Should you have a health insurance plan for your pets? This is a tricky question to answer because we all hope to never need insurance. If we are lucky, we will pay premiums for years and never have to file a claim. We hope to avoid home damage, car accidents, illnesses and other unexpected events for which we are insured. Unfortunately, life tends to throw us curveballs! Pets are no exception.
There are plenty of animals who live 10-15 years and never have a significant health problem. Others are not so lucky. Congenital disorders, metabolic diseases, catastrophic injuries and prolonged illnesses all occur in some pets, just like they do in some people. Even with excellent preventive care, it is impossible to predict who will stay healthy and who will spend time in the hospital.
Veterinary care has advanced tremendously in recent years and we can now diagnose and treat conditions that would have been disastrous in the past. This is wonderful news! The problem is that cutting-edge care can be very expensive. Veterinarians now use much of the same equipment and supplies as human hospitals but unlike the human health care industry, we cannot offset costs by billing insurance companies. We are at the mercy of medical suppliers and the pharmaceutical industry; costs often soar as a result.
This leaves veterinarians and loving pet owners in very difficult situations every single day. Families are understandably distraught when the cost of necessary care exceeds what they can afford. It is also heartbreaking as a veterinarian to know that you might be able to save a life but the financial obstacles cannot be overcome. There are third-party companies that can help alleviate costs in certain cases but it is not always enough. Most veterinarians can no longer accept partial payments because experience has proven that the vast majority of people do not pay later, despite sincere intentions at the time of a crisis. We provide free and discounted care as often as possible but medications, supplies, staffing, and equipment costs continue to increase every year, sometimes exponentially. So what is the solution?
Insurance can help us save those lives! There are a variety of different companies and policies available now. Some companies reimburse costs for wellness care like routine examinations and vaccinations. Others provide protection only for illnesses and injuries. There are no direct benefits from insurance companies to veterinarians, so families aren’t restricted to certain providers or plans. I encourage all pet owners, especially those with new puppies or kittens, to research available options for pet insurance and see if there is a plan which meets your family’s needs. – Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa