chooses. Plans are based on species, age, pre-existing conditions and in some cases, lifestyle of the pet (i.e. indoor vs. outdoor cat).

Most companies start policies at age 6-8 weeks, some have no age limit, and of the others I researched, one had a limit of 27 years, others had a limit of 8 years of age (if the animal was insured when less than 8 years, coverage would continue beyond 8 years).

As for pre-existing conditions, some companies will allow coverage if the animal is stable or controlled (usually after a waiting period of 3 to 12 months), other companies will refuse animals with current conditions or terminal disease. Some insurance plans will not cover breeds prone to developing diseases common to the breed (i.e. hip dysplasia in German Shepherds).

The current overall average for annual deductibles is around $100.00. The policy costs vary widely, depending on the animal and the different packages that the owner can choose. Some packages are comprehensive, including such things as: annual checkups and vaccinations, routine care, preventive medications (like Heartworm preventive) and spay/neuter surgeries. Other plans cover only accident and illness. Most plans offer immediate coverage for accident claims, and 30 days for illness claims on new policies. Additional pets are usually covered at a reduced rate after the first policy-holding pet.

So what if an insurance policy isn't for your pet? What are the other options?

  1. Check with your veterinarian -- some hospitals offer wellness packages, which are discounted prices on vaccinations, spay/neuters, and the like. Some also offer geriatric health checkup packages. This is definitely worth looking into for preventive health.
  2. Check out discount programs such as Pet Assure. This is a national program that offers 25% savings on veterinary services and up to 50% on pet supplies and services. You must go to participating Veterinarians and pet vendors to take advantage of this. It is not an insurance program.
  3. Some humane organizations and non-profit groups offer financial aid to pet owners in need. Also, some veterinary offices keep an 'emergency fund' for pets in an accident or other emergency situation. This is not an option that one can plan on though -- pet owners should plan on providing their own financial coverage for emergency situations.

Each pet owner will have to evaluate pet health insurance and decide if it is right for their pet(s), but it is definitely becoming something to consider.

Additional reading:

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby. All rights reserved.

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