“Can I get Pet Insurance to cover this?”

Dr. Rex Riggs ~ Best Friends

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that question, immediately after I just have informed a client their pet will require a big surgery or treatment. Too late. I wish they would have thought about pet insurance when the pet was young.

I can see why they did not consider pet insurance five or six years ago. It was not very good. That is the problem we deal with today.

Pet Insurance has come a long way in the past 5 years. In my mind, it has been reinvented in the United States. England has always embraced pet insurance, where over 25% of pet owners have insurance these days. In Australia, around 15%. But in the United States, less then 1% of us have seen the value of pet insurance.

Why?

Well, I can give you my opinion. When I see new patients now, especially puppies and kittens, I tell them about pet insurance and tell them it is something I recommend. But if you’d asked me five years ago, I would have told them to forget about it.

The original pet insurance was not very good, but did a great job of frustrating both clients and doctors. It was very hard to get claims paid. Everything was coded. You were given certain maximum amounts that would be paid for each ailment or condition and once you reached that, you were out of luck. Claims would be denied and the vets had to send more information and they just did not see the worth of pet insurance. It was just too much work for minimal gain. These bad experiences have soured many vets and they simply think all insurance companies are the same and will still not recommend any.

Time has changed though!

Through visionary companies like Embrace Pet insurance and others, the pet insurance industry in the US has changed. No more coding of ailments for many companies. Great customer service, with people who really want you to get paid. No really! What a concept!

I recommend people look at pet insurance when they come in for the first time. If the pet is healthy, there are likely to be no preexisting conditions. I tell them they might not need to use it in the early years, with most health care costs coming in the pet’s last three years. But it is there for when it it needed.

It is there for those labradors that eat underwear or anything else they can stick in their mouths (I always say the lab’s motto is, “let’s put it in our mouth first and ask questions later!”). It is there when the gate is left open and your pet gets hit by a car. It is there for diabetes, tumors, allergies…you get the point. Some of these can get bills in the thousands pretty quickly. Pet insurance is a great thing in these situations.

Vets get no kickbacks from pet insurers. We have no incentive other than ensuring that the client will be able to pay the bill. Pet insurance is like car insurance, it is called indemnity insurance. It is there when you need it. It is not managed care, like our health insurance. That will never happen in veterinary medicine simply because vets will not allow it. The two companies I like are Embrace Pet Insurance and Trupanion*.

We do have road blocks with veterinarians and clients alike to break down, brought on by past experiences. Educate yourself and educate your vet. Pet insurance is a win/win proposition for vets and the pet-owning population.

*We learned that Trupanion will also reimburse for training your dog.

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