Pet insurance: is it worth it?

February 6, 2009 8:47:30 PM PST
Any pet owner will admit that their 4-legged friends are not cheap, especially when it comes to medical bills. Pet insurance helps combat the costs but is it worth it?

Ann Harris of Lansdale just had a positive vet visit with her 2-year-old cat Katrina. The feline recently had intestinal surgery and a portion of the organ removed.

"Pets are important to me. If they need something medical they're going to get it."

The procedure and follow-up appointments can run up to $35-hundred! But Ann said she's got it covered.

"I've had pet insurance since January of 1994."

Ann is enrolled with VPI, the largest pet insurance company in the country.

"By having the insurance I'm, I feel that I'm giving them as much as I can give them."

Ann said she really saw the benefits when her dog was diagnosed with cancer.

"He had 3 episodes of chemo, I think his bills were like $21, $22-hundred and we got 59% back on that."

That's a savings of over 850-dollars!

"I wish more clients would actually seek it out."

Dr. Isolde Baylor at Gwynedd Veterinary Hospital in Lansdale said she's seen first hand how pet insurance can transform a pet's life and its family.

"It helps me get some tests done and do some medical work-up or surgical work-up on my patients that maybe we wouldn't be able to do if they couldn't afford it."

But many pet policies come with restrictions and they certainly do not cover everything. Some consumer advocates believe pet insurance can be a big waste of money.

So the bottom line is you need to read what a policy covers and does not cover very carefully to figure out if your pet could benefit or not. Also know that as with human health insurance each pet procedure is reimbursed only up to a set figure. And there is a monthly charge for coverage.

"It can be anywhere from $28 to $30 a month for the basic care policy. If they do elect the optional well care there's another approximately $12 a month," said Dr. Carol McConnell of VPI.

And that price is per pet per month. The optional well care plan covers preventative treatment like rabies vaccines, flea & heartworm medications and annual exams.

"When you sign up we'll ask all about the health history of the pet," said Dr. McConnell.

VPI uses that information, the species of the animal and its age to determine coverage costs. The plans do not cover pre-existing conditions.

The Insurance Information Institute said overall pets are a responsibility and can be costly. That's why you need to take into account all expenses, including maintaining an animal's life before you become a pet owner. Also when checking out an insurance company, make sure it is licensed to practice in your state.

For Ann, she said her coverage gives her peace of mind.

"I just feel like it's insurance for me, it's reassurance."

VPI may be the largest pet insurer in the country but it isn't the only one. The ASPCA has a program, Banfield pet hospitals have a program, plus many others. Again, as with any insurance make sure to do your homework to know which plan works best for you, your pet and your wallet.

For more information:
VPI Pet Insurance
ASPCA Pet Insurance
Banfield Pet Hospitals
Insurance Information Institute
Gwynedd Veterinary Hospital & Emergency Service