Should You be Insuring Your Precious Pets?
What are you willing to spend to save your dog’s life or to assure your cat gets the treatment they need to overcome a major illness? Almost everyone you ask will immediately say “Anything it takes” or “Money is no object.” We all feel that way inside, emotionally… we would do everything in our power to make the pain, sickness or sadness disappear and return our precious babies back to normal. It’s a natural heartfelt response from panicked and dedicated owners.
However, the reality is that treatments, surgeries, medications and aftercare is costly, sometimes in the thousands of dollars. Not every budget can absorb that financial impact at a moments notice, the balloon can only be squeezed so tightly before something gives and it pops. Statistics say that more than half of the country is one major unexpected disaster away from financial disaster, and this number grows daily.
What can you do when faced with astronomical, unexpected, veterinary bills? Imagine having to choose between treatment for your pet and other financial obligations? It’s a horrible, gut wrenching and mind twisting decision that thousands of fur families face every day. There are only so many “rainy day funds” left, you can only fundraise from family and friend so many times, people are growing tired of the “Go Fund Me” asks on social media. Can you look at that fur face and not okay the needed treatment? This is a doomsday scenario that many find themselves unexpectedly staring directly in the eyes.
There is always Pet Insurance and, believe us, we understand the hesitation and concern about “throwing money down a well” when it comes to extended warranties and insurance payments. It’s, yet another, monthly expense to budget in. But, think of it this way… would it be easier to pay them NOW and receive help when you need it – OR – pay them later, at the time of the need, and have the burden of that decision hanging over your household for months?
The confusion regarding Pet Insurance is a mile wide and just as deep. People don’t understand it, don’t know where to get it, don’t research what it covers, in many cases they don’t even know what it costs to cover their pet. All these answers are an online search and some detailed study away. Often, you can find your current home or life insurance provider also offers pet insurance to add on to existing policies. We are also finding that many employers are starting to understand the relationship between fur companions and their owners is more like “parent and child”, so they are offering pet coverage options, as an add-on, in their employee health plans. When it comes to insuring your pet, a little research and education goes a long way!
What can YOU expect to pay?
This is the single most important, and misunderstood, question asked about pet insurance… what am I going to pay? Usnews.com recently published an average price quote of $11 to $70 a month to cover your pet. Why the wide variance? Pricing is created by species, breed, age, preexisting conditions, and where you live (sounds like people insurance, doesn’t it).
There’s also a pricing factor that kicks in based on what plan you choose, what treatments you choose to cover. Most providers align along these three lines;
- Basic Care– Covers accidental injuries and illnesses (excluding cancer). These are the budget busters and nightmares we all fear.
- Comprehensive– Adds in office visits, tests, X-rays, lab fees, and prescriptions to a basic plan.
- Wellness Care– that’s your yearly maintenance visits, checkups and vaccines not covered in either of the first two.
Of course, insurance isn’t a “get care for free” magic card. Much like human insurance, there are deductibles, co-pays and caps on the policy. Most basic policies do not cover office visits or medications but there are add-on policy options (like we describe above).
All of this is directly connected to the policy you choose, the type and age of the animal. What we’re saying is, like any insurance policy, it’s a crap shoot on if you’ll ever use it but it’s there when you need it. Just understand the policy you choose and your obligations in up front costs before insurance kicks in.
Other key things to know are items like, dogs cost more than cats to cover. Large breeds are more costly to insure than small, elderly more expensive than puppies and kittens. Again, this is the same thing you see in your personal insurance policies. It makes sense for the insurance company to protect themselves and the other policy holders by putting these rules in place.
In 2021, the national average pet health insurance premium for an accident and illness policy for dogs is $594.15 per year or $49.51 per month. This has a deductible of $2500 per condition that resets yearly.
The same year, the national average for a cat $341.81 per year or $28.48 per month. Cats tend to be smaller, have less appointments, fewer medications and treatments are less expensive. The same or lower deductible level would be in place.
As you might expect, breed and age are the two factors that increase the policy cost the most. This is true in both dogs and cats, with the cost of a plan nearly doubling at age 8. Let’s face it, older animals have more health issues… just like their owners. As we mentioned before bigger breeds, and breeds that are genetically predisposed to illness or issues, are going to be more costly to cover.
Some companies offer military discounts and the industry has started to honor First Responders with additional discounts, as well. Not everyone offers these discounts, but it never hurts to ask or search with these additional benefits in mind, if they apply.
What IS covered in the policy?
