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- Pet insurance is not the same as your health insurance policy
- Your pet is not covered under your current health insurance plan
- Coverage of your pet will depend on type and breed of pet
Although many people consider their pets part of their family, you cannot use your own health insurance to cover your dog.
Your health insurance is for you and your human dependents, not your dogs, cats, fish or other pets. With that said, if you are concerned about medical expenses related to your animals, you could always purchase pet health insurance.
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Do I need to buy pet insurance?
Pet health insurance certainly isn’t as prevalent as standard human health insurance, but it is growing in popularity all across the United States.
Approximately 10 to 12 years ago, there were only a small handful of companies offering pet insurance, but now there are many different companies who offer pet insurance. Pet insurance policies covers everything from:
- Common illnesses
- Preventive care
- Surgical procedures
- Death and related burial expenses
How do I buy a health insurance policy for my dog?
A good place to start your search for pet health insurance is to ask your veterinarian. Quite often, pet insurance companies partner with veterinarians. In this manner, both parties can benefit from the joint marketing efforts.
Your veterinarian may have relationships with several different insurance companies, or he may partner with just one.
In either case, the vet’s office should be able to provide you with enough information to get you started. If not, they might know where you can get such information.
The other possibility is to simply do an online search of the term “pet health insurance.” Rest assured that you’d probably get thousands of results from your typical search engine.
When you do find pet health insurance companies you are interested in, prepare a list of questions prior to contacting them.
What does pet health insurance cover and how much does it cost?
Because we own many different types and breeds of pets, the coverage and cost will be heavily dependent on those factors.
For example, specific breeds of dogs tend to have more health issues because of certain genetic traits.
On the other hand, mutts tend to be healthier because their gene pool is much larger. Based just on breed alone, some dogs are more expensive to insure than others are.
Regardless of the pet, the insurance company will want to know the age, sex, species, breed, and the general health of the animal.
From this information, they will be able to offer you several different plans in which to choose. Those plans can be very basic, or they can be as complex as the human HMO plan.
How much coverage you decide on will be based on your ability to pay the premiums and your comfort level with deductibles and coverage limits.
As far as the cost, a Consumer Reports study issued last year listed the lowest premiums for pet health insurance they found at $10 per month. On the high side, it could be as much as $90 per month.
The report also made mention of deductibles and coverage limits, which vary from one policy to the next. Pet health insurance is not as an uncomplicated matter as many people assume it to be.
What are some of the coverage limits?
Coverage limits can be as varied as breeds themselves. For example, consider a canine policy with a $500 deductible and an 80 percent limit on specific genetic illnesses suffered by a certain breed of show dog.
If that dog were to be diagnosed with one of the illnesses, the insurance company would pay only 80 percent of the veterinarian’s fees after you’ve paid your $500 deductible.
That means you’ll still be responsible for the remaining 20 percent as long as the dog continues receiving care.
There also may be financial limits the insurance company is willing to pay out on an annual basis, just like human health insurance. Annual limits are designed to protect the insurance company against ongoing losses for a chronic illness.
Such annual limits clearly demonstrate the fact that purchasing pet health insurance will not completely eliminate your out-of-pocket expenses for your pet’s health care. However, they may reduce them enough to make it financially worth your while.
What if I can’t afford pet insurance and my dog is sick?
It’s very common for pet owners to find they have a sick animal they can’t afford to get healthy again. Fortunately, there are options available.
For example, some veterinarians have a financial assistance fund set up through contributions from customers and various pet advocacy groups.
If your vet participates, you can apply for financial assistance through it. If you’re approved, it reduces the amount of money you need to pay out-of-pocket.
Furthermore, there are animal advocacy groups all over the country that provide financial assistance on a case-by-case basis.
Your local SPCA, Humane Society, or vet should be aware of any such organizations in your area.
As for things like more routine care, veterinarian schools and county governments offer a range of free services.
This could be anything from routine checkups to required vaccinations. Again, your vet or Humane Society should have information about such programs.
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