Think You Can't Afford Pet Insurance? Consider This Cost-Effective Alternative

After my little rat terrier recently joined his Saint Bernard brother in the Five-Figure Veterinary Bill Club, I decided we absolutey could no longer afford not to have pet insurance.  But after spending so much in the past two years on veterinary care, credit card bills were high and extra monthly spending money was low.  Adding a bill of $100 to $300 per month to cover my two dogs (my third is too old to cover) and three cats was not an option.  Still, I began investigating pet insurance options, as I knew we had no more ways to come up with funds for these big bills should another emergency occur. 

I found that some pet insurance companies offer highly-customizable plans where purchasers can control the premium costs by toggling deductibles, percent coverage, and annual maximums to create a personaized (or pet-enalized!) plan to fit most budgets.  By manipulating the available features, I created a policy akin to a human policy for "catastrohic coverage". 

Catastrophic Coverage policies are human health insurance policies that have very high dedictibles in exchange for low premiums.  The deductible is higher than the cost of most medical needs, so the consumer pays "out-of-pocket" for basic needs and general issues.  However, the policy is there in the even that something "Catastrophic" happens, which cannot be afforded out-of-pocket such as a cancer diagnosis or a serious accident..  

To create a Catastrophic Coverage Policy, I found a pet insurance company allowed up to a $1000 annual deductible.  I combined this high deductible with 90% bill coverage and a $10,000 annual maximum. The premium for all five animals is very reasonable at about $60/month. In fact, I could be more reasonable for some animal families, but my three of my insurees are over seven years old!  

Of course, this policy will not provide any coverage for smaller incidents, such as the gastroentrinitis the my lab had last year for which the vet bill totaled $300. But although they do squeeze, I am fortunate to be in a position where $300 will not make or break the month.  It is the much larger bills we have encountered in the last two years while facing cancer and inter-vertebral disc disease (IVDD) that are threatening a day where I may not be able to "find the money" to do another emergency procedure.  Knowing that the most I am at risk for is $1000 plus 10% definitely helps me sleep better at night!

There are many other issues to think about when purchasing pet insurance  that I will discuss in future columns.  But for now, I highly recommend seeking at least "Catastrophic Coverage" as soon as possible.  For the cost of a couple of lattes, you can get a pet insured for expensive illnesses or accidents.   My only regret is that I did not do this sooner!!

May 1, 2012
by Anonymous
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pet insurance

Great article! What do you think about vet discount programs, like Pet Assure? Any experience with those?

May 1, 2012
by 23 Paws and Me
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Thanks!! And Vet Discount Program Feedback...

Thank you!!  Actually, I do not have experience with vet discount services, but I was intrigued by your comment and reviewed the Pet Assure webstie for a bit.  Very interesting - I can see some of their points regarding pet insurance vs. their program.  (For anyone reading this thread who is not familiar with the program, Pet Assure is membership-based program in which members receive a 25% discount on all veterinary care with a participating veterinarian.)  I think I would need to do a bit more research to comment fairly, so perhaps I can research and and write more in a future post.  But one recommendation I can make off the top of my head is this:  when I was comparing premiums and coverage for my recently-acquired insurance, I made a spreadsheet that tabulated our major veterinary expenses from the past four years and compared what we would have paid and what we would have saved for each event with each option.  That might be a good place to start in considering this discount program as well to determine how it would impact your typical veterinary spending.  There is a lot to consider, and this way of starting allows you to at least begin quantifying the options in a way that is based on your actual experiences.

Aug 9, 2012
by Anonymous
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Pet health insurance is

Pet health insurance is essential to ensure pet owners can afford expensive veterinary care when their pet gets sick or injured.

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