Choosing a pet insurance plan

Buying health insurance for your dog is a smart move, but how do you decide which plan is best?

If someone you love falls ill, expense is no object in getting them well again. What about your dog? Would you spend whatever it takes to keep him with you a little longer? You probably answered with a resounding “yes!” But could you afford pet insurance?

Diagnostics and treatments once reserved for humans are now available for our furry friends. MRIs and cat scans, for example, are now routine for detecting puzzling problems. This is great news, but the costs can be mind-boggling. Pneumonia treatment can run as high as $1,900. Cancer therapy can escalate to $3,600 plus. These costs are beyond the means of many people, especially in the current economic climate.

Health insurance is one way to protect yourself from being faced with hefty vet bills you can’t cover. Yes, insurance premiums can cost $2,000 to $6,000 over the average lifetime of a dog (about 11 years), and the out-of-pocket total for routine yearly checkups is much less than that. But what if your dog gets badly injured or seriously ill and you need to fight for his life? In this case, health insurance can be a life saver, literally.

Before buying a pet insurance policy for your dog, you need to make sure you are getting exactly what will meet your requirements, and your dog’s. Getting answers to the following questions will help you make the best decision.

1. What does your veterinarian recommend?

Begin by talking to him/her for suggestions and advice about pet insurance, which company to choose, and his/her experiences in dealing with insurance companies.

2. How do insurance costs compare between companies?

Ask for quotes from several pet insurance companies before making a decision.

3. What does the plan you are interested in cover – routine care, illnesses, accidents?

What are the policy’s limits? Is there a maximum coverage? Are any treatments or conditions excluded?

4. Can you go to the veterinarian of your choosing?

Some policies require you to accept a veterinarian from their pre-approved list.

5. Which deductible should you choose?

A higher deductible will lower your monthly premium, but will mean higher out-of-pocket expenses. A lower deductible means just the opposite.

6. How is your dog’s treatment determined under the policy?

Do not let a complex fee or benefit schedule be the deciding factors.

7. How is payment made?

Most pet insurnace policies require that you pay the veterinary bill and then submit a claim for reimbursement. Reimbursement can be based on two methods: a. A percentage of your vet’s bill (preferable) b. A percentage of a benefit schedule.

8. Is there a waiting period before the policy takes effect?

It’s interesting that the first dog covered by a pet insurance policy was the famous collie, Lassie, in 1982. Shouldn’t your own pooch get the same treatment?