Frankly, it varies but most often you’ll find things like hospitalization, surgery, emergency visits, hereditary conditions, breed-specific conditions, labs and Rx scripts, hip dysplasia, dental illness and disease (but not cleanings) all covered under your plan.
If you’ve ever had a pet emergency or need for a complicated surgery, you know that $2500 can be a drop in the bucket vs the overall cost to treat. The cost of ONE VISIT for the first three items mentioned on this list are often enough to sway folks to invest in pet insurance.
What’s NOT covered?
The following are usually never covered in insurance polices… virtual pet visits, micro-chipping, end-of-life care, or stem cell therapy. Cancer treatments are hit or miss, depending on the company and policy.
Again, make sure you understand what is NOT covered, or what the add-on options are that you could purchase to ease your concern about a certain process or procedure. If you don’t ask the questions, you are always in the dark!
For more detail on what is likely to be in a pet insurance policy, you can link over to this really great write-up by our friends at usnews.com
Who are the Top Companies in the Pet Insurance marketplace?
The team at #FreddieSez researched several online posts about pet health insurance, looking for commonly listed companies and most popular features for coverage. Here are some names we saw most often;
- Met Life– This company was in the top three in every list we viewed, so Met Life apparently has it going on when it comes to covering your fur kids. Their positive marks included; Family coverage, no upper age limit, affordable and extensive plans, get a quote within 2 minutes, take your pet to any licensed vet in the nation.
- ASPCA- It’s a natural assumption that the ASPCA would have one of the better plans on the market, it’s part of their mission statement. Their plan strengths include; up to 90% reimbursement, lower rates for multiple pets, use any vet, range of plans to fit your budget, and a 30 day money back guarantee.
- Healthypaws- This is a company that was founded and designed to cover pets with insurance. Considering they have well over a thousand 5-star reviews, they are apparently doing something right! Reasons to choose them include; no caps on payouts (annual, lifetime or per claim), most claims processed in 2 days or less, you can submit claims online or via a mobile app.
- SPOT- This company gets high marks across the board with great customer reviews and a solid brand reputation. Their positives included; 24/7 helpline for policy holders, choose your own vet, up to a 90% reimbursement rate, puppies and kittens included in policies.
- Pumpkin– Rated #1 pet insurance provider by Fund.com. This company was given high marks in these areas; plan covers dental illness and behavioral issues, 90% cash back on covered vet bills, no breed or upper age restrictions.
These are only five suggestions out of 20 national providers you can choose from… so you could find a better option to fit your needs if you are willing to dig into the research.
Pet Insurance by the Numbers
The pet insurance industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, with a predicted growth to 10.2 billion dollars by 2025. Pet insurance companies have seen over a 22% growth in the past 5 years and that number is likely to grow faster in the upcoming years.
80% of pet owners report taking their pet to a veterinarian at least once in a calendar year
The annual cost of owning a dog has exceeded $2000 per animal. A single unexpected vet visit can raise that total by 50 to 100%
Skin or allergy issues in a dog can cost over $1200 annually to be treated by a vet (national average)
67% of US household include a pet
98% of those households with a pet consider them family
63.4 million U.S. households own a dog, 42.7 million households have a cat
Over 3.5 million pets had insurance at the end of 2022
Dogs make up the majority of insured pets with 83%, versus cats who make up only 17%
The five states with the biggest proportion of insured pets are California (19.4%), New York (9.1%), Florida (6.2%), New Jersey (5.4%), and Texas (5.1%)
As you can see, the numbers are huge on volume of animals in homes, frequency of vet visits, cost of treatment and how many animals are NOT insured.
If we go back to the beginning of our research and revisit the question, “What are you willing to spend to save your dog’s life or to assure your cat gets the treatment they need to overcome a major illness?”, we don’t think the answer changes. Most people will answer that they would do ANYTHING… that’s what you do for family.
Wouldn’t it be easier to have help paying those bills? Sure, it’s a “pay me now or pay me later” pet healthcare and insurance world… but statistics show that it would be inherently easier to “pay me now” than have huge lump sum to “pay me later.” Isn’t it at least worth an hour of your time to do the research and math to see if pet insurance is right for your family?
Well, that’s it for today’s Dog Blog. We hope this was informational and eye-opening, or that it will cause you to consider looking into the world of pet insurance for your fur kids.
From the crew here at Freddie Central, we hope the week ahead is safe, fun and VERY healthy for you and your fuzzy crew! Drop in next week for another trip to the well of wisdom from the Internets favorite dog reporter… #FreddieSez!
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