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September is pet health insurance month!

Posted on: September 1st, 2011 by

A kitten with pet insurance sits in the palm of a hand.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Pet owners are spending more on health care for their furry friends than ever before. It’s estimated that Americans will spend $12.2 billion on veterinary care this year, up from $11 billion last year and $8.2 billion in 2006.

There have been major advancements in the sophistication and cost of veterinary medical and surgical services. Procedures once reserved for humans, such as ultrasound, chemotherapy and blood transfusions, have become increasingly available in the care of pets. Along with these advancements have come specialists, including veterinary neurologists, cardiologists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and dentists.

As a result, vet bills of $1000 or more are becoming commonplace. I strongly suggest that all pet owners assess their financial situation, and consider the ability to meet unexpected expenses that may be incurred for veterinary care. For many people, pet health insurance is becoming an increasingly attractive option.

The good thing about pet health insurance is that it can prevent owners from being faced with having to euthanize their animal because they don’t have the money to treat it. Insured pets receive more care since the insurance is paying the majority of the cost. Pet owners respond to symptoms much faster when the pet is insured, providing the veterinarian with a better opportunity to diagnose and treat an illness earlier.

Many people feel that pets are like their children. They’re an important member of the family, and owners want the best treatment possible when the need arises. Pet health insurance provides the financial help needed to afford excellent medical and surgical care.

One misconception about pet insurance is that it’s the same as human health insurance. Unlike human insurance, dog and cat insurance is primarily a reimbursement type insurance policy. Pet owners are expected to pay their bills at the time of service, in accordance with the clinic’s usual billing practices. The client files a claim with the insurance company which then reimburses the policyholder according to the terms of the policy.

Since the pet insurance company reimburses you, the veterinarian really has no involvement in the insurance. The advantage here is that you can select the veterinarian you want. The pet health insurance company does not dictate which provider the pet owner may use. They also don’t dictate what treatment the veterinarian and owner may select nor do they dictate how much the veterinarian may charge for services. The contract is between the pet owner and the insurance company. The veterinarian is not a party to the contract, as opposed to M.D.s who are in managed care human health insurance.

Improvements in pet health insurance over the past ten years have made it more worthwhile than ever. There are more companies offering the service and more policy options available, so you have a better chance of finding a policy that covers what’s important to you and your pet at a price you can afford. There has been a recent move to make insurance plans simpler, more comprehensive and easier to understand.

Before purchasing pet health insurance, be sure you understand what the policy covers. Some policies cover some preventative care such as vaccinations, but there may be additional cost for this coverage. It is important to understand the exclusions. All pet insurance companies exclude pre-existing conditions and some exclude hereditary conditions. Some may exclude certain conditions unique to certain breeds. Almost all policies have a deductible and a co-payment requirement. Be sure you understand how expenses will be reimbursed. Speak with your veterinarian or someone on the clinic staff. While veterinarians do not sell insurance, chances are they have had experience with the policy you are considering and can provide helpful advice.

It is best to start pet health insurance while your pet is young and healthy and there are no pre-existing conditions. As a cat doctor, I see several common medical conditions that can be very expensive to diagnose and treat. These include urinary obstruction in male cats, hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and many cat bite abscesses. Pet insurance can greatly increase my clients’ ability to move from asking “How much will this cost?” to saying “Please do what is best for my cat.”

My recent cat patient “Thai” was diagnosed with a bile duct obstruction and spent three days in the hospital for intense treatment. He turned the corner and did well, but needed to come back for several recheck appointments and additional bloodwork. Thai’s total bill was a little over $2,500. His owners have a policy with Pets Best Insurance, and ended up paying only about $500 after a low deductible. Thai’s owners were so grateful that cost was never a factor in making medical decisions for their beloved cat.

Dr. Jack Stephens, a former practicing veterinarian, founded the first U.S. pet insurance company back in 1982. After 25 years of experience in the industry, he decided to take what he had learned and use it to form Pets Best Insurance located in Boise, Idaho. The company is known for its straight 80% reimbursement after deductible policy, no annual limits or age restrictions, and simple, fast claims processing. They are determined to help stop “economic euthanasia” for pets. Compare their plans and get free quotes at www.petsbest.com.

Veterinary care can provide your pet with many years of a healthy and happy life, and managing the expense of veterinary care can be done through dog or cat insurance. The important advice is to think about it before the need arises, especially during pet health insurance month!

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