Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?

Nicolas Cesare
Cat and German Shepherd resting together.

Pets are great. They can give us joy in our dark moments, they stay with us no matter what, and they can make us laugh with their antics. However, owning a pet isn’t always a walk in the park. Owning a dog or a cat can cost a lot of money, especially if your pet ends up developing unexpected health problems, or gets injured while playing.

Pet insurance can help to mitigate some of these costs. It can cut down on what you pay for regular visits to the vet and save you from a financial emergency in the event of an injury, or unexpected sickness. However, pet insurance itself costs money, so is it really worth it?

Is Pet Insurance Worth It? What to Consider

Your pet’s health and safety are your primary concerns, but most pet owners do have to take financial considerations into account whenever making a decision about their pet.

Pet Insurance Costs

The cost of pet insurance varies widely, depending on a variety of factors. In general, however, we found that the cost of a basic pet insurance plan started at $20 per month for cats and $30 per month for dogs. This number can and will change depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Coverage: As with any insurance plan, pet insurance will cost more or less depending on what is covered. The values given above were calculated based on a minimal pet insurance plan, which provides coverage for medical emergencies and treatment for some diseases. More advanced plans will cost more, but also provide additional coverage. Some things included in high level plans are coverage for hereditary diseases, dental conditions, behavioral treatment, special diets prescribed by your vet, regular check up visits to the vet, and preventative lab work on your pet’s blood and urine.
  • Deductible: An insurance deductible is the amount that you must pay out-of-pocket before your insurance reimbursement kicks in. Some pet insurance plans will allow you to customize this amount. A higher deductible will reduce your monthly premiums, but it will mean that you pay more out-of-pocket in the event of an emergency.
  • Location: Strange as it sounds, your location can affect how much a company charges you for pet insurance.
  • Pets: The facts about your pet will also affect your premium. Certain breeds of cat or dog are believed to be healthier than others. Some dog breeds are more expensive than others, and that applies to pet insurance as well. The same applies to cat breeds. Your pet’s age will also affect your premium, since older pets are more likely to develop medical conditions. Some insurance plans will also offer discounts if your pet has been spayed or neutered.
  • Provider: Different providers calculate different premiums for you. It’s always a good idea to shop around and find out who can give you the best deal.
  • Reimbursement: Pet insurance plans may have set reimbursement rates (e.g. 70, 80, or 90 percent of the cost of treatment) along with reimbursement limits. Lower limits and lower rates of reimbursement will both reduce your monthly premium, but could leave you holding a larger portion of the bill in case of an emergency for your pet.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Although the Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions in humans, no such law exists for pet insurance. Pet insurance providers can and often will refuse to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions. For the purposes of insurance providers, pre-existing conditions are conditions already noticed by your pet’s vet before signing up for the insurance plan, whether you’ve scheduled a visit to the vet about that specific condition or not.

If you’re thinking about ways to save money while treating a pet that already has pre-existing condition, pet insurance may not be an effective way to do that.

Vet Visit Costs

For many pet owners, regular checkups at the vet constitute the main medical cost of owning a pet. While some more advanced pet insurance plans cover these visits, these plans will also ask for a higher monthly premium from you. Getting coverage for visits to the vet can cost around $10 to $20 more per month, depending on other factors that influence your premium. It’s up to you to determine how the cost of this perk compares to the amount that you’re already paying for checkups with your vet.

Pet Care Costs

When you make your decision about pet insurance, you should consider how it will impact your overall pet care costs. On the one hand, your insurance premium is just another item in your overall care costs. On the other, it can mitigate the weight of some of your existing costs, especially costs related to accidents or medical emergencies.

Consider how much you’re already paying for your pet, or how much you expect to pay if you don’t have your pet quite yet. In your personal budget, cross out the expenses that pet insurance can help with, while adding in the expected cost of your monthly premium.

Pet Health Insurance and Your Budget

Unless your pet becomes famous on social media, the cost of their health insurance plan will fall on you. That’s why the decision to get pet insurance or not is one that falls on your own budget.

Remember that the most valuable aspect of pet insurance is the peace of mind that it can provide towards a potential accident or disease. If something does happen to your pet, such as getting struck by a vehicle, getting into a fight with another animal, or becoming sick, a good pet insurance plan can stop you from going bankrupt in order to treat it. If the premium for a bare bones pet insurance plan that covers these emergencies is outside of your budget, then it’s worth consider whether or not you would be able to pay for a pet’s care out-of-pocket.

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