One of the most common questions vets get asked is, "Is pet insurance worth it?" Dr Anthony Bennett and James Carroll provide their expert opinion and advice.
We are often asked as vets whether or not pet insurance is worth it. As veterinary medicine advances alongside human medicine, we are increasingly using more specialised diagnostic equipment and more complicated medical and surgical techniques. Unfortunately as with human medicine, veterinary care can be expensive. However unlike human medicine, there is no Medicare subsidy for your pets (if only!). This means that the brunt of the cost of veterinary care is born by the owner.
Given that statistics show that one in every three pets will require emergency treatment each year, unexpected veterinary bills are not uncommon and can put a lot of financial and emotional pressure on the owner if the veterinarian is limited in their treatment to only what the owner can afford. Imagine receiving a bill for $2000 just before or after Christmas! There are many types of emergency, from broken legs, foreign bodies, spinal injuries, cancer, tick paralysis and snake envenomation, the treatment of which can range into the thousands.
When a pet is insured, the great thing is a lot more treatment options may become available to you and your pet can receive the best care possible.
Depending on the policy, pet insurance will pay in part or in full for the veterinary treatment of the insured animal. Pet insurance operates slightly differently to some other types of insurance, in that typically a claim is submitted after treatment has finished and the owner is then reimbursed. This means that you may need to pay your vet for the treatment in the first instance. Some vet clinics will allow money to be paid directly to the clinic however it is likely that pre-approval of the claim would be required for vets to offer this option. Just like with motor insurance, many companies will also offer the option of an “excess” to reduce the cost of the policy to the insurer.
There are many different companies offering pet insurance, ranging from private healthcare funds to pet only insurance companies (see the box on the left for some examples, in no particular order). Your private health care fund may have the option of including your pet on your policy.
Just like any other insurance, be sure to do your research and read the policy carefully before you commit to it. There are some great policies out there, but some are only very basic and you might not get covered for what you expect. For example, some companies will offer an accident only policy which will cover things such as being hit by a car, or electrocuted, but not things like tick paralysis or hereditary conditions. Often pre-existing conditions will not be covered, and some companies won’t insure animals over a certain age (the younger you insure the animal the better). Just like human insurance there may be waiting periods that apply for particular diseases or conditions so it is best to have insurance from day 1. In fact, some insurers offer free insurance for the first month of your pets’ life, you simply continue the insurance after the trial period.
Whilst your vet may have a preferred insurer it is important to note that vets are not insurance brokers and as such cannot offer advice on the best insurer for you.
In our eyes, pet insurance is definitely worth it. It provides peace of mind for the owner and the best level of care available for your pet. If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to call your local vet or drop in and have a chat.
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