Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Should I Get Pet Insurance?: 8 Things to Consider

First of all, please don't think that not having pet insurance somehow automatically makes you a bad pet owner. That's something that is implied by pet insurance companies in their marketing, and it's simply not true. Some pet owners do benefit from having a pet insurance plan for their pet. However, we've found there are several questions you will need to research before choosing and ultimately committing to a plan. If you're a pet owner, and you've had a good or bad experience with pet insurance, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

  1. The cost of quality vet care in your area

    Most veterinarians are inspired to enter the profession due to their genuine love for animals. It's not a profession where one gets rich. However, the veterinary-care industry is not exactly consumer friendly, and high bills sometimes are the result of unnecessary, expensive tests. The cost of quality care for your pet will vary wildly no matter where you live in the U.S. If after shopping around, and talking to other pet owners you trust, you find that the clinic you and your pet prefer is pricey, take that into account as you begin budgeting for check-ups, vaccinations, and the monthly or annual premium for pet insurance.

  2. What is your budget?

    Do you live paycheck to paycheck or are you able to save some money each month after expenses? Is cash flow, that is, money that is available immediately for emergencies not related to your pet, an issue? Can you cover an unexpected pet-related expense with your savings or a credit card? When reviewing pet insurance plans, add up what you will pay annually for a plan verses the costs you anticipate for care for your pet verses what the pet insurance company will actually cover. Pet insurance companies never cover 100% of a bill. You might consider instead contributing once a month to a "pet emergency fund" in the form of a savings account that generates interest.

  3. Do you own an exotic pet?

    The rising popularity of exotic pets can be traced, in part, to the cable show Animal Planet. Viewers see relatively benign reptiles and mammals and think, "Hey, what a great idea! Having a tiger around would be cheaper than a home security alarm system!" But once such a pet comes into your home, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed by the amount of work and care such animals require. And what if your pot-bellied pig or iguana gets sick? As of this writing, a company called Veterinary Pet Insurance is the only company offering insurance for exotic pets. However, they do not cover tigers.

  4. How old is your pet?

    The age of your pet does play into the cost of a pet health insurance plan. If you have a brand new kitten, it will need vaccinations and should eventually be spayed. In a pet's golden years, more and more serious health issues may arise, necessitating more trips to the vet. For the good of your senior pet you should, while they are still healthy, try to determine how much you are willing to spend to maintain their quality of life, before euthanizing.

  1. Does your pet have pre-existing condition?

    Pet insurance companies label pre-existing conditions as "curable" or "incurable." If prior to enrolling with a plan, your pet experienced and was treated for what the insurance company considers a curable pre-existing condition, including a urinary tract, respiratory, or bladder infection, any recurrence of the condition most likely won't be covered for the first year you are with the plan. And incurable pre-existing conditions experienced before enrollment won't be covered at all. However, every pet insurance company is different, so contacting a representative in advance of enrolling in a plan, especially if you're pet has already visited a vet once or twice, is a good idea.

  2. Pet Insurance is not managed care

    Pet insurance is fee-for-service insurance as opposed to managed care coverage. Pet insurance companies reimburse you after you've paid your bill in full. Some vets, not many, will agree to wait for payment from your insurance company, and others may even work with you to create a payment plan for a particularly large bill. But more often than not, you can expect to pay the full bill at the time of treatment. To get reimbursed, you'll need to submit a claim form and receipts to your pet insurance company. Unlike most human health care plans, pet owners aren't required to go to specific doctors within a network or pay a co-pay for a visit.

  3. Beware of "benefit schedules" and "usual and customary fees"

    A pet insurance company's "benefit schedule" is a list that puts a limit on what each type of treatment for your pet can cost. Similarly, most pet insurance companies will only, after a deductible totaling $100 or more, reimburse a percentage of what they determine is the "usual and customary" fee in your locality for any item on your bill. What this means is that you can never expect the entirety of your bill to be covered by a pet insurance company. And in your budgeting, you should add in the deductible you'll have to cough up each time you submit a bill and receipts for reimbursement.

  4. What isn't covered by a pet insurance?

    So what if your dog is peeing on the carpet every day for no reason? In addition to pre-existing conditions, both curable and incurable, and hereditary conditions, there are many other issues that might require a visit to a veterinary clinic that are not covered by pet insurance companies. Grooming, behavioral problems  (like peeing on the carpet), and elective procedures are not covered by pet insurance. Many pets will require or benefit from eating a prescribed brand of food to help with gastrointestinal or kidney-related issues. But special food, which can cost much more than food you'd buy at the grocery store, isn't covered either by pet insurance. It's yet another cost you should consider as you budget to determine whether or not buying pet insurance will actually save you any money.

Taken From Insurance Quotes

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