Sunday, August 16, 2009
By Linda Cole
The cost of caring for pets has increased just as going to the doctor has for us. Sometimes expensive tests are required. Emergencies ranging from broken hips or legs to life threatening injuries can happen at any time. Is pet insurance really worth the cost to help protect our wallet while insuring our pets have proper care when they need it?
Pet insurance has been around since the early 1980s. Since then, companies providing coverage for pets have come and gone with around 10 companies today. According to a 2009 report issued by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, they estimate 850,000 pets are now insured in North America. Considering that the number of dogs and cats in the U.S. is estimated to be around 150 million, pet owners haven't exactly embraced buying pet insurance for their pets. Nonetheless, steadily growing numbers have indicated more people are considering pet insurance as a way to lessen their vet bill.
The main advantage in having pet insurance is that it gives the owner financial peace of mind in making decisions that could affect the animal. Most people don't have an extra $1,000 or more to cover vet bills if a devastating illness or accident happens to a family pet. However, most insurance policies for pets only cover around 50% of the cost. You have to pay the vet bill yourself and then file a claim with the insurance company. Some pet insurance companies do make quick payouts, and I guess some help is better than none at all.
Pre-existing conditions are not covered and if you do have a policy, any claim you may make will be added to the list of pre-existing conditions. Let's say your dog had a run in with a bee. If you take her to your vet, any future mouth or gum problems will then be excluded and considered pre-existing conditions when you renew your policy. Most pet insurance will cost anywhere from $25 to around $40 or more per month depending on the plan you select. Some insurance companies may offer a discount to get you to sign up, but the cost of the premium compared to what they will cover may leave some pet owner to consider other options.
For those with multiple pets, insurance premiums are not a very good solution. Consider a savings account dedicated to your pets instead. A monthly deposit of $25 or more built up over time could certainly help give you peace of mind if your dog or cat needs to go to the vet for a serious or life threatening condition. Instead of having to beg, borrow or steal from a piggy bank to pay the vet, a pet savings account is there when you need it.
Another option is Care Credit for pets. This company offers a line of credit with low monthly payments to help pet owners pay for vet care and prescription food or medications. It can even be used for human care as well. Payments are broken down into 3, 6, 12 or 18 month plans. The monthly payments can be as low as 3% of your balance.
With Care Credit, as long as you pay your minimum monthly agreed amount and the balance is paid within the specified time, there is no interest charge. Those who need more time to pay or want lower monthly payments can go with an expanded payment plan (24, 36, 48 or 60 months) with interest charges of 13.9%. You will find it is similar to a credit card and easy to use, especially for emergencies.
Pet insurance can be a good idea to help defray the costs associated with caring for pets; however, it appears there are still some issues that need to be worked out before it can fully be justified by most pet owners as worth the cost.
Read more articles by Linda Cole