Is pet insurance worth it? Vets explain how to choose the best plan

Most pet owners love their four-legged friends unconditionally and would do anything in their power to ensure their happiness and well-being, but caring for a pet can get especially expensive when it comes to his health.

According to the American Pet Product Association (APPA) National Pet Ownership Survey 2021-2022, 70% of US households, or 90.5 million households, own a pet, with Americans spending a total of 32.2 billion dollars per year in veterinary care and products.

Vet expenses vary, but on average, dog owners spend about $242 on routine visits and $458 on surgical visits per year, while cat owners spend about $178 on routine visits and $201 on surgical visits.

It’s clear that there’s a financial commitment to owning a furry companion, but is pet insurance worth it? And what does it cover? Newsweek asked the experts.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Most pet owners pay an average of $133 to $594 per year for insurance, but the price differs depending on various factors such as the species of pet, breed, age, any pre-existing conditions, and age. geographic location.

According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the price of pet insurance can range from as low as $11 per month for accident-only coverage to $29 per month for accident and sickness coverage for a cat, while for dogs prices range from $18 to $49 per month also depending on the level of coverage.

Some pet insurance practices exclude illnesses. Before choosing your plan, find out what disease your pet’s breed is prone to and make sure it’s covered.

What does pet insurance cover?

There are different levels of coverage for pet insurance, and generally, the two main categories are accident-only coverage and accident and sickness coverage. The first category covers only unforeseen accidents, while the second generally covers accidents as well as common illnesses such as infections or emergency care.

According to Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York, the first step is to assess the type of coverage you want for your pet.

She told Newsweek: “Do you want coverage for annual wellness care, preventative health care like vaccinations, blood tests, and preventative medications like heartworm, flea and tick products? ? And if a big emergency happens, you’ll pay for it out of your rainy day fund. Or Do you want coverage for a catastrophic illness and plan to pay out of pocket for routine care? Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start looking at fonts that might meet your pet’s needs.

Insurance policy coverage usually includes a deductible, which is the portion of the vet bill you are responsible for before coverage begins. Plans with high deductibles are cheaper, while lower deductibles cost more. You can also choose the level of cover which can vary from 50 to 90% of the total cost.

How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance works the same way as human health insurance and, according to Dr. Hohenhaus, in some cases is even offered as a benefit by your employer.

Pet insurance generally reimburses your medical expenses rather than paying the veterinary clinic directly. You purchase a policy that meets your needs, submit the required documentation, and then you will receive a sum of money to cover the cost of pet health care.

Hohenhaus said, “In human medicine, bills are first sent to the insurance company and then a bill is sent to the patient. Most of the time in veterinary medicine, the client pays the veterinarian and is then reimbursed by his insurer. 

About 70% of American households own a pet. And most pet owners spend between $133 and $594 a year on insurance.

What pre-existing conditions does pet insurance cover?

Some insurance companies have considerable exclusions in their coverage plans, so it’s always best to review the fine print of the policy.

Generally, insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions.

“Get insurance early as a puppy/kitten is less likely to have a pre-existing condition. If you are insuring an 8-year-old dog, the insurance company will request your dog’s medical records to determine if there was a pre-existing condition or clinical signs of a pre-existing condition. It’s always best to get insurance right after or close to your pet’s adoption date,” says Hohenhaus.

Some insurance plans also have an age exclusion, which means they won’t enroll an old pet. So, before signing up for a plan, it’s important to check if the policy covers pets at any age and if it runs out when your pet reaches a certain age.

Some policies also deny coverage for offender repeats. For example, if your dog eats something that needs to be removed by endoscopy or surgery and he eats something a second time, it may not be covered.

Policies may not cover exam fees, limit primary care visits per year, and limit the number of vaccines covered per year.

In addition, some policies also practice disease exclusion and racial exclusion. “If you own a purebred dog, know what diseases run in your breed. You can find this information by looking at the breed club’s website and finding your breed’s health information, and once you know this information, check how the policy handles these specific diseases. »

You can easily find this information online. Search your dog’s bread, for example, if your dog is an affenpinscher, go to the Affenpinscher Club of America, click on the breed, then scroll down to health and wellness to find out which disease they are most prone to.

Are there major differences between dog and cat insurance?

The difference between dogs and cats is which diseases each species is more prone to and therefore which diseases need to be covered.

“Ruptured cruciate ligaments are common in dogs, not cats. I wouldn’t reject a policy for my cat if it didn’t cover cruciate ligament repair. Liver shunts are common in small breed dogs, but not so common in cats. I would want liver shunt coverage if I had a small breed dog, but probably not if I had a cat or Labrador. Hohenhaus explained.

What other aspects should I check before choosing your insurance policy?

Dr. Hohenhaus recommends asking your veterinarian for a detailed quote that estimates the company for prior approval. In some cases, this will allow the company to pay the hospital directly rather than paying out of pocket and being reimbursed.

If you have more than one pet, it may be worth asking if there is a discount if you insure them all at the same time. Be sure to check if the policy has a cap if it checks if it is lifetime, annual or if it is based on a diagnosis.

“A diagnosis is generally required for reimbursement. This can get complicated when an animal has several problems. Be sure to match the diagnosis with the test or treatment.

For example, if your pet has kidney disease and a skin infection, blood tests would involve evaluating the kidneys and skin cytology to determine if the infection is yeast or bacteria. »

Is pet insurance worth it?

Dr. Hohenhuas recommends pet insurance based on your financial situation: “If you’re disciplined enough to save and you have about $15,000 of a nest egg for your pet, you don’t need pet insurance. This amount will cover most catastrophic illnesses. If you have trouble saving, then yes, pet insurance is a good investment. But if you’re on a tight budget, a policy that covers ‘welfare care’ will make it easier to budget your limited means.

Other pet care experts also share the same opinion. Kristen Lynch, executive director of NAPHIA, also thinks that insurance is a good investment because pets during their lifetime are very likely to be sick and the cost of veterinary treatment keeps rising, so after all, you see your return on investment.

She told Newsweek: “My 4.5-year-old dog, who has always been a very healthy dog ​​with access to the best vets and the best food, recently had an ear infection, he took it and stopped antibiotics and the problem almost disappeared. But we made several trips to the vet so my insurance more than paid off. ”

“For me, it’s more about ensuring my quality of life. Today, we live month by month, so it’s really about preserving your quality of life and being able to deal with illnesses when they arise.

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