Anyone who has pets has probably been on the receiving end of a huge vet bill, often unforeseen, that has them questioning whether pet health insurance would have softened the blow.
In my case, it was a couple of years ago, when my fiancé’s cat made a particularly ambitious leap and ended up with a broken femur. The surgery cost thousands, and at the time, I was kicking myself for not having health insurance for our cats. Surely that one surgery would have made the cost worth it, right?
Not necessarily. Like people health insurance, pet health insurance can be complicated—and experts are torn on whether the cost is worth it. Veterinarian Jean Maixner, co-owner of Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services in Seattle, points out that pet health insurance can help owners avoid “economic euthanasia,” telling NBCNews.com that “Some people can’t afford the treatment so they ask us to euthanize their pet. It’s absolutely horrible. If people had acquired pet insurance before the emergency occurred, they might have been able to move forward with some reasonable treatment to help their pet.”
Not everyone agrees. According to Consumer Reports, pet health insurance is rarely worth the cost. Comparing different brands of insurance, Consumer Reports looked at the vet bills of Roxy, a 10-year-old beagle. Her vet visits included three visits to the emergency room, two dental cleanings with anesthesia, and a few ear and eye infections and episodes of gastrointestinal distress. None of the nine policies would have paid out more than the projected premiums—that is, until Consumer Reports added hypothetical elements like a benign tumor, chronic arthritis, and euthanasia. Only then did some of the policies return a positive payout.
Is it worth it for you? If you’re on the fence about health insurance for your own pets, here are 5 things to consider:
- Check plan restrictions as they relate to specific breeds.
- Most pet health insurance plans are reimbursement plans—you’ll pay upfront, and get paid back later. Make sure you know how quickly you’ll receive reimbursement and if there are any limits on incidents per year.
- Pre-existing symptoms, diseases, and conditions usually aren’t covered.
- Some health insurance providers will offer discounts if you’re insuring multiple pets.
- Not all plans will allow you to choose any vet or animal hospital–check the fine print to make sure yours does if it’s an important factor for you.
Do you have health insurance for your pets? Is it worth what you pay for it?