Pet Insurance: Yes or No?

I understand both sides of the argument. Personally, I do have pet insurance.

Breaking it down with pros/cons, mostly with anecdotal reasoning.

Pro:

  • A lot of the insurance companies allow you to choose the rate of coverage you want. Most companies only cover emergencies and don’t include routine annual exams (rabies vaccination, wellness visits, etc), but some will let you include that for an increased fee.
  • If they’re covered, and then develop common genetic issues or chronic conditions, they’re still covered.
    For instance, Scrabble has asthma and requires an inhaler prescription that gets filled annually. It’s something she’ll need for the rest of her life, but I’ll always get to submit a claim to have it partially reimbursed. Furthermore, I never know when she may have an asthma attack and require emergency care, so I feel better knowing she’s insured for that.
    Patches required IV fluids for her kidney disease ($40-60/month) and pills for hyperthyroid ($20/month). She also required blood profiles ($107) a couple times a year to monitor her kidney / thyroid levels. Those are all covered.
  • If you insure your cat early, monthly premiums are inexpensive, $20 a month or less for young healthy animals.
  • Obviously, the point of insurance is to cover huge unexpected expenses, when you won’t usually have thousands just sitting around.
    Rook has had bad teeth for as long as we’ve known him (he’s such a hobo). One dental cleaning cost $900 where he had 6 teeth extracted. We paid just under $300.
    We discovered Scrabble had asthma when we noticed her crouched low to the ground and struggling to breathe. A trip to the emergency vet and overnight monitoring in an oxygen chamber resulted in a $1500 bill. We paid under $400.
  • Most insurance companies don’t require you to go to a specific vet, the way human insurance does.

Con:

  • Most annual exams are under $100. If you do the math, getting coverage to include routine care is actually more expensive than just paying out of pocket for routine care, especially if you have a per condition deductible.
  • Like human insurance, they don’t want to cover your pre-existing conditions. If your cat develops a chronic disease when they’re already covered, you’re good. But good luck trying to get coverage after diagnosis.
    For instance, I’m unhappy with my current insurance company, PetPlan. They went with a new underwriter who determined that they weren’t charging enough for their policies. The yearly rate for Bitey doubled if I kept the same levels of coverage. Patches and Scrabble don’t qualify to switch from per condition deductibles to annual deductibles because they have chronic conditions. Due to how prohibitively expensive it’s become for 4 cats, I even dropped Patches’ coverage before I knew she would pass (she was too old to undergo any surgeries, so I didn’t anticipate having any large expenses for her).
    Now, I’d love to switch to a different company, but then Scrabble wouldn’t be covered for her asthma due to it being a pre-existing condition. I don’t want to split my cats up between two companies either, so I feel like at this time I’m stuck with Petplan.
  • When your cat is young and healthy, the policy premiums are low. You think, if my cat is healthy, why bother getting a plan now? The answer: if you wait until they’re older, premiums are a lot more expensive. Depending on how old your pet is, they may not even cover them. My insurance company covers cats up until 10 years old, while others may cover up to 14. Even if I’d wanted to switch Patches to a different insurance company, no one would cover her.
  • An argument I’ve heard, which is valid in my opinion, is why not just put aside every month into an emergencies fund, so that if a huge medical expense is incurred, that you do have the proper funds?
  • While the insurance companies don’t require you to go to a specific vet, whatever office you choose does have to fill out some of the paperwork. My vet is wonderful at this, but the emergency vet can be a pain since we’re not a regular client and maybe they’re not as tech savvy as my primary vet is.

Recommendations:

  • If you do plan to cover your pets, do it earlier than later. It’s cheaper when they’re younger, and if they develop chronic or genetic conditions, they’re covered for life. Cats past a certain age won’t be eligible for coverage at all.
  • There are several reasons that I’d recommend microchipping your pets to begin with, but another additional perk: many insurance companies give you a discount on microchipped pets.
  • If you have a particular breed of cat/dog, ask your vet or look online to see if they have hereditary dispositions to any diseases. Domestic mixed cats for the most part tend to be pretty genetically healthy.
  • DO YOUR RESEARCH. There are several pet insurance companies out there, so make sure to get a quote from all of them and compare rates.When shopping, ask yourself:
    -What is the maximum age that a pet is covered?
    -Is the deductible per condition or per year?
    -How is reimbursement determined? Some companies will reimburse you a percentage of your invoice (for example, I get 80% reimbursement), wheras some will reimburse you based on a national average cost of care. This is good if you live somewhere with a low cost of living. If you live in an urban area like me, this isn’t good.
    – What is the claims process? While my vet needs to fax documents in, friends of mine with different insurance have mentioned that they can file a claim through an app and snap a picture of the invoice. Nice!

 

Visit the Resources page of this blog for a listing of Pet Insurance companies that either I’ve used, or that associates of mine have used. There are many more companies out there than what I have listed.

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