Health care costs only head in one direction – upwards. That’s true for humans and pets, so it’s not surprising that health insurance is a hot topic. In 2015, Americans spent almost $16 billion on pet health care. As many pet owners have learned, pet care can be expensive. According to Consumer Reports, cancer treatments can exceed $5,000 a day. Although, 76.40% of pet owners have heard of pet insurance, only about 1 percent of North American pets are covered by insurance.
The first thing to know is that pet insurance is not standardized – each insurer offers its own mix of coverage, premiums, and co-pays. Normally, pet insurance reimburses you for some of the payments you make to your veterinarian after you submit a claim form and an itemized receipt. However, at least one large insurer now pays your vet directly. Unlike health care for humans, most pet health insurance doesn’t involve networks – you can choose your vet as you see fit.
Cat insurance cost
Some policies pay a flat percentage of covered care cost after you pay a deductible. Other insurers calculate reimbursements based on customary costs in your area. A policy may cap annual payments (usually between $5,000 and $15,000) but a couple have no annual limit. Premiums are based on species and breed of your pet, its age and general health. Almost always, pre-existing conditions are not covered, and pets over a certain age won’t qualify for insurance. Furthermore, certain breeds are subject to excluded conditions, such as hip dysplasia in German shepherds.
Pet owners need to evaluate several factors to decide whether insurance makes sense and, if so, how much to purchase. You can pick a plan that covers accidents and illness, or one that covers only accidents. Some plans also cover wellness – routine examinations, flea treatments, etc. In 2014, accident and illness insurance averaged annual premiums of $473 for dogs and $285 for cats, whereas accident-only policies charged $158 for dogs and $132 for cats.
These are some of the compelling reasons to buy pet insurance:
- 1. Treatment costs: Many pet owners can’t afford to spend several thousand dollars to treat their pets, yet cannot bear the prospect of euthanasia as the only alternative. A monthly insurance premium bill between $20 and $50 might make a life-and-death difference for your pet.
- 2. Risky lifestyles: Some pets face a greater likelihood of accident or illness. For example, indoor/outdoor cats are exposed to dangers that indoor-only cats avoid. The same is true for dogs allowed to roam the neighborhood during the day.
- 3. Expensive pets: A purebred dog or cat can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to purchase. If you want to show the pet in competition or breed it, your expenses will be even higher. Pet insurance helps to protect your investment by limiting your out-of-pocket expenses should your pet become injured or ill.
- 4. Member of family: Many owners view their pets as family members and would do everything possible to care for them. These owners would no sooner skip pet insurance than they would insurance on their children. By buying insurance, owners don’t have to choose between their pets and their wallets.
- 5. The worry factor: Pet insurance can’t prevent an injury, but it can reduce the worry that you won’t be able to pay for treatment. Modern life is stressful, so the peace of mind provided by pet insurance is a welcome relief to many owners.
- 6. Handcuffing the vet: Veterinarians can treat a wide range of pet ailments, but some of the treatments are expensive. Your vet may have the tools and treatment to save a pet’s life, but not the financial resources to absorb the costs. Buying pet insurance allows vets greater latitude to treat your pet even when the cost is high.
You can take additional steps to lower your insurance and care costs. A spayed or neutered animal has reduced risk of certain health problems, including some cancers. An insurance provider might charge less for altered pets. You can also help reduce care costs by protecting your pet from parasites and ensuring it receives all necessary vaccinations in a timely fashion.
If you decide you do want to purchase pet insurance, make sure you compare the costs and benefits of several policies.