I have gotten a lot of questions about pet insurance. I had/have pet insurance for Curtis and Millie (my dogs) but I do not have it for my cats. My pet insurance is with Petplan. My policies did not cover routine care, rather, they were there to help me in case of an emergency or illness. I sometimes considered dropping the insurance because as Curtis aged it got extremely expensive. However, assuming that the insurance company reimburses me as it should, I think I will end up getting back about as much as I paid, because of the expense of Curtis’s last health problems.
What Does Pet Insurance Cost?
Millie, a 6-year-old mix-breed, costs about $650 per year to insure. Curtis, however, cost about $650 per quarter. That included a discount because I had no claims for a while. The year before the cost was about $850 per quarter. Curtis’ final bills ran about $12000. If the insurance works as it should, I should pay a $300 deductible and 10% of the rest. Petplan should reimburse me for every other vet bill. I could have gotten a lower-cost insurance with a higher deductible, or that covered a lower amount of money, but I wanted a lot of coverage.
I suggest you look around and see what the options are for you. If, for example, you can go with a $1000 deductible, you may save a lot of money on the cost of the insurance itself. The actual policies can be changed over the years, so you can raise or lower coverage as you think appropriate.
Keep in mind, pet insurance, unlike most human insurance, requires you to pay the medical bills in advance. This is a good time to take advantage of cashback or mileage credit cards. But it could take 30-60 days before you get a check. Most vets will not wait for you to get paid. In fact, most of them will expect 50% in advance before they even treat your dog, if it requires surgery or other expensive treatments. Different companies reimburse at different speeds.
You will need detailed copies of receipts to submit to the insurance company. Petplan has an easy process. Everything is online and you simply upload the bills. You can provide medical records, but Petplan will also contact your vet and get them. They normally want records going back two years. They want to check and make sure the condition is covered, but also that all care was medically necessary.
What About Cats?
I do not have pet insurance for my cats. However, I did run some scenarios on the Petplan quote tool to get some information for you. My quotes will be for my zip code near Philadelphia. I imagine some geographic areas will be substantially less expensive and some might be more.
I started by getting a quote for my 14-year-old mix-breed cat, Rami. The quote was for a maximum payout of 15k per year, with a $300 deductible, and a reimbursement of 80%. The cost for this insurance would be $231.54/month.
For a kitten, under 1-year-old, the cost is $22.71/month. For a 3-year-old cat, the price is $29.90 per month. At 5, the price increased to $40.97 per month. Once we go up to 10, the price jumps to 112.94 per month.
The insurance I purchased for my dogs provided for 5k more coverage per year and reimbursed at 90% instead of 80%. This made it a bit more expensive. I adjusted the numbers to try to make things more comparable, but the 20k option has been replaced with “unlimited”. When I made those changes, the cost to insure a 14-year-old cat went all the way up to $422/month. Ouch. Raising the deductible to $500, the highest deductible offered in the tool, decreases the price to $339/month. Still, ouch.
Out of curiosity, I checked the monthly cost for a 14-year-old Labrador retriever. It was over $1300/month with the same terms as the policies I checked for Rami. Raise the payout maximum to unlimited and the reimbursement to 90% and you are looking at almost $2500/month. I can tell you now if I had not lost Curtis this year, but I saw numbers like these upon renewal, I wouldn’t be willing to pay that much money. I would have decided instead to put a certain amount of money to the side every month, in case something happened. And as it turns out, that would have been more than enough to cover the medical bills for Curtis due to his last health issues. Curtis’ bills were about $12000, I think. So, had I put aside $1000 a month for a year, I would have had enough money for Curtis’ final care. That, however, is a lot more than my insurance cost this year.
Breed impacts the cost a lot. When I ran the same numbers but changed the dog’s breed to Airedale Terrier, the price decreased to $1442/month. For unsure/mix-breed the cost decreases to about $1000/month. Still expensive enough that I would choose to save it every month instead of pay for the insurance. But something to consider.
Some breeds simply are prone to more serious medical problems as they age. This will impact the price of the insurance. Labs happen to be such a breed. Their very popularity is the cause of the problem. Popularity leads to overbreeding by unscrupulous breeders and folks who just decide to breed their own dogs without any thought to the genetic history of the specific dogs involved.
Why Pet Insurance? Vets Are Expensive.
