ANIMALS 101 – PROS AND CONS OF PET INSURANCE
We all hope our pets will live long, happy and healthy lives. Yet the reality is, unexpected accidents, illnesses and other pet medical situations happen. Animal welfare organizations often have to help, because an animal is suffering and their owners did not prepare financially for an emergency. For this reason, it could be beneficial to take out some pet insurance at a low premium every month.
When you decide to shop for pet insurance coverage, it’s important to fully understand the exclusions and other limitations of the plan you’re considering. Some may require you to pay the vet and then claim back, others load it on an insurance card to swipe etc.
Plans vary widely, so ignore the marketing hype and thoroughly research your options; making a list of pros and cons can be helpful in the decision-making process. We are not endorsing any specific product, however here are just some of the brokers you can consider in South Africa OUTsurance Pet, Checkers pet insurance (underwritten by OUTsurance), Oneplan, Dotsure, Pet First insurance, MediPet and more. You can compare them through www.hippo.co.za.
Also read: ANIMALS 101 – EMIGRATING WITH PETS
WHAT IS PET INSURANCE?
Like other types of insurance, pet insurance is the transfer of risk to a third party in exchange for paying a monthly premium. Pet insurance is purchased to transfer the risk of unexpected medical expenses that could be very high.
WHAT DOES PET INSURANCE COST?
Pet insurance typically costs between R 100-500 per month per pet, depending on the level of coverage and can cover up to 90% of vet bills. You can select the premium and amount of coverage based on your needs.
Alternatives to a pet health insurance plan, you can keep an emergency fund and apply for a medical expenses credit card or a veterinary discount card. Some people choose to pay a certain amount into their vets’ account every month.
The Penny Hoarder website offers a list of pet insurance pros and cons you might find helpful as you consider whether a plan makes sense for you and your furry family member.
- It’s easy to compare your options — Compared to human health insurance plans, plans for pets are relatively straightforward, and you can get no-commitment quotes online from different companies within minutes.
- Premiums can be low — If your pet is young and healthy, or you choose a lower tier, you can get coverage for a very low monthly fee.
- You usually get to choose your vet — There are none of the usual human health plans “out of network” provider headaches with pet insurance. As long as the veterinarian you take your pet to is licensed, eligible expenses should be covered.
- You can do more for your pet — No one wants to have to choose between a sick pet and a mountain of debt. Too many pet owners, faced with a catastrophic medical crisis they hadn’t prepared for, are forced to make the heart-breaking decision to elect “economic euthanasia.” Pet insurance may save you from having to face such a decision.
- Pet insurance can provide you with the peace of mind and confidence to make better health care decisions that are in the best interest of your pet.
- Premiums can be high — If your pet is older, has a pre-existing condition or you choose a high tier, it will cost more. In addition, premiums tend to increase yearly, so your monthly pet care budget will need to grow accordingly.
- It doesn’t cover everything — On average, pet owners with insurance still pay around 20% of their pets’ medical expenses. Routine wellness check-ups usually aren’t covered, often along with certain hereditary/genetic conditions. Some insurance have many exclusions.
- You still have to pay for procedures upfront in some cases — Unlike in human medicine, veterinarians don’t involve themselves with pet insurance. This means you must pay your veterinarian the full amount, and then submit the proper forms to your insurance provider for reimbursement.
- The coverage has limitations — Many plans limit the amount you can claim, either annually or over your pet’s lifetime. If your pet suffers a major medical problem, you could max out your plan’s limit pretty quickly and find yourself paying the difference. If this is a concern for you, look for plans without payment caps.
- If your pet only needs routine vet care, you won’t save much — So break out the numbers for an average year.
BUDGET FOR THE ANIMALS IN YOUR CARE
When you’re creating your household budget, it’s a really good idea to include pet care expenses such as:
- Regular wellness check-ups, including dental care.
- Costs for proper nutrition and daily care.
- Costs for treatment of unexpected illness or injury.
- Costs for breed-specific conditions that may arise, such as allergies, skin diseases, heart problems, or orthopedic conditions.
Never let a pet suffer because you didn’t plan! In these difficult times contact your local animal welfare organisations like the SPCA, in advance and ask whether they have programs for this, that you can join. If you don’t have the funds and the animal is suffering, rather surrender them to your local SPCA to be euthanized.
Next week we will look at some strategies to avoid high vet bills.
WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER!
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