It’s a fact of life that accidents, injuries, and illnesses will occur, and often at the worst possible times. The basic idea behind pet insurance (and all insurance, really) is that you’ll pay a fixed amount of money steadily over time to avoid having to pay a whole lot later on. When a patient presents to us sick or injured, we would like to be able to focus on all the things necessary to make them well again. Unfortunately, too often the decisions that are made are based on finances, and understandably so, especially during challenging economic times. Wouldn’t it be great if we never even had to think about the cost, and could do everything possible to ensure a successful outcome? That’s the flexibility that pet insurance provides.
I’ll present to you a scenario:
Fluffy has been acting sick for several days. She’s throwing up frequently, won’t touch her dog food, and is barely drinking. Rather than turn the corner on her own, she just seems to be sicker each day. You schedule the appointment. When presented with an ill patient like this, particularly with severe symptoms that span several days, an accurate diagnosis is extremely important to ensure the proper care. A physical exam gives us a wealth of information, but may not provide the whole story, so we will generally advise diagnostics such as blood testing, x-rays, or other tests to determine the cause. After being informed of the possible costs for testing and treatment (which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars), the conversation can go a few different ways:
1) “Unfortunately Doc, money is tight for us right now. I don’t think we can afford to do those tests, but we still want to help her out. Is there anything we can do?”
Will we still try to help? Absolutely! We have to work with limited information though, so our initial treatments may not work. Worse still, if we don’t figure out what’s wrong and treat it, she may up getting sicker and sicker as the days ago on. If untreated for too long, we may reach a point of no return.
2) “Ok Doc, it’ll be tight this month, but we’ll figure out a way to make it work.”
I appreciate when owners are willing to sacrifice for the good of their pet, but it sure would be nice if they didn’t have to. We have a few payment plans which can help.
3) “Sure thing Doc, do whatever you need to do. We got a pet insurance plan for Fluffy a few months ago, and I’m sure glad we did. They’ll cover almost all of the expenses!”
This is a veterinarian’s dream. Hands aren’t tied by costs, so we can do everything necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis and ensure a successful treatment.
A few details about pet insurance:
1) Any veterinarian can accept any pet insurance. We’re not tied to certain carriers like with human healthcare (where you need to ensure your doctor / hospital is “in-network”).
2) Rates are quite reasonable. Depending on how much coverage you need, plans can range from $15 to $50 or so per month.
3) Pet insurance always operates on a reimbursement basis. You’ll pay the vet bills up front, then the insurance company will reimburse you directly (often within a few weeks).
4) Reimbursements are often in the range of 70 to 90% the cost of the service, so pet insurance would often cover about $800 of a $1000 hospital bill.
5) Pet insurance isn’t for everyone. If you are in a position financially where an unexpected $500 or $2000 or $5000 vet bill wouldn’t be crippling, then you can just stay uninsured and pay out-of-pocket as the need arises. Insurance in general is meant to serve as a safety net to buffer against unexpected expenses that would otherwise be financially devastating.
6) Read any policy carefully and ask a lot of questions. There will often be stipulations about pre-existing or breed-related conditions. Also there may be a delay in obtaining the policy before your pet would be eligible for reimbursement.
Again, we aren’t associated with any particular insurance companies. We’ve seen a number of different insurance carriers covering our patients, and overall most folks have been quite satisfied with them. If you are interested in finding an insurance plan for your pets, I encourage you to do your own research and find a policy which is right for you. We’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have in general, but specific policy-related questions should be directed to the carrier.
- Jeremy Blankenship, DVM