Should I get pet insurance?
When you bring your pet to the vet, the biggest concern – second to your furry friend’s health, of course – is the cost. It’s no secret that a vet visit can cost you a few hundred dollars – and that’s just for an annual visit. Specialty or emergency visits can cost even more. However, there are ways to soften the blow.
What is pet insurance?
Pet insurance is exactly what it sounds like – insurance for your pet. You pay you pay for your policy each month – typically between $3 and $50 per month – just like you do for your own insurance.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet insurance is not quite the same as human insurance. With human insurance, you must find a doctor in your insurer’s network, then, when you arrive for your appointment, you hand over your insurance card and pay any copay. Any charges not covered by your insurance are billed to you later.
With pet insurance, instead of finding an in-network provider, you go to any veterinary office near you! However, you don’t simply pay a copay and go about your way; instead, you pay for your pet’s medical bill upfront, then submit the receipt to your pet insurance company for reimbursement.
Most pet insurance policies have a limit for how much you can claim each year, and for what types of procedures or visits (some costs for pre-existing conditions, for instance, may not be covered). Like human insurance, you must meet a deductible before you can be reimbursed.
A great budgeting tool
Pet insurance is a great way to keep a handle on your pet’s vet costs. You know exactly how much you’ll have to pay each month, and how much your deductible is each year, allowing you to accurately budget for your annual vet costs.
However, some vet visits – even routine visits – are pricey. A routine annual exam might reveal dental problems, and a dental cleaning could cost a few hundred dollars. Or maybe your pet has an upset stomach, and you suddenly have an extra vet visit that includes an internal parasite screening and a heartworm test. While you’ll get your money back eventually (after you’ve met that deductible, of course!), you’re still on the hook for those visits and tests upfront.
Consider keeping a small savings or a credit card available for the upfront vet costs, and replenish the fund or pay the credit card bill once you’re reimbursed from the insurance company.
How to decide if you need pet insurance
Many regular veterinarians offer plans that take care of routine things, such as annual exams, vaccinations, and more. Those plans are helpful and can save you quite a bit of money. But they don’t cover emergency and specialty services. That’s where pet insurance comes in.
It’s a bit of a gamble: you may pay for it and never need it. But if you do need it, it can be a godsend, especially if you don’t have a savings or other financial safety net for expensive vet visits.
If you already have a plan with your regular veterinarian, and some savings specifically for vet costs, you may be fine without pet insurance. This is particularly true if your pets are indoor pets who do not go outside unsupervised. Of course, pets are crafty, and can get into trouble even when they’re inside and constantly supervised, but the risk is significantly less.
If you live, say, in an area with more wildlife or near a busy road, or you travel a lot, pet insurance could make more sense for you.
Bottom line: pets come with various costs, and veterinary bills make up a sizeable portion of those costs. Adding extra peace of mind with pet insurance is extremely valuable. You don’t want to opt out of the best care for your pet simply because it’s too expensive.