I wrote about the total cost of owning a dog a few weeks ago and a couple of you chimed in about including pet health insurance. Even one of my friends, Nick, IM’d me to say that I should really consider getting pet insurance (he recently got a dog and had some medical issues to contend with) because it’s worth the peace of mind. I’ve never had a pet outside of some fish so I didn’t even think about getting insurance but it makes some sense.
For those, like me, who aren’t familiar with pet insurance, it’s just like your medical insurance. You pay monthly premiums and the pet insurance covers certain medical procedures and checkups. The more comprehensive the insurance, the more it covers and the more it costs. The big difference between the two is that with regular medical insurance today, the doctor usually interfaces directly with the insurance company. With pet insurance, you typically pay out of pocket and then request a reimbursement from the insurance company. I prefer the first way because then the doctor is often compelled to accept the price negotiated between the company and the doctor, which is often lower than the standard fee. By paying out of pocket first, you have to do the negotiating. (this may just have been the case with the insurance plans I saw)
Nick sent me a link to Veterinary Pet Insurance, the company he has his dog’s insurance with, and in reviewing the documents it seems pretty straightforward. VPI covers 90% of the scheduled allowance after a $50 per-incident deductible. If the procedure costs $1000, their benefit schedule covers $900 for that procedure, then they will pay out $765 ($900 – $50 x 90%) for the incident. Much like your standard medical insurance, they have a benefit schedule. Unlike your standard medical insurance, they don’t negotiate with the practitioner, you have to negotiate with them. I don’t know how flexible vets are about pricing but as I mentioned earlier, it’s easier if its the insurance company doing the negotiating (especially if you’re feeling the pressure because you know your pet needs the procedure!).
I entered in a quote for a two and a half year old Scottish Terrier and the comprehensive plan, with a $14k annual benefit allowance, cost $20.92 a month ($251/yr). The standard plan, with a $9k benefit allowance, was $11.33 a month ($136/yr). How does $251 a year stack up against the typical procedures a two and a half year old dog will face? I don’t know. I imagine though that, given it’s insurance, $251 is probably a bit above average (that’s how insurance companies work!).
Will we get pet insurance? Not sure yet, I think we will have to decide once we’ve adopted a dog and have a better idea of the types of medical expenses the breed will likely face in their lifetime. Another option would be to cover them when they are young and then once again when they are older. This opens up the potential for uncovered issues in the middle but depending on the price, it might be worth it. I don’t want to make an emotional decision but I also don’t want to be taken to the cleaners either way.
Anyone have experience with any other pet insurance companies or with pet insurance in general?