Veterinary medicine has reached the point where almost any treatment available to humans is available to dogs. That is good and bad. Knowing there is something that can be done to help your pet if only you could afford it is worse, in many ways, than knowing there is nothing that can be done. Economic euthanasia is particularly sad.
In recent years, as a partial answer to this dilemma, there have arisen about a dozen pet insurance companies. Like any insurance company, however, there are pros and cons to buying pet insurance. Only you can decide if the pros outweigh the cons.
- Depending on your carrier, you can get reimbursed up to 90% of the cost of a covered incident.
- You can go to any veterinarian without preauthorization.
- You can sometimes buy extra coverage to include routine care — especially helpful for puppies getting their shots series.
- You must pay the veterinarian up front and wait for reimbursement
- Monthly premiums
- Many insurance policies only cover accidents, not illness
- Most insurance companies do not cover routine care
- You must deal with the insurance company, the veterinarian does not file for you
- Many companies exclude any coverage stemming from a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or Addison’s Disease, and they interpret that very broadly.
- Must submit vet records to start coverage in some cases
Trying to compare all of the companies can be a bit daunting. Pet Insurance Review will let you compare them all in a grid format. In addition, if you put in your dog’s age and breed, and your location, it will submit that to the companies for a quote. This is sent directly to you.
Not all of the insurance companies insure dogs in all states. For example, a quote for a five month old Australian Cattle Dog resulted in quotes from eight companies. The other four did not insure pets in Texas. All the quotes were around $20 a month. They included a yearly deductable and reimbursed between 80-90% of covered costs.
Each insurance company excludes some hereditary problems based on breed. In addition, what they consider a reasonable fee for a procedure may be quite a bit lower than your veterinarian charges. You have to make up the difference.
Further, the quote system is set up for pure breed dogs. There is no ability to put in a mixed breed, which might change the price of the quote. Salesmen probably can adjust for a mixed breed.
What happens if you pay in your premium and the company goes bankrupt or disappears? Pet insurance companies are not regulated in Texas. That means there is no escrow to cover claims if they go out of business. The Department of Insurance indicated they will investigate a complaint, but it did not sound as if they could do much with the findings. While other states may vary, it is likely that they do not regulate pet insurance either. That means this is a caveat emptor situation.
If you decide to buy pet insurance, make sure you ask the following:
- What, exactly, is covered (illness, injury, routine care)?
- What conditions or situations are excluded?
- What is my deductible?
- Is that yearly or by incident?
- How long have you been in business?
- What provision do you have to pay outstanding claims if the company goes bankrupt?
It is also not a bad idea to search the internet and make sure there are not multiple unhappy customers out there. Anyone can have one disappointed customer, but lots of negative feedback is a red flag.
Finally, after you have done all your research, you have to decide if what you get is worth what you pay. Insurance is one of those things you hope you never need, but if you need it, will the company come through for you? Only you can decide that.