Thursday, November 12, 2009

Health Insurance for Your Dog? What are Your Options?

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Just like health insurance for humans, pet health insurance comes in many forms and plays an important part in giving us options for our pets' care. Without health insurance, some owners must opt for euthenasia, when serious injury or illness surprises them financially.

Unlike our health insurance, which is considered necessary, most American pet owners do not carry health insurance on their pets. Fewer than 300,000 pets are insured in the United States.

Owners should know their options and seek insurance to help with the types of care that they feel will be most taxing on their finances, as well as their decisions regarding their pets' care.

Insurance types vary, but basic offerings include coverage for accidents and illnesses (the surprises), and coverage for preventive care, vaccinations and annual checkups. The latter items are generally those that can be predicted, so evaluating the cost is easier to do. When seeking insurance for the possibility of a serious illness, accident or long term care, it is especially important to read the fine print. Know what you will get and understand what you will NOT get for your premium dollars. Understanding is key to your decision.

If you are a dog owner whose pet is all-important, and you feel you would invest heavily in his care, if he were to become extremely ill or seriously injured, you may find good value in health insurance. Europeans, for instance, use pet insurance much more widely than Americans.

There are few companies that offer insurance for major illnesses and injuries in the U.S. The primary players appear to be:

  • Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) is the largest U.S. insurer, by far, and has been around for nearly 30 years. While they offer a variety of different plans and levels of coverage, they do have some conditions that are excluded, so do your homework. 
  • Pet Assure is a much younger company that covers all pets, and turns none away for pre-existing conditions. Their program is technically an alternative to insurance, that offers discounts through a network of participating providers of all kinds in the pet industry. They are able to provide owners with discounts on vet bills, as well as food, boarding, grooming and training. 
  • Trupanion is an injury and accident coverage offered through Petco, a major national pet supply chain. This covereage appears to have many appealing benefits such as coverage for congenital disorders, high lifetime limits and no penalties for filing claims. Be sure to read the agreement fully to assure you are receiving what you understand is the coverage. 

The greatest advantage to purchasing health insurance for your pet is the peace of mind that you will be able to afford whatever medical care is required when the unexpected happens. Along with this is the less obvious perk that owners will not have to give as much consideration to whether a doctor's visit is needed, when medical issues occur. When money is not an issue, the decision is much easier to make.

Of course, monthly premiums are a cost that cannot be avoided, but this small payment comes much easier for most of us than a sudden, large medical expense. This is where the decision is often made.

If health insurance for your dog is something you wish to pursue, I encourage you to do your homework, read all the fine print, and know your costs, coverages, and those conditions not covered. Best wishes in keeping your dog healthy.

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