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Pet Insurance Buys Peace of Mind

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Tobey after Paw SurgeryI’ve always said that I view insurance as protection against the catastrophic, not against the routine. It’s why I don’t have collision and comprehensive insurance on my car. So how does this change with pet insurance? Why do we have pet insurance on the little guy instead of self-insuring his health?

I do this because I view Tobey as priceless. By priceless I don’t mean he’s worth a bazillion dollars, I mean I have no way to determine how much I’m willing to spend for his care. I recognize that it’s my responsibility to take care of him as long as he can live comfortably (otherwise we shouldn’t have adopted him), but without insurance I have to be the arbiter of his fate if he comes down with something. (it’s really my lovely wife and me deciding, but you get the idea) How much should I spend on his care? $500? $1,000? $5,000? $10,000?

I have no idea. In fact, I don’t even want to think about it.

Insurance, in this case, buys me peace of mind. I’m paying ~$50 a month so I don’t have to make that decision. So far, given all the medical issues he’s faced this last year, it’s been a “profitable” decision. For ~$50 a month, we have a plan that pays 80% of his bill beyond a $50 co-pay. We are still on the hook for 20% and the first $50 but the insurance softens the financial impact of any medical bills we receive.

So the next time you are doing a financial analysis of anything, especially insurance, remember to account for peace of mind and how much that’s worth it to you. Sometimes it’s nice to pay a little bit to avoid difficult and heartwrenching decisions.

(Incidentally, that photo was taken a few months ago after Tobey had a benign cyst removed from his paw. In recovery he got an intestinal bug, after the antibiotics weakened his immune system, and needed more treatment for that! All in all the vet made a bundle, we saved a bundle, and the insurance did its job. He’s much happier now!)

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18 Responses to “Pet Insurance Buys Peace of Mind”

  1. freeby50 says:

    Who is your insurer?

    I’ve looked into pet insurance a couple times. It really seems that some of the policies are just not worth buying due to having low caps on payments. So I think the key here is to find a good policy by reading all the fine print and knowing exactly what they will and won’t pay.

    • lostAnnfound says:

      I agree. We had insurance on our dog when we first got him (three years ago), but it was not cost effective. It covered more routine things and it was just as much for the yearly premium as it was for the cost of his yearly checkup/shots, etc.

      I’d be interested to know who is the insurer also.

      • NessaMae says:

        i think it’s a really good idea to get pet insurance when you first get a puppy. with all the shots that they need and the unforeseen things they may need at least for the first couple years, its not a bad idea.

  2. niveK says:

    I’m also not impressed with pet insurance companies. My wife and I created a sub-Emergecny fund for our dog by contributing $40 a month. Not a perfect system but for now its what we’re doing.

  3. Martha says:

    You really have to do your research before purchasing pet insurance. I used http://www.petinsurancereview.com/ as my major source of information when picking a provider. We chose a plan that would continue to cover Tobey’s major problems but we would still have to pay for the routine care, shots, etc. We have PetPlan Silver (http://www.petinsurancereview.com/dog.asp).

    Every time I have called about an issue or question they have been very helpful. Only comment I would make is to have an evaluation of the exclusions before you pick the plan, if possible, so you’ll know what’s covered and what is not. Tobey had some ear infections prior to the insurance and now they won’t cover any ear infections, as it is a prior condition.

  4. Amy says:

    Our dog died at the age of seven with kidney failure. We didn’t have pet insurance, so we decided to see how much it would have cost us. Our analysis showed that we would have just broken even. She was relatively young, so presumably we should have been paying longer. In that case, we would have lost money based on what the insurance would have covered. And her illness was in a bad (maybe not worst) case scenario. They had limits on the amount of coverage and the types of coverage, so much so that we determined it is better to self insure.

  5. My cats have a “wellness plan” with Banfield, The Pet Hospital (that’s the one inside PetSmart.) $23 a month, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the most underrecognized deal in all of commerce right now. It’s already saved me hundreds in blood work, x-rays, drugs etc.
    I’d spend as much to keep them alive as a parent would spend to keep their kid alive; but fortunately, with a wellness plan I don’t have to test those financial limits.

    • Martha says:

      Greg,
      That’s an interesting idea, but what about emergency vet visits? Would it cover those trips as well?

