Pet health insurance has become a billion dollar industry over the past few years. More and more insurance companies are offering pet coverage, and many new insurance companies have popped up that specialize in pet insurance. So the question is, do you need pet insurance?
Many people struggle too afford health insurance for themselves and the human members of their family. Is it worth it to add coverage on your four-legged family members? What types of policies are available and which would be best for your pet(s)? I'll break it all down in this article to help you make a decision.
Depending on the plan you choose, health insurance for pets can cover both accidents and standard health issues, and can be chosen from a range of budgets. But whether dog health insurance is actually worth it for you depends on many factors.
It's important that you do your research and shop around with different companies. Read the fine print, and understand exactly what is and isn't covered by each policy. Pet insurance companies have been operating without much notice from the government, until recently.
Recently, lawmakers have begun looking into bringing more coherence and supervision over pet insurance companies. There are still a lot of loopholes and tricks, so it's important that you are diligent in your research to make sure you're getting a policy that will cover all of your needs.
Do You Need Pet Insurance?
When consider the question do you need pet insurance, the first thing that will likely come to your mind is the cost of veterinary care. Vet care is the most expensive aspect of caring for your pet, and having insurance to help relive some of the financial burden would certainly be beneficial.
Sadly, vet fees have been escalating at a rate that exceeds the rate of inflation by 6-7 times! This is because new technological and medical advances are constantly being introduced in the veterinary field. As with all products and services, the better the quality, the more expensive it is.
Most people don't have thousands of extra dollars set aside in a savings account to pay for an emergency surgery or the treatment of a chronic condition for their pet. They would either need to borrow the money or make the difficult decision to have their pet euthanized.
This is where pet health insurance comes into play.
Cost isn't the only thing to consider in this circumstance. Whether we like it or not, pet insurance isn’t the miracle solution that insurance companies would like you to think. There are different insurance plans available, and they all offer different coverage options.
Some insurance companies build loopholes into their policies, so you need to be very careful to choose a policy that will benefit you. I'll explain the four most common policy types and the pros and cons of each.
1. Accidents-Only Plan
The most basic type of dog health insurance, “accidents only” is also the cheapest option – usually around $50/month, depending on the insurance provider and some other factors. As the name suggests, this insurance covers all types of accidents that can happen to your dog outdoors or indoors.
Some policies also cover illnesses that can be the result of an accident, but you have to research each policy individually to be sure. This type of dog health insurance is good for pets that go outside a lot and are very active, especially if they do a lot of adventuring off-leash.
If your dog is quite healthy and has a low chance of diseases, genetic defects and other non-accidental illnesses, this type of insurance can be beneficial. It will give you a safety net should something unexpected happen. Cost-wise, accidents-only health insurance plans are affordable on nearly any budget.
BE AWARE: This insurance policy has an upper limit. Once it’s exceeded, you’ll have to cover the rest of the vet bills yourself. If you set this limit at a reasonable height, however, then only rarely will this become an issue.
2. Time-Limited Plan
Pet insurances like these cover not only accidents, but a wide range of diseases and illnesses as well. They are still relatively cheap because they also have several conditions that you'll need to pay attention to.
BE AWARE: As the name would suggest, these policies have a time limit. Typically, this time limit is 12 months, which is why this type of insurance is often referred to as “12 month insurance.” After 12 months have passed since the diagnosis of the dog’s condition, the insurance will no longer cover the costs of said condition.
After 12 months it will be considered “a pre-existing condition,” and even paying for 12 more months of insurance won’t change that. Because of that, time limited dog health insurance is not a good option for lifelong conditions like diabetes or arthritis.
Keep in mind that the time limit is per condition. The fact that 12 months have passed and the insurance will no longer cover your dog’s diabetes, doesn’t mean that it won't cover other health issues.
Time-limited plans also have an upper funds limit. Once that limit is exceeded, even if 12 months haven’t passed yet, you’ll have to pay for the rest of the expenses yourself. A time limited dog health insurance policy usually costs less than $100 per month.
3. Maximum Benefit Plan
This type of dog health insurance is similar to the time limited insurance, only it has no time limit. If a certain health issue needs 18 or 24 months to be taken care of and you’ve set the funds limit to a high enough point, a maximum benefit plan would be exactly what you need. This type of plan will cost you well over $100 per month, but it could end up saving you thousands in the long run.
BE AWARE: A maximum benefit plan still has a funds limit “per condition”. If the funds limit is reached for a certain condition, the insurance company will start regarding the condition as “pre-existing” again, and you’ll be on your own again.
4. Lifelong Pet Health Insurance
This type of pet insurance is the most expensive, but offers you a lot more security and flexibility than the previous three options. It covers vet fees for almost all non-pre-existing conditions up to a certain point each year. Also, if you renew the policy, it will give you the same amount of coverage the following year as well.
With this type of policy, it doesn’t matter how long a treatment can take. Even if it is a lifelong treatment (e.g. diabetes), you’ll be covered as long as your policy is paid up to date.
If the annual limit is reached, you’ll have to cover the rest until the next year's cycle begins. Depending on the insurance company you choose, a lifelong dog health insurance policy can cost upwards of $200 per month.
BE AWARE: A possible downside of the lifelong pet health insurance plan is that when it comes time for renewing your policy, the company can reevaluate your dog’s case and turn you down, or increase the cost. If your pet is diagnosed with a chronic condition, you may lose your insurance coverage or end up paying $300-$400 per month to keep the policy.