Over the past two decades the number of treatment options and services available to our pets has grown exponentially. Just in our immediate area we have available to us advanced surgical services, physical therapy modalities, specialist veterinarians, a CT scanner, specialty and emergency hospitals as well as a cancer treatment facility. With these advances in medicine, surgery and diagnostic imaging come a substantial cost increase in veterinary care. I recently had a client travel to the renowned UC Davis Teaching Hospital for a total hip replacement on her 4 year old German Shepherd (an estimated expense of $9,000-$11,000). With these advanced technologies and our ability to increase the quality of life of our pets, more and more people are figuring out how to plan ahead for these major expenses. One of the most cost effective ways to plan for such unexpected expenses is to have a pet insurance plan. But how does one know if a policy is a good investment? Here are a few questions to consider when contemplating insurance, other than the monthly premium and deductible.
- Are there any exclusions for preexisting conditions for which the pet has been diagnosed or treated for prior to enrollment? This may be an exclusion to the policy, for the life of the policy.
- Is there a waiting period prior to the policy beginning?
- Are there any exclusions for hereditary disorders (those which have been transmitted genetically from parent to offspring and may cause disease). Does the coverage exclude congenital defects
- Is there an annual or lifetime policy limit that will cap the amount that will be paid?
Deciding to enroll a pet for insurance is best done when he is young and healthy. The same principles apply to pets as with people- as they age and develop more pre existing conditions- there will be more exclusions and the rates will increase since the likeliness of claims increase. When comparing policies from different companies determine if you prefer a plan that is only for emergency/unexpected events or a plan that will cover routine wellness as well. Some companies do not include routine wellness visits (such as annual exams, vaccines, heartworm testing) as covered benefits which can help reduce the premium as well.
If you are considering pet insurance talk to the staff at your veterinary office. These people are a wealth of information. They are knowledgeable about the different companies, submitting claims, how different policies work and how to go about enrolling in plans. Veterinarians are in the business of providing the best care to your pets. It can become difficult when we have to weigh our decisions based on financial factors, which is a reality for most of us. Pet insurance has definitely helped increase our ability to offer better care to more patients. Consider this as a way to plan for those unexpected events for your beloved pets as well.