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Heathy Paws: Pet Insurance

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a new column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

We are frequently asked for our opinion on pet insurance so we figured this would be a great topic for discussion this week… though it nevertheless remains a topic wide open for debate.

Veterinary pet insurance is a bit more comparable to dental insurance than our own general medical health insurance plans, in that the client pays the provider/veterinarian directly, files a claim, and then is reimbursed directly from the insurance company. A few hospitals may process the claim for the owner, but for the most part the hospital is uninvolved in any processing of the claims, other than providing a diagnosis and records to the insurance company when requested.

The other main difference from human health insurance is that pet insurance is for the most part designed to cover accidents, illnesses and injuries, not the routine wellness and preventative care (annual exam, vaccinations, preventatives) that one typically budgets for when acquiring a pet. It is the accidents/illnesses/injuries that come up unexpectedly and can be difficult to budget for ahead of time that most owners want the insurance against.

Each company works a bit differently in regards to yearly premiums, deductibles, pre-existing conditions, and coverage limits. It is very important to read all the fine print with any policy you are considering to be sure that there are not breed or other exclusions that may pertain to your pet. We recommend discussing the policy you are considering with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

So, all-in-all, is pet insurance worth the money? It’s impossible to say, since by nature we can’t predict which or when accidents, illnesses, or injuries may occur. The argument can certainly be made that in some cases it may be less pricey to simply set aside the money that would go towards the monthly or yearly premium so that it’s there for an emergency, but then again, a young pet can be just as likely to have an accident or serious illness as an older one who has more “reserves” in such an emergency fund.

We tend to recommend insurance the most strongly to pure-bred pets with well-known breed dispositions to certain conditions or diseases. The other question to ask yourself is that if you had to go to one of the local emergency clinics with a serious emergency or other significant medical issue — are you prepared and able to foot a several thousand dollar bill (potentially >$5,000 depending on the emergency) without getting reimbursed for any part of it down the road?

The following is a list of questions to consider when evaluating a potential pet insurance company and if their plans are right for you and your pet:

  • Are there any breed exclusions?
  • What is the policy for preexisting conditions?
  • What is the deductible?  Is this yearly, or per problem?
  • Will the premium go up yearly?
  • What is the turnaround time to get reimbursed?

Lastly, most policies won’t issue new policies on pets over a certain age, even if otherwise healthy.  The best time to sign up is usually when your pet is a puppy/kitten, before any “pre-existing conditions” have been identified.

For a side-by-side comparison of the various plans available click here. And for more information or a discussion on how the coverage a specific plan may benefit your pet, as well as to get an idea of medical costs of various illnesses, talk to your veterinarian. Hopefully this will aide in making an informed and educated decision to determine if obtaining veterinary/pet insurance for your fur-baby is the right one.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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