Waste of Money or Worth it? The Perils of Pet Insurance

Pet insurance.  Should you or shouldn’t you?

You’ve been thinking about it for a while, but just haven’t felt confident enough to take the plunge.

On the one hand, it provides a financial safety net should you ever be faced with a life or death decision for your beloved pet.  In cases like that, having pet insurance can make all the difference.

On the other hand, maybe it’s a waste of money. You wonder if it’s necessary at all.  Would you be better to put the money in a Rainy Day account and use it when you need it?

When it comes to deciding on pet insurance there are a lot of factors to consider. But ultimately it all comes down to these three things:

1.  If you’re lucky, it will be a waste of money

You pay for fire insurance hoping you will never have a fire.  You pay for disability insurance hoping you’ll never become disabled.

And like all other insurance plans, when you decide to purchase pet insurance you do so hoping it will turn out to be a complete waste of money.  Because that would mean your pet stays healthy and safe.

And that’s a good thing, right?

It would be wonderful to be able to predict the future, wouldn’t it?

If you knew your dog was going to gobble up your favourite pair of socks and need surgery. Or that your cat would sneak an entire piece of Thanksgiving turkey and need hospitalization. In that case the issue of whether or not to get pet insurance would be a no brainer.

But the fact is you can’t predict the future and there is always a chance you will (hopefully!) pay into an insurance plan you never end up needing.

I, personally, have had pet insurance for years and still complain about the cost of premiums each month when I get my bill.  So far I have been fortunate enough to have only submitted a few claims in Stewie’s lifetime. Having said that I feel better knowing a backup plan exists should I need it.

If you decide to get insurance you want to make sure you go with a company you can trust and will have your back should the unexpected happen.

Which brings us to Number 2…

2. Shop around

When it comes to selecting a pet health insurance company, each one offers slightly different options that may or may not fit your particular needs.

Each plan will have pros and cons and you need to choose the one that makes the most sense to you.

I have insurance for Stewie and after much shopping around we chose Trupanion.  They offered us the perfect blend of a comprehensive plan at a cost I can afford.  I like the option of choosing my own deductible and the fact that there is no upper limit on coverage is important to me.  Plus, having worked in veterinary hospitals, I knew dealing with Trupanion would always be pleasant and any issues would be resolved quickly.

Each of the best pet insurance companies list below get high ratings for customer service and coverage, so it really comes down to what you need most and how much you are willing to spend to get it.

Questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Does the company offer coverage over or under a specific age?  If your pet is too young or too old some companies will not cover them.
  • Does the dog insurance plan you are considering cover joint and hip conditions? This may be especially important if you have a Labrador, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or other large breed dogs.
  • Are pre-existing conditions covered?
  • How long do you need to wait until coverage begins after you enroll?

Pet Insurance Review offers a great breakdown of the Top 5 Best Pet Insurance companies according to user ratings.

healthy paws insurance logo embrace insurance logo trupanion-logo PetsBestLogo
Monthly Cost $15 – $90 $8 – $60 $13 – $100 $12 – $90 $5 – $90
Coverage There is a co-pay of 10%-30% after your deductible, depending on the plan. The payout is based on the actual vet bill. There is a co-pay of 0%-20% after your deductible. The payout is based on the actual vet bill There is a co-pay of 10%-35% after the deductible. The payout amount is based on the actual vet bill. There is a co-pay of 10% after the deductible. Examination fees are not covered. The payout amount is based on your actual vet bill. You choose a reimbursement level of 70%-100% after your deductible. The payout amount is based on your actual vet bill.
Deductible $50 – $500 annually, depending on the plan $50 – $200 per incident, per year $100 – $1000 per year You select the deductible amount during enrollment. Range: $0 – $1000 per incident. $0 – $1,000 per year
Payout Limits No per incident, annual of lifetime limits. Annual limit of $8,000 – $20,000 depending on plan. Annual limit of $2,000 – $15,000. No Lifetime limit. No per incident limit. No annual limit. No lifetime limit. Annual limit of $1,000 – $20,000 depending on plan. Lifetime limit of $100,000 – $200,000.
Limits
  • Pet must be at least 8 weeks old and under 14 years to enroll.
  • Coverage begins 15 days after policy begins.
  • There is a 12 month waiting period for hip dysplasia.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Pet must be at least 6 weeks old to enroll.
  • No upper age limit.
  • Coverage begins 24 hours after date listed on policy for accidents, 14 days after date listed for illness.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Pet must be at least 8 weeks old to enrol.
  • Pets must be under 14 years old to enrol.
  • Coverage begins 14 days after date listed on policy.
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Hereditary and congenital conditions are covered if they have not been diagnosed or suspected before policy becomes active.
  • Pet must be at least 8 weeks old to enroll
  • Pets must be under 14 years old to enroll
  • Once enrolled, pets can stay insured regardless of age.
  • Coverage begins 30 days after date listed on policy
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered
  • Hip dysplasia is not part of the core coverage
  • Alternative therapies are available for an additional rider known as the “Additional Care Package”
  • Pet must be at least 7 weeks old to enroll
  • No upper age limit
  • Coverage begins 3 days after policy for accidents, 14 days after for illness
  • Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Hereditary conditions and alternative treatments have limited coverage.
  • Wellness coverage available for extra fee.

 

Which plan is right for you?

Only you can decide which plan is right for you and your pet.

If you do decide to go ahead and buy pet health insurance make sure you do your research.

Each company offers a multitude of options that can be tailored to your specific needs and budget.  When in doubt, call the company and speak with a representative to address any questions or concerns you may have.

And if you prefer to Let It Ride, so to speak, be sure to set up a Rainy Day fund that you contribute to regularly for your pet’s health care needs.  If years later it turns out your pet lived a healthy and accident free life you will have a lovely little nest egg set aside!

3.  Talk to friends and family

Pet health insurance companies don’t exactly have the best reputation, do they?

Google “dog insurance company reviews” and you’re bound to discover a plethora of stories eschewing the evils of insurance companies.  And just like the eternal Coke/Pepsi debate, when it comes to which company to choose, everyone it seems has an opinion.

So, when it’s time to decide on a company, the best people to ask are — other pet owners, of course!

Strike up a conversation at the dog park. Or while waiting at the vet’s office.

Ask your friends and family – and even Facebook friends! –  if they have dog insurance? And which company are they with? And most importantly are they happy?

A company can have the best and more affordable packages but if they are horrible to deal with, you want to steer clear.

Wrapping it up. . .

Choosing to get pet health insurance is a very personal decision. It depends on a number of complex factors including cost, lifestyle, needs, benefits and pet age.

For some, pet health insurance could be a lifesaver.

If, after researching all the companies and talking to all your friends you are still unsure, speak with your veterinarian.  They know your pet’s personal health history and can make a recommendation based on your pet’s specific health needs.

So the burning question is: are you a Pet Insurance Believer or Avoider?

Do you have insurance? Have you ever had insurance and are you thinking about getting pet health insurance?
 
Resources:

  1. Pet Insurance Review http://www.petinsurancereview.com/dog.asp
  2. Healthy Paws http://www.healthypawspetinsurance.com
  3. Pet Plan http://www.petinsurancereview.com/
  4. Embrace http://www.embracepetinsurance.com
  5. Trupanion http://trupanion.com/
  6. Pets Best https://www.petsbest.com
  7. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/copay.asp
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