Thinking About Pet Insurance? Compare Plans First!
Afraid of losing your pet to illness or injury because you can’t afford the vet bills?
You’re not alone. Most pet owners worry the same as you. Considering that vet costs have gone up 5 to 7% per year recently, what used to be affordable isn’t any more. And if Fido or Fifi breaks a leg, swallows a toy, or needs chemotherapy, how will you pay for that?
Many people have turned to pet insurance to reduce the out-of-pocket expense of vet care and make treatment affordable. In a way, this cuts the risk of an unforeseen illness or injury that’s beyond your ability to pay. And it provides peace of mind, addressing the fear that you can’t afford to keep your pet healthy…or even alive.
PET INSURANCE: COMPARE YOUR NEEDS TO AVAILABLE POLICIES
Before you decide to purchase pet insurance, you should look at what you need, what insurance companies offer, and if the total cost makes sense for you.
Your pet insurance comparison should begin with some information about your pet (or pets). Every insurer will ask you: type of pet, age, medical condition, date of last vet visit, genetic problems, activity level, and recent illnesses. Some may even request written statements from your vet regarding your pet’s medical condition.
You should know that not all pet insurance companies will cover all types of pets (most offer policies only for dogs and cats), and not all breeds or ages of the pets they do cover. These exclusions are due to high risk for illness and/or injury for some pets, breeds, or older animals. It’s important to understand the policy limitations as you compare pet insurance plans.
Second, contact a few local vets. Start with one or two that you now use or are familiar with. Also include one large multi-specialty practice and one emergency vet clinic. The vet who currently sees your pet can give you an idea of routine care costs and what pet insurance plans he/she accepts or handles.
The other two clinics can provide estimates for the big unknowns, tragedies they see on a regular basis. While you hope to avoid ever needing their services, you need to know just how much this type of treatment can cost. In most cases, the amount will be staggering and well above your worst-case nightmare.
As you look at pet insurance, compare the coverage to the estimates from these professionals. Pet insurance plans rarely reimburse 100%.
You should also talk to other pet owners. Ask around for those who have pet insurance, or who have considered it and made other arrangements. Some may be able to give you honest reviews of certain insurance companies and policies.
Check with your State Insurance Commissioner for a list of pet insurance companies that are authorized to sell policies in your state. The Commissioner should also have records of any complaints made against an insurer.
Lastly, do a thorough online search for insurers who cover your type of pet. There are many options and a lot of jargon you’ll need to learn in order to sort out which policy is best or cheapest, or covers the areas you worry about most. Take good notes on each plan as you make your pet insurance comparison.
PET INSURANCE: COMPARE COST VERSUS BENEFITS
Does purchasing insurance make sense for you and your pet? This answer typically boils down to a financial decision. If you need help sorting through all the information, you might talk to the insurance agent who handles your home or car insurance. At the very least, an agent should understand all the jargon and be able to give you an unbiased opinion.
You need to know what you’re currently spending on routine health care, medications and other vet services. Then consider how much you can afford to pay in premiums every month. You should also think about the out-of-pocket portion not paid by the insurance policy like deductibles and co-pays.
Compare these costs to the amount of savings you may have or could put aside to cover the total cost of vet care for your pet over his/her lifetime. Give some thought to the highest charges possible if your pet has cancer or some other long-term illness.
Using the information you’ve gathered about available pet insurance, compare the total you’d pay for an insured pet versus going it alone, ie: self-insured. Which is the best option for your financial situation? Think about your risk tolerance, too. Would you be happier knowing that pet insurance would help you pay for the unexpected? Or would you rather take a chance that you’d have the money when the time comes?
To make the best decision on buying pet insurance, compare your needs to the policies that are offered in light of your ability to cover the costs yourself. Finding quality, affordable insurance is not an easy task.
Ultimately, you have to ask: How much is your pet’s health and love worth to you?
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