With all of the recent news and public discussion about affordable healthcare and mandatory insurance coverage for people, have you thought about your furry family members? Over the past several decades our pets have moved from roaming outside on the farm to angling for pillow space on our beds. For many of us, pets are as much a part of the family as are our two-legged family members. So, if insurance for people is thought to benefit our overall healthcare situation, does the same hold true for pets?
As a veterinarian at a local animal hospital, I have seen the benefits of health insurance in action. Most pet owners would do just about anything to try to help their dog or cat when it becomes ill. Unfortunately, financial concerns become a major part of the decision-making process when faced with a pet’s medical problem. Advances in veterinary care have enabled pets to live longer and healthier lives. Tests and treatments once reserved for human patients are now the standard of care for veterinary patients. Clinical diagnostics such as ultrasounds, blood tests, and biopsies can provide a veterinarian with information to determine the best course of treatment for your pet’s medical problem. However, these tests mean additional expenses. One of the most heartbreaking parts of my job is when I know that there is more that I can do to help a pet, but financially the best option is not possible. Pet insurance can help remove the financial barrier and allow the veterinarian to provide the best quality medical care for each situation.
Pet insurance has been available in some form for over thirty years, but it seems to have grown in popularity over the past decade. There are lots of providers and options available from which to choose, and these should be looked at closely before making a decision. The pet insurance model is not the same as the managed care model for humans. The pet insurance company Has no say in how veterinarians care for their patients. The veterinarian provides the best medical care. The owner then pays the invoice and submits the claim to the insurance company, and the insurance company reimburses the owner some or all of the amount depending on the coverage. It is more like the insurance you purchase for your car. You can get coverage for accidents and illnesses for a smaller monthly premium, or you can get coverage for all health issues and wellness care for a larger monthly premium. There is also pet insurance specifically for cats that is less expensive. Of course, pre-existing conditions at the time of purchase of the plan are not covered, so it is important to start pet insurance prior to any medical conditions. Many rescue organizations offer some pet insurance coverage for a period of time after adopting an animal from them. If any health conditions requiring treatment are found by the veterinarian at those first few health check-ups, then they would most likely be covered.
All insurance companies develop their plans so that they are taking in more money in premiums than they are paying out in coverage. Otherwise, they would go out of business. Some owners are going to pay more in premiums than will be reimbursed in benefits. I find the real value for the dog or cat owner is the peace of mind that comes from knowing he or she will be able to honor the unwritten commitment made to their pet: that they would care for their furry family member whatever life brings.