When discussing health insurance for my client’s dogs and cats, I typically have two questions for them:
- Do you have health insurance for your pet?
- Why not?
Both questions are usually valid because current estimates are that less than 5% of all dogs and cats in the United States have health insurance.
Pet health insurance is a growing industry. 20 years ago there were only a small number of companies that offered pet health insurance, and this led to incomplete coverage and premiums that did not add up financially for many families. Currently there are now over 10 reputable companies offering health insurance for pets, and the number of pets insured has risen significantly. This increase has led to refining of the industry, increased competition, better coverage, and lower premiums.
This does not mean that getting insurance for your pet health is a simple decision. Pet insurance is structured more like car insurance, where you can pick the level of coverage and a deductible (up front out-pf-pocket) costs you want, and the monthly premium is then figured out from that.
There are policies that cover almost all of your pet’s care, including emergency care, routine care, surgeries, and medications. These policies are quite simple, but can be costly. Adding up a year’s of premiums can result in a substantially higher amount then you would pay for out of pocket routine care. Many of our clients benefit from a policy that covers for significant accidents and illnesses, but leaves the routine care for you to pay for. While this leads to no savings on routine care, it can be a lifesaver in the case of an accident or illness.
Take for example a simple athletic injury, the torn anterior cruciate ligament in the hind leg (or torn ACL). This is the most frequently diagnosed orthopedic injury in the dog based on statistics, with millions of dogs affected each year. A high quality ACL repair can cost from $2500 – $3000 out of pocket; with insurance, a family can see 70 – 80% of that covered. To have a $3000 surgery turn into less than $1000 is significant; while hundreds of dollars is not small, it is a lot better then thousands.
I strongly recommend that pet owners gather as much information on pet health insurance as possible and research the market for coverage and cost that is appropriate for them. Pet health insurance has dramatically enhanced the care that many pet owners can deliver to their pets, and even saved many lives because of it.