Friday, October 24, 2008

FRIDAY ENCORE: Is Pet Insurance Worth it?

Welcome to the Friday Encore where you'll get to read a past blog posting that I thought you might not want to miss. Okay, call it a repeat if you want. When necessary the post may be updated with new information or data to keep it relevant. The following was originally posted March 27, 2008.

Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
Anyone who lives in Colorado knows that we have an exceptionally high number of pets. In fact, Colorado Spring was ranked the #1 city for pets by Forbes. And I know that I heard a few years ago that Boulder had the highest number of dogs per capita in the country, but I couldn’t track that statistic down. Even if Colorado doesn’t have the most pets there’s no question it’s a great place for animals.

Lots of people refer to their pets as their children. And if you’ve got kids you know that they are both lovable and expensive. So what about Pet Insurance? Is it worth it? Are people buying it?

Veterinary medicine has advanced greatly making more expensive treatments available for ailing pets. According to a study done by Market Trends in 2003

“… the U.S. market still has a long way to go if it is to achieve the level of penetration seen in Great Britain (25% of dog owners) or Sweden (nearly 50% of all pet owners), since the rate of pet insurance ownership in the United States is still in the low single digits.”

One reason why we lag in the adoption of pet insurance is that it can be mind bogglingly complicated. Years ago when I looked at insuring our 3 cats and 1 dog it just didn’t make sense especially for our older cat who was 8 at the time. He wouldn’t even qualify for most plans. Now it’s easier, though still more expensive, to insure older pets. But understanding pet insurance can be more complicated than your own health insurance.

This recent article in the Wall Street Journal is an interesting comparison of different plans under different scenarios.

So is it worth it? Most of the time routine stuff is not covered. It’s when you get into pricey treatments that insurance can help—but not for pre-existing conditions. And it’s usually when we realize that our pet has an illness that people start looking at insurance. Special diets are not usually covered (more and more pets, including my dog, are being diagnosed with food allergies). Insurance costs can range between $2,000 and $6,000 over the life of a pet.

In our family we had two freak tragic unexpected deaths—nothing that insurance could have helped. We don’t have our pets insured. If we had we could have spent thousands on these two and never claimed any of it—but that’s a terrible way to look at it. They were wonderful members of our family and we still miss them.

I look at pet insurance every couple of years and the best source for information is our vet. He knows our animals and their needs. If you are considering insurance do your homework because plans can vary greatly. Only you can decide if it's really worth it.

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