Insuring Cats & DogsPublished October 22, 2008
Last month, we dropped our own health insurance when the rates (again!) went up. Like many self-employed folks, we simply can no longer afford the rates. And after putting the pencil to it, I was amazed to see the amount of money we’d paid over the past decade compared to what the insurance had given back. Granted, my family has been fortunate to not have major health issues but even if we had--the coverage would not have offered commensurate funding. So, we’re self-insuring and putting that same amount back into an accessible savings. We’re currently doing the same thing for Magic and Seren. But I’m looking closer at health care coverage for my pets. There are some great companies out there, and they continue to get better and better. For instance, Veterinary Pet Insurance (www.petinsurance.com) has been around since 1982 and is the oldest company of its kind. In fact, VPI lists German Shepherds as having the highest annual medical costs per year, and Magic certainly runs true to form! He’s a roughneck, dives after toys and has managed to slice up his paw twice and tear a nail once. The German Shepherd Dog also ranks #6 on most commonly insured breeds with VPI. Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Yorkie, Shih Tzu and Boxer are the top five, with Chihuahua, Maltese, Pug and Cocker rounding out the top ten. VPI also calculated the average amount its policyholders spent on non-routine veterinary care for each of the top insured breeds in 2007. The medical care costs (the average annual submitted claim amount) appear directly related to the size of the breed, with larger breeds costing more than smaller ones. I suspect that increased cost has to do with larger, more athletic breeds having the potential for more frequent injury. While diagnostic costs for ultrasounds or surgical treatments like hip replacements cost far less than the equivalent for humans, they still put a dent in the pocketbook. Pet insurance is a way to hedge against the potential for health costs. Choosing between funding care for a pet or resorting to euthanasia is a scenario I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But according to surveys, less than 2 percent of pet owners in Canada and the United States are covered by pet insurance. Four companies recently launched the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (www.naphia.org) to dispel misconceptions, educate pet owners about the true value of coverage, and set standards to ensure that pet owners are protected. NAPHIA members are committed to these standards: Members do not dictate veterinary fees Pet owners choose the veterinarian Veterinarians need not participate in NAPHIA member programs; they also aren’t exempt if they participate in non-member pet insurance programs All members agree to an objective third-party to resolve any claims disputes Regular claims must be processed within 10 business days and no longer than 20 days once all information has been received for more complex claims Pet owners can use a link provided on every claim paid or in a denial letter that invites the client to rate the company on NAPHIA’s Website. To be quite honest, NAPHIA is new to me but seems like a wonderful paw-step in the right direction. What do you think? Please share with me and other blog readers your own experiences with pet insurance. I understand that Seren and especially the roughneck Magic would benefit from coverage. But I’m struggling--as are others in these economically challenging times--to make informed, responsible choices for my whole family. I wonder if any of these companies cover two-legged roughnecks?
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