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Pet Insurance: Money Well Spent or Money Down the Drain?

Pet Insurance: Money Well Spent or Money Down the Drain?
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You’ve heard about all the great things pet ownership can bring, especially as we get older. Benefits like physical exercise and better health, positive emotional connection and companionship, to name just a few.

The downside is that pets can be expensive to take care of. According to a recent report by the ASPCA, the first year cost of a dog can be about $1,270 and for a cat it’s $1,070. Also, depending on the food you buy and actual medical expenses, the costs can run well over $500 each additional year.

So what’s a pet owner to do these days? What if your beloved companion gets sick? Veterinarian costs have skyrocketed, just like medical costs for us. But is pet insurance worth the cost?

Depending on your finances, type of pet you’re interested in and your own desire for peace of mind, it could be. However, most experts agree, it’s not for everyone.

Different Policies, Different Coverage

The first thing to remember when considering pet insurance is to do your homework. Every policy is different depending on what part of the country you live in and what breed of animal you have. Your monthly costs can vary dramatically.

According to veterinarian Jean Maixner, co-owner of Animal Critical Care & Emergency Services in Seattle, “If you get the right policy, it can be an asset to the health care of that pet and have a significant impact on the bill that results from a visit in an emergency situation.”

Many experts agree, however, that signing up for a plan that includes wellness care is not worth the cost. (Most insurance companies have this as an add-on to a policy.) The benefits just don’t pay out to cover the costs of the insurance.

It’s also best to sign up for coverage when your pet is young. Most companies won’t insure pets over 12 years old and if you do get coverage for an older pet, it’ll be very costly. Many policies also won’t cover a pet with pre-existing conditions.

According to a study by Consumer Reports, most of the pet policies they found were not worth the cost for a generally, healthy animal.

Their analysis was: “If you’re unlucky enough to have a pet with a costly chronic condition or illness, or a young animal in need of major care, we found you could get a positive payout from pet insurance—if your pet develops the condition while covered.”

Buying Peace of Mind

Unless you can afford the costs if your pet has a medical emergency (which can run into thousands of dollars), some people just sleep better knowing they have a plan in place.

Grant Biniasz is the spokesperson at VPI, the oldest pet insurance company in the country. ““It’s a way to manage risk,” Biniasz says. “If you look at any form of insurance and try to run the numbers, you’re going to find that most people are not going to get back what they pay in premiums. But the people who do are happy they made the investment.”

Shop Around

Your best bet is to compare costs and polices carefully. A great place to start is by checking out sites such as Consumers Advocate and Pet Insurance Review before purchasing a policy.

And keep in mind that premiums aren’t all you pay for. Most polices require deductibles and co-pays. And pay attention to what may be excluded, such as pre-existing conditions. Many policies may not cover dental as well.

Are you a good candidate for Pet Insurance?

If the idea of choosing between a costly surgery you can’t afford or having to say goodbye to your companion is just too much to bear, having pet insurance may be the right choice for you.

However, if you plan on taking good care of your pet, including regular visits to the vet, spending lots of time with them and keeping them out of harm’s way, an insurance policy may not be the way to go.










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