I can tell you this. Even a simple night at the vet with monitoring costs between $600 and $800. Just one night. Curtis collapsed shortly before his surgery. He seemed fine by the time I got him to the vet, but I decided to let him spend the night to be safe. He didn’t receive any medical treatment during the night. They just watched over him. He received some blood tests when I first brought him to the vet. My bill was over $600. They originally estimated it to be much higher.
I didn’t want to be in a situation where I had to choose between Curtis’ well-being and money. I spent a lot of money on insurance over the years and it allowed me to not even think much about the cost while Curtis was sick. I am glad I had it. It was a blessing to just be able to say yes, without concern, when a vet asked if a certain treatment was acceptable. Even if I wasn’t about to at least be close to breaking even, I would have no regrets about the money spent. This lesson has me prepared to continue paying for insurance for a while yet. If it becomes cost-prohibitive, then I will switch over to saving a certain amount of money each month instead of buying insurance.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?
What about pre-existing conditions? You have to look out for those. Petplan recognizes that conditions can be cured. I looked this up a few weeks ago, so I am going from memory. From what I recall, how it works is that if the pre-existing condition re-occurs within a certain period of time (I think a year) from when you buy the policy, then the condition won’t be covered. But, if the condition is cured and enough time passes without a reoccurrence, then it will be covered if it occurs again.
You need to check and see what is and is not covered and what may be considered pre-existing with your own insurance and pet. Every company will be different and this is a critical issue if your pet has pre-existing issues. Check and double-check before you buy. You will not want to have to switch insurance policies later, because as your dog ages you may end up with more and more pre-existing conditions. One of the benefits of having Millie insured with the same company since she was a puppy is that there are no pre-existing conditions with Petplan. If I switch to another company though, her thyroid condition will become pre-existing. Also, longevity has other benefits. As I mentioned, I received a substantial discount for Curtis’ insurance this year because I made no claims last year.
Petplan has a 6 month period from when you buy the policy until it will cover certain joint problems. If you have your vet examine your dog within 30 days of policy purchase and the vet declares that there are no issues then the coverage starts right away. Again, this is something to look into. I wanted my dogs to be covered right away, since Millie, as a puppy tore around like a nut I was worried she would end up with an injured knee before the insurance would cover her. She didn’t, but I figured it was better to be cautious and have the vet examine her. It is an easy enough thing to do.
Should You Get Pet Insurance?
It comes down to this. As your pet gets older it will become much more costly to insure it. Of course, chances that your pet will encounter health problems also increase as it ages. So it makes sense that the insurance would cost more. At some point, you have to balance the cost of the insurance against the potential for bills and decide what kind of risk you are willing to take. Also, of course, is the question of whether you can afford the insurance. As the price goes up it is less likely that the average person will be able to afford the cost. Not many people can afford to pay $1000 per month on insurance for their pets.
Some might tell you, save the money you would have paid on insurance and use it if something happens. But will you really do that? If you will, great. Put the money to the side and just use it if something happens. Then, if nothing ever happens, you will be far ahead. You can even just save the money for your next pet.
It could be that you spend a lot on insurance, nothing ever happens and you end up out a lot of money. This, of course, is true with all kinds of insurance. Pet insurance, really, is a wager. You are wagering that your pet will have expensive health problems and the insurance company is wagering that it will not. Neither you nor the insurance company wants your pet to have health problems, of course. You because you love your pet and the insurance company because it loves to make money.
In my case, as far as Curtis, I would guess that I about broke even or maybe even came out ahead. But, I bought the insurance for peace of mind and there isn’t really a price on that. Not having to worry about paying for Curtis’ medical care was really wonderful. I had so many other things on my mind, I didn’t need to worry about whether I was spending too much money. I also didn’t need to ask myself what was too much money, a question I had no interest in asking at the time.
How is Petplan?
I haven’t filed many claims with Petplan over the years I had the insurance. I had one claim denied as a pre-existing condition. However, Petplan did not explain the denial and failed to even respond to me when I asked for an explanation. I did not appreciate that and I think it is very bad customer service. Eventually, I figured it out myself and I was satisfied that their decision was correct. I had some other claims that were quickly granted without any trouble. I have never had any claims this massive though.
I was not too happy when Petplan charged Curtis’ quarterly payment to my credit card today. I messaged them though, and they apologized and promised to revert the charge right away. I had informed the claims folks that Curtis was gone, but I guess one side hadn’t told the other yet. Not really a big deal, and I was probably being overly sensitive given the situation.
I will update you as the claims start being finalized so we can see how Petplan responds to paying me back. Hopefully, there will be no issues.
I hope this article helps.