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  • Pet owners spend billions on pet healthcare each year.
  • Only about 2 percent of dog and cat owners purchase pet health insurance.
  • It's very important to understand the limitations and exclusions of pet health insurance plans.
  • Alternatives to pet health insurance plans are healthcare discount programs and credit cards.
 

Could Pet Insurance Help Save the Life of Your Pet?

September 27, 2011 | 6,805 views
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By Dr. Becker

I was curious why Kroger Co., a huge national grocery retailer, conducted a survey recently to see how much U.S. pet owners are willing to pay to save the life of their dog or cat.

As it turns out, Kroger has an affiliate insurance company that has partnered with a pet healthcare insurance provider.

A few interesting findings from the survey:

  • 10 percent of owners would spend over $3,000 on medical procedures to save their pet's life
  • 15 percent could manage between $1,000 and $3,000 for life-saving medical care
  • 61 percent would spend between $100 and $1,000 to save the life of their cat or dog

Biggest pet healthcare fears among those surveyed:

Dogs Cats
  1. Cancer
  1. Kidney disease
  1. Hip/knee/leg injury
  1. Cancer
  1. Being hit by a car
  1. Being injured by another animal

According to Jennifer Coates, DVM:

"Determining how much we are willing or able to spend to sustain the life of a pet is a decision none of us ever wants to make, but given the rising cost of pet health care, it's often an inevitable one. Even for young pets, planning ahead and budgeting for the costs of pet health care, including cat and dog insurance, can help you feel more prepared when facing a serious health situation with your pet."

The Kroger results also revealed only 4 percent of dog owners and 2 percent of cat owners have pet insurance, but over half of those surveyed would be more inclined to buy coverage if it cost under $20 per month.

And this is an interesting idea – over half of pet owners surveyed would consider adding their dog or cat to their own health insurance plan, if it was offered.

Pet Health Insurance Coverage and Costs

There are several things you should know if you're thinking about buying a health insurance policy for your dog or cat:

  • Pet health insurance plans are primarily designed to help with unexpected healthcare costs, not routine procedures. Some insurers do offer preventive care coverage in their more expensive plans.
  • All plans I checked into require a deductible, pay a percentage of the total cost – some up to 90 percent – and have annual reimbursement limits. In most cases, the more expensive the plan, the higher the annual limit.
  • None of the plans cover pre-existing conditions.
  • Coverage is paid through reimbursement to you only (not to the veterinarian, animal hospital or other provider), which means you must be prepared to incur the entire expense and then submit claims to the insurer for repayment.

Monthly plan premiums vary widely depending on the age of your pet and the type of coverage you're interested in.

As an example, I used the online quote feature for the Kroger plans and received the following information:

DOG: 4 YEARS OLD CAT: 13 YEARS OLD
Plan Type Monthly Cost Plan Type Monthly Cost
Accident $7.95 Accident $7.95
Accident & Illness $16.95 Senior Accident & Illness $61.95
Comprehensive $38.95 Senior Comprehensive $70.95
Comprehensive Plus $50.95

Is Pet Health Insurance Right for You?

Only you can make that determination.

As you can see from the chart above, the older your pet, and the more inclusive the plan, the more expensive the monthly premium.

If you can afford, for example, a comprehensive plan for your elderly cat, don't assume without reading the fine print that any and every health situation will be covered.

Even most insurers' comprehensive plans exclude:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Dental procedures
  • Hereditary defects or diseases
  • Continuous coverage of chronic conditions
  • Spay/neuter
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patella (floating kneecap)
  • Cruciate ligament damage or rupture

My advice is to thoroughly research the plans that interest you, think about your pet, her lifestyle, and what her health needs may be in the future. Make a list of questions to ask the insurer.

A $70 per month premium may well be worth the price if you can afford it. But what you don't want is to make the investment only to discover too late you didn't quite understand what was and wasn't covered by the plan.

List of U.S. pet health insurers:

You can read consumer reviews from actual users of these plans at PetInsuranceReview.com.

Pet health insurance alternatives: CareCredit (a healthcare credit card) and PetAssure (a discount program).

[+] Sources and References

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Food Democracy Now
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Center for Nutrtion Advocacy
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Vitamin D Council
GrassrootsHealth - Vitamin D*action
Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico