Micki McCabe

Consider pet insurance to stay on budget

Micki McCabe(Mar. 26, 2024) — When I started practicing veterinary medicine in the early ’90s, veterinary insurance was in its infancy and was admittedly a poor option. It covered very little and paid back even less on a client’s bill.

At that time, if a client asked if they should invest in pet insurance, I shared that they could simply open a bank account, put $20 a month in it and have a “rainy day” fund for unforeseen veterinary bills.

Fast-forward to present day, and the cost of veterinary care has grown significantly. We can face catastrophically high bills to give good care to our furry family members.

But we have many more options for good pet insurance available. Some employers even offer it.

As you start looking at what pet insurance might be good for your pet and your pocketbook, consider the monthly cost and what is covered, as well as yearly deductibles and exclusions. Keep in mind that some purebred animals can have higher deductibles.

It is generally less costly the younger the pet is when you start insurance, and the cost will likely go up as your pet ages. Some companies allow you to sign up for pet insurance as soon as you acquire your pet, even before you see a veterinarian. Others require a first vet visit before you can sign up for coverage to make sure there are no preexisting conditions that the company might exclude from coverage.

Some companies do not cover conditions they deem heritable, such as hip dysplasia, even if it hasn’t been discovered yet in your pet. So, make sure to do your homework before you sign up – and sign up before your pet has a problem.

Pet insurance may be an extra monthly expense, but it can really help with budgeting for good pet care. It can also save you from making difficult decisions if your pet needs expensive care that wasn’t otherwise affordable for you.

Pet insurance options include accident only, comprehensive care and routine care, which is sometimes called a pet wellness plan. Some veterinary offices provide pet wellness plans that are not actually insurance plans and do not transfer to other facilities in the event you need a referral to a specialist. Still, this can be a way to help budget routine pet care, including dental health and lab work.

The cost of true pet insurance depends on several things. First, of course, is the type of coverage you desire. Other factors include where you live, your pet’s age, breed, and size, and the deductible and reimbursement percentage. It can vary from company to company, so do a side-by-side comparison.

Like our own health insurance, high deductibles lower your premium and lower deductibles generally elevate your premium. Deductibles are often done for a plan year. After you have paid your deductible, your reimbursement is at the full amount agreed to in your plan, often 80-90% of covered services. Some insurance companies have a deductible for each time the insurance is used for a new problem.

Most companies reimburse you after you have paid the vet bill and submitted the paid invoice for reimbursement, as opposed to paying the veterinarian directly.

No insurance covers everything all the time, but it can make a difference when making choices for your pet’s care.

Email questions and comments to drmccabevet@gmail.com

Micki McCabe

Micki McCabe, DVM, DACVIM, FAAVA, is a long-time Clayton resident. The recently retired local veterinarian has an interest in internal and integrative medicine.