Insuring Your Pet Can Save You Money and Heartache

As pets become a part of the American family, pet insurance is more necessary for their care.

By  Guest Blogger, José A. Sánchez Fournier

Pets are a popular part of the American family, with 67% of households owning at least one. This reflects a significant increase since 1988 when only 56% of households did. Despite the economic hardships that pets can impose, pet ownership has increased steadily over the decades. Dogs, cats, aquarium fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals are now seen as valuable family members who serve as entertainers, companions, and even protectors of the homestead.

Why obtain pet insurance?

With approximately 85 million households in the United States owning a pet, caring for these nonhuman family members has become a $99 billion a year industry, more than doubling since 2010. This statistic testifies to their popularity and the level of financial sacrifice some pet owners make to keep their pets healthy and happy.

The cost of veterinary care alone is expected to reach $30.2 billion this year. As veterinary care continues to incorporate many advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques that are commonplace in human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care will likely continue to rise. And with many pet owners facing economic strains due to the pandemic, a sudden pet health emergency, even if not grave, could have them facing the possibility of “economic euthanasia,” having to put their pets down because they lack the funds to cover sudden veterinary expenses.

What is pet insurance?

An increasingly popular option to prevent this type of situation is a pet insurance policy. Unlike human health insurance, which usually pays out directly to the medical provider, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You must first pay the veterinarian for the procedure needed and then request reimbursement from the pet insurance company. The reimbursement process is usually simple, requiring only the vet’s invoice (and sometimes some treatment records) along with a completed claim form. The reinstatement amount is never 100% of the cost, although some more complete plans cover up to 90% of vet costs.

Like other types of insurance, pet insurance is essentially a package of many different types of coverage. Some packages cover only the bare essentials, while others are more and include preventive care and rehabilitation. Dental coverage for pets is rare, but a few carriers are now offering it as an option in their pricier policies. However, nearly all pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and specific conditions such as hip dysplasia. Fortunately, a few companies offer pet insurance for pre-existing conditions.  They can also include payout caps on particular procedures, on the yearly payout, or even on the policy’s total. Most pet insurers will reimburse you for care rendered by any licensed American vet, but some limit policyholders to certain veterinary clinics and networks.

All pet insurance plans have a deductible of one type or another. Most insurers give their customers a choice of deductibles; policies with lower deductibles cost more. Adjusting the deductible allows customers to pick a policy with a monthly payment that fits their budget.

About the author:
José A. Sánchez Fournier is a writer with ConsumersAdvocate.org. Previously, he spent 15 years as a journalist with El Nuevo Día, the largest daily newspaper in Puerto Rico.

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