Going to the vet can be hard on your pet and even harder on your wallet. Sometimes, it can take only one vet visit to wipe out your savings. For the 79.9 million US homes with pets, it's a good idea to consider your options when it comes to paying your vet bills.
Types of Pet Insurance
With a new surge in pet insurance offerings, how do you know if pet health insurance is the right choice for your family? Like health insurance for people, there is a wide variety of different types of health insurance programs for pets. Although you won't hear the acronyms HMO or PPO when it comes to your furry family member, there are certainly different types of policies for your pet's health care. Some pet insurance policies will allow you to visit any vet that you'd like—whether it's a specialist or a general vet. Other policies are for specific vet offices, meaning you can only visit that office in order for your insurance to cover costs. However, like most insurance policies for people, most pet health insurance programs don't allow pre-existing conditions, so it's a good idea to get started on an insurance policy right after adopting or welcoming your new pet into your family.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Some pet insurance policies don't work the same way that human health insurance works. With human insurance programs, you pay a reduced amount at the time of service when you present your health insurance enrollment information. This works based on pre-negotiated amounts that you will pay that doctor, dependent on your insurance policy. Pet insurance can be different. Some pet insurance policies have you pay in full to your veterinary hospital at the time your pet is seen. Then, you submit an invoice from your veterinarian's office to your pet insurance company. The pet insurance company then reimburses you a set amount, determined from your specific policy.
How Much Does it Cost?
Pet health insurance ranges in price depending on where you live and what policy you select. When looking for pet health insurance, it's important to weigh two factors: the monthly payment and the services/fees covered. Some pet health insurance only covers the veterinary exam fee—the fee the vet charges for you to schedule an appointment and see a veterinarian. Other pet health insurance policies pay a percentage of all costs including medications, surgeries, and non-preventative procedures, except for the veterinary exam fee. Also, when selecting a policy, it's important to factor in whether your pet's breed is prone to specific health conditions before deciding the amount of coverage that makes sense for you.
Ultimately, only you and your family can determine if pet health insurance is right for you. Veterinarian Doug Kinney, DVM boils it down to this: "So, if your pet were seriously sick or injured and required major surgery and/or an extended hospital stay, would you be willing to spend $5,000 or $10,000 if required? If your answer is yes, but you're worried about how you would afford it, then you should at least look into purchasing pet insurance." If, however, you're one of the rare pet owners who wouldn't (or can't) spend $500 or more on your pet's health care, you might want to look into creating a savings plan for your pet's health, short-term solutions like credit companies that offer pet care discounts, local or online fundraisers, and low-cost veterinary services.
By Sara Stuart
About the Author
Sara Stuart is a lifelong animal lover with a passion for rescue pets. Sara lives in Los Angeles, California with her family, including the head of her house–an adopted corgi mix, Buddy Cruiser.