We’re all familiar with the mess going on in human health insurance. Even before the arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act, health insurance for humans was a hot topic, rife with accusations of care being over-priced, inefficient, and sometimes denied when needed.
Insurance companies were often accused of taking the control of medical decisions away from patients and their doctors. I used to tell pet owners that if veterinary medicine went the way of human medicine (meaning the issues with health insurance for humans), that I was going to drive a truck instead – and I wasn’t kidding.
How Pet Insurance Differs from Human Insurance
Fortunately, I learned more about health insurance for pets and was happy to discover that it currently works differently than health insurance for humans.
It functions a lot more like dental and eye insurance for humans – the medical decisions are left in the hands of the pet owner and veterinarian, and the company reimburses the pet owner a portion of the cost of care, based on its own formulas for a particular condition.
The veterinarian is completely out of the payment picture; in other words, it’s not third-party-pay like health insurance for humans.
Be Prepared for Pet Medical Emergencies
Learning this, and after experiencing several very sad situations where pet owners were unprepared for a pet medical emergency (such as an advanced surgical procedure with a veterinary specialist), I’ve changed my tune to become an advocate for pet health insurance instead.
When pet owners make the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize their pets instead of seeking medical care for serious, yet very treatable, medical conditions, a beautiful life is cut short and hearts are broken.
While most family-owned veterinary practices have payment plans and small charity funds, they don’t stretch far enough to cover every pet in need, and as a small business, we’re unable to provide the care free-of-charge.
As our pets have become valued members of the family, advances in medicine have also influenced the quality of care we provide our pets, many consider pet health insurance an increasingly integral part of responsible pet ownership.
Not all pet insurance companies work the same way, and it’s worth your time to research and carefully read the fine print.
Some Employers Offer Pet Insurance Benefits
While pet insurance is growing in popularity in the United States and some employers even offer it as part of their benefit package, less than 1% of dogs and cats in the US are covered by health insurance. Contrast that to Europe, where more than 25% of pets have health insurance.
Alternative to Pet Health Insurance
For the disciplined saver, an alternative to pet health insurance is a self-administered pet health savings account.
Setting aside a regular monthly contribution in special savings account designated for pet emergencies until you reach a cushion (say, $5000 – $10,000) and having a room on a credit card to cover until you reach your goal sum, is another way to prepare for an pet health emergency so you aren’t faced with a difficult decision of choosing to pay rent over medical care for your pet. And, you get to keep the “premiums” with interest if no emergency occurs.