Your brother’s portly beagle was treated for a ruptured intervertebral disc and is finally home from the specialty clinic. She’s okay, but her $6,000 medical bill put a significant dent in the family savings account. You’re not worried about that; Your dog is svelte, fit and athletic. And your neighbor’s cocker mix needed a $3,000 surgery to remove a sock he ingested. That won’t happen to your picky poodle, so why worry about it, right?
Wrong-ish. I don’t want our clients to be fearful that every perceived malady might turn into a major medical expense, but I also think they need to be prepared if that day ever comes. How to accomplish that? By buying a pet insurance plan.
When pet insurance first came out in this country, in 1982, veterinarians were skeptical that it would be useful. At about the same time, HMOs were expanding. They had a negative public image due to the stipulations they imposed upon their plan members, often preventing them from getting the quality of care they needed. That, along with the restrictions enforced by traditional human health insurance plans, left a bad taste in the mouths of veterinarians and our clients alike. Our impression was that pet insurance was just a variation of human health insurance.
But now we know that pet insurance resembles property insurance more than it does human health insurance: The owner submits the claim to the insurance company after the pet has received care, and then the company reimburses the owner. That’s a good thing, because the insurance company doesn’t dictate price constraints on veterinarians, and we aren’t inundated with paperwork. It’s also far easier for the pet owner to understand.
A typical pet health insurance plan will reimburse you for vet bills when your dog gets sick or is injured, but you can also get coverage for wellness visits and preventive care. A basic policy might cover only accidents, emergencies and illnesses (including cancer) for as little as $10 a month, but the maximum benefit will be lower. (Vet Pet Insurance’s limit is $7,000 annually, for example.) Higher-priced plans include additional coverage for conditions such as hereditary illnesses, chronic conditions, dental cleaning, vaccinations, laboratory tests, and drugs. They tend to cover a higher percentage of the costs and have larger maximum benefits.
Trupanion has distinguished itself by making pet insurance less confusing. It offers separate plans for dogs and cats. The plans are kept simple by covering only unexpected veterinary costs, such as hospital stays, diagnostic tests, medications, surgeries, oral surgery and extractions, and other things that arise when your dog or cat is ill or injured. After the deductible, they cover 90% of the costs. Best of all, there are no limits on the amount of reimbursement. Like other companies, they won’t cover pre-existing conditions.
Trupanion is similar to other pet insurance companies in that it determines pricing by considering age at enrollment, breed, gender, whether your pet is neutered, and where you live. Hereditary conditions are covered; that’s important, because some insurance companies seem to consider just about anything a hereditary condition. A client recently told me that her insurance company rejected her claim for surgery for her Labrador’s torn cruciate ligament because the problem was “hereditary.” I’ll bet that company wouldn’t cover glaucoma in a cocker spaniel for the same reason. As Golum would say, that is tricksy!
Once Trupanion gives you a quote, you can customize your monthly premium by choosing a deductible, from $0 to $1,000. That’s great, because it allows the pet owner to set a price that fits his budget, and the deductible can be changed any time. The premiums are adjusted periodically based on inflation and other criteria.
If you’re ever faced with making a major health-care decision about your pet, consider how much less stressful it would be if the cost was only a minor concern. With the affordable pet insurance available today, it’s worth your time to do a little homework to protect your blood pressure, your bank account and your furry friend.