Pet insurance is like car and health insurance. You might pay in for years and never need it, but if you need it, you are glad you have it, because if you don’t, you can be stuck with a big bill that will take years to pay off. Of course, you can always put money in a rainy day fund for vet bills should they arise, just like you can for medical bills. Whether or not you are able to commit to this depends on you. Some people are savers, and some are spenders. That’s just the way it is.
What’s in it for Me?
What do you actually get for your money? There are two types of coverage – wellness care, which covers check-ups and vaccinations, and coverage for illness or injury. The two major pet insurance companies, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) and ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, have several levels of coverage to choose from.
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance offers four levels of coverage – the higher the level, the better the coverage, with routine and advanced wellness add-on options for things such as annual check-ups, and a variety of vaccines and testing for each of the four levels. Coverage includes accidents and illnesses, ongoing conditions, hereditary and congenital conditions, alternative therapies, behavioral treatments, and an option called “higher benefits” for level four coverage for “the highest benefit amounts available.”
Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), backed by Nationwide, also offers four plans – major medical, which is comprehensive coverage, with an annual benefit maximum of $14,000, and covers the widest range of benefits offered by VPI; they promote this plan as “a safety net for the big vet bills.” The Economy Medical Plan is for basic coverage for accidents, illness, and chronic conditions. The Injury Plan is strictly for injuries and does not cover medical conditions. The fourth option is wellness coverage only with three levels: basic, plus, and max.
Do you need pet insurance, and if so, how much? This is where research can pay off in the long run. Another part of the equation, aside from how much insurance costs, being disciplined enough to set aside money for vet bills, and what it covers, is your dog or cat himself. There is the consideration of the age of the pet, if there are any preexisting conditions that you are aware of, and any health issues with your particular breed of pet. For example, if you have a retriever, you need to be aware that this breed can have hip dysplasia. If you have a Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, or Cocker Spaniel, you need to know they are prone to have cancer, and having insurance coverage would be very valuable for cancer treatments. Researching breed information can help you decide if you are likely to need pet insurance for illnesses, or if you can get by with wellness coverage alone.
Another option for vet bills is a credit card called Care Credit that can be used to pay vet bills, among other things, at the time of service, allowing pet parents to pay off the cost over time. Obviously, this comes with the added expense of interest, but sometimes this is the only choice. No one can predict the cost of care that a pet parent may be faced with during the lifetime of a pet, but pet insurance is one option that can be a much needed safety net in time of need.
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