“Is Pet Insurance a good investment?”

This is one of the questions recently presented to me by a client.  My initial thought was “Probably not”. But I decided to do a little research so I would be better prepared the next time this question came up.  

I have been working as a veterinary technician for over 10 years and pet insurance has been around since the 1980’s; but it seems more recently people are getting interested in buying it for their pets. Maybe this is due to more financial strains of families in this day and age, or, maybe its due to more families considering their pets a four-legged family member instead of just a dog or cat, or maybe is a little of both. For whatever reason I have noticed more client bringing in their pets along with their insurance forms.   

I have never worked in “Human” medicine; but I am sure the large insurance companies that cover medical care have representatives that go around teaching health care professionals about how their company works, what they cover, how they decide what a “pre-existing condition” is, etc. It does not appear to be this way in veterinary medicine. Maybe this will change over the next few years; but as of right now it seems the best way to decide if this is a good investment it to do some “down and dirty” research.  

After a long day spent reading articles from news resources, consumer spending groups and the pet insurances sites themselves, here are some thoughts I have put together.

If you enroll your pet in the right policy, it can be an asset to the health care of that pet and have a significant impact on the bill that results from a visit in an emergency situation, or a treatment that is needed by a specialist. Which in turn is an asset to the family. Anyone who has been in a stressful situation with a pet knows its hard enough to make any decisions, but is compounded exponentially when finances have to be discussed.

Some people can’t afford the treatment so they ask us to euthanize their pet. It’s very sad for the owners and veterinary team alike; but unfortunately not uncommon. The guilt that many people feel that comes along with making that decision could be avoided if some of these people had acquired pet insurance before the pets illness or emergency. They might have been able to move forward with treatments for their pets; and even if these treatments were not life saving the grief would be lessened on an owner who knows they were able to try without the financial burden in their forethought.

On the flip side of the coin; you may end up investing in insurance that you may never need. If you have a very healthy pet, simply putting away the money you would spend on pet insurance premium every month would be enough to pay for your pets yearly health care.   

Buying pet insurance is both an economic and an emotional decision that needs to be based on your families financial situation and what you’re willing to pay for peace of mind. 

So… my new and improved answer to a client who asks me “Is pet insurance worth it?” I can now say:  

If you are concerned there may come a time when you don’t have the money to cover an emergency medical situation or an illness that may require a lengthy stay in a veterinary hospital that could cost thousands of dollars, I think you should consider pet insurance. You’ll get the lowest price if you buy when your pet is young and you won’t have to worry about navigating the sea of pre-existing conditions and age related conditions that an insurance company may choose not to cover.

Remember, insurance is designed to cover you from a catastrophic financial burden, so choosing the highest deductible you can reasonably afford will help bring down monthly premiums while giving you the peace of mind that made you decide to look into getting your pet insurance in the first place.  

The bottom line: If you buy pet insurance and don’t use it, consider yourself lucky. But with pets living longer these days, and with medical advancements in veterinary medicine giving you more treatments options for your pet, your chances of using the policy are greater than ever.   

And one last thing to remember is that, from what I have researched and dealt with, pet insurance companies do not pay the veterinarian directly. The owner is responsible for paying the bill out of pocket and the owner then files a claim to the insurance company. If the claim is approved the owner is reimbursed, either partially or fully depending on the policies limits.

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