  6. I’m glad Tobey is doing better. We decided against pet insurance due to the high premiums each month. I hope our decision pays off just like yours has.

  7. live green says:

    This is a great point with pets. It’s so tough to decide sometimes whether to proceed with an expensive surgery because of the high cost. Sometimes it’s just not financially feasible for some to get a surgery on a pet.

    My parents had insurance on my dogs as a kid when it first started to come out. The oldest dog had three back surgeries because of a problem in his spine. Luckily he survived all surgeries and lived for a long time. Without the insurance, all the surgeries would have gone into the tens of thousands of dollars.

  8. jsbrendog says:

    this makes sense. my ex had a dog who ate rocks and needed $3000 stomach surgery. it was a long and hard decision for them. in the end they went for it and the dog lived for a few mroe years before she succumbed to old age and sickness

  9. zapeta says:

    We don’t have pet insurance as it mostly seems like a ripoff. For the policies I’ve seen the list of things that aren’t covered is pretty extensive. We self insure and hope for the best.

  10. My name is Melissa and I work for Pet Assure and think pet insurance is a wonderful thing to have however since insurances have restrictions, I want to tell you about Pet Assure.

    Pet Assure is a discount plan that will entitle you to a 25% discount on all vet services at any one of our 1000’s of participating veterinarians. There are no exclusions based on age, breed or pre-existing conditions. The discount is applied to your bill at time of service so you see your savings instantly. No claim forms. And if you choose, you can then send your already discounted bill to your pet insurance company and still get a reimbursement. Pet Assure can be used in conjunction with pet insurance or can be used alone. The membership fees start at $5.99 per month, or $59.00 per year. Contact us at http://www.petassure.com or call 888-789-7387.

  11. Eddie says:

    The only thing with pet insurance is, it’s a good idea to read the fine print as closely as you would your own. When we went shopping for ours, there were a ton of options that were either borderline shady or just not appropriate for our situation.

  12. Mike says:

    Wow. Some hefty prices just to keep your pets upright. Hopefully you guys have enough for your own/child’s health.

  13. CreditShout says:

    I understand that this is a great way to have peace of mind, though some people might have to choose between health insurance for them or health insurance for their dog…I like one commenters idea of having a personal fund. If you start this when your pet is young, you’ll have money to pay for immunizations every year plus more if something were to happen. If your pet doesn’t require any further care when he’s young, you’ll have plenty saved up when he is older and will face some conditions. Great idea though!

  14. FlyFisher says:

    Very interesting topic. I have just got a new puppy and don’t know the best course of action. The banfield plan at pet smart sounds intriguing. For now I think I will stick with paying out of pocket. Glad Tobey is well!

  15. Michael says:

    If you ever have an emergency, check to see how the clinic is billing you. For example, your pet swallows a object. They take x-rays but are unable to see it. They perform exploratory surgery to see if they can recover the object. If they bill it as exploratory surgery, your insurance will most likely not cover it since its a optional procedure. If you bill it as surgery – foreign object, they will cover it.

    I don’t know if pet insurance is really worth it. Premiums are high because most people refuse to purchase it for their pet, and the people that do purchase it tend to be the ones that know something is wrong with their pet and are just trying to get a policy to cover that surgery.

    My suggestion, if you do have an emergency, be honest with the clinic. Tell them upfront you dont have 1,000 to spend on your pet. Alot of times they will reduce the amount of lab work or x-rays they do to try to work with your budget.

    My wife is a vet-tech/receptionist and says that the majority of people don’t understand the costs related to treating their pet. People bring their pets in after a injury and expect a $200 bill and walk out with a $1,000 bill. If people tell them upfront that they only want to spend X amount of money, they really try to reduce the costs (such as only performing in-house lab work and not sending out additional lab work). Also, don’t ask for a estimate, give them a limit. Be specific and tell them you ONLY can spend $300. They can’t estimate the cost of treatment, but they can work within a budget most of the time.

    Also, don’t assume that they will negotiate after they performed the treatment. If you think you can negotiate the 3k bill down to $300, forget it. People try it all the time.. Bring their cat in, tell them to do everything to help it, then at pickup say they only have $50. In that case, the clinic will hold the pet (and charge them to hold it) until they can come up with payment. If they can’t, then they point them to “Care Credit”

    Just my 2cents


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