Pet Insurance: a PSA
Seriously, it's the best thing I've ever done besides adopting Barça.
Pet Insurance: A PSA

When Carlos and I adopted Barça, we had no clue just how much she loved going to the dogtor.  In fact, I was pretty sure she hated it considering that the first time we went, our fearful-of-everything, brand-new pup somehow Houdini-ed her way out of her collar and bolted in the opposite direction, straight toward rush hour traffic.  Fortunately, a school bus driver saw the scene unfolding and did what they do best: held up traffic (much to the dismay of many commuters) as I bolted after her and tearfully corralled the frantic fur ball into my arms.  Once inside the office, the dogtor clearly made a great first impression with Barça because she subsequently came up with many reasons for us to frequently return: vomiting, suddenly limping in the middle of a hike, intussusception of her bowels, chewing at her paw pad, cancer, and swallowing a pigeon carcass…whole.  (To my defense, when I realized what the dog she had been playing with just passed to her, I desperately tried to pry it from her mouth with my bare hands, diseases and bite risk be damned.)  Our life with Barça was always eventful (in many senses of the word) and as a result, we could’ve become really, really poor.  Thank Dog we were prepared!

As first-time paw-rents, Carlos and I readied ourselves for the apawcalypse (and in hindsight, rightfully so) by getting the most puppy-friendly pawducts, the healthiest and best-rated food and treats, training, and, among other things, pet insurance in case something, somehow still went wrong.  I always say that covering Barça was one of the BEST things I ever did, second only to choosing Carlos and Barça, and I sincerely mean it.  No endorsement deals here! 

Pet insurance isn't exactly a new concept and for us it was a no-brainer, so we were surprised to learn that an astounding majority of our fellow, doting paw-rents (over 95%!!!) still don't protect their pets.  Woof's up with that?! 

Unfortunately, it seems that there’s a lot of misinformation supporting why paw-rents shouldn’t get or don’t need pet insurance.  I’m not an expert on the subject, but given my experiences with Barça I feel confident putting to bed several common myths about the irrelevance of pet insurance. 

1.) “Pet insurance isn’t worth it and insurance companies always find loopholes/seldom make payouts.”  I asked my checking and savings account, as well as my 401(k) to weigh in on the matter, and here’s what they had to say:

“The money kept rolling in, not out!” – My checking account

“Katelyn didn’t have to rely on me at all! Thanks pet insurance!” – My savings account

“The only thing Katelyn did to me was increase her contribution!” – My 401(k)

…Okay, so my accounts aren’t actually singing praises (although if they could, I’m sure they would); however, all of the above statements are still true and I am financially very stable, entirely due to the fact that we had pet insurance.  When I compared the cost of Barça’s 2015-2016 annual insurance premium and per-condition deductible against the final bill for her cancer treatment, the insurance company’s coverage factored out to be over 28 times greater than the combined total of the premium and deductible. Worth it? Only if you’re the kind of person who likes saving thousands of dollars.

As for ambiguous interpretations of policies and withholding payouts, I can only speak about Barça’s insurer, Petplan, when I say that so long as we upheld our end of the bargain (providing complete and accurate medical records for all claims for covered conditions), Petplan didn’t question our claim, and they never tried to spin the policy’s wording in order to deny us payment.  In fact, when I called to ask if I should put down Barça’s radiation therapy as a continuation of her diagnostics claims, I spoke with a Petplan Adviser named Meredith who not only helped me complete the claim, but also expedited the process so that it was closed within hours and the reimbursement was mailed to us the following day.  Petplan mailed all of our later claims to us within a couple days. We got everything we paid for and then some… for a comparatively tiny sum.

Obviously, not everyone will share my experience.  Some paw-rents may pay for pet insurance and enjoy the great fortune of never having to make a claim.  You could say that pet insurance is not very beneficial to these people, but I say that having the peace of mind that you would be covered for veterinary care that you could not otherwise afford (Dog forbid anything happen to your pet) is well-worth the expense.  

Pet Insurance: A PSA

 

2.) “Pet insurance is prohibitively expensive.”  I’m not denying that pet insurance can be pricy, especially when factors such as age, breed, and extent of coverage come into play.  The older and/or larger the animal, and the more comprehensive the coverage, the more the insurance typically costs.  However, many decent plans cost anywhere between $200 - $600 per year for a young dog, with $200 deductibles (some per-condition, some per plan year, some both) and 80 – 100% claims reimbursements.  In the scheme of things, pet insurance can be pretty affordable considering that one incident could cost you several thousands of dollars. 

  • Semi-fictitious example (because we were still within Petplan’s probationary period at the time of the incident): The annual premium of our original, gold policy initiated in summer 2014 for our six-month-old, mixed-breed, medium-sized dog was approximately $270, with a $200 per-condition deductible and 80% reimbursement.  Shortly thereafter, Barça was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (aka, IBD) and intussusception of her bowels, which required a $5,500 surgery (inclusive of hospitalization for three days).  Had her condition been eligible for coverage, Petplan would have paid around $4,240, or 80% of $5,300 (the total cost of the surgery and hospitalization, $5,500, minus the $200 deductible).  Since that was the only incident Barça had in her plan year, our annual, emergency veterinary care cost would have totaled only $1,530 with insurance:  $270 (the annual premium) plus the $200 deductible, plus 20% of $5,300 ($1,060).  Ultimately, we would have saved around $3,970 that year by having pet insurance. I don’t know about you, but to me, paying $1,530 sounds much more affordable than $5,500!

Not all policies are equal and the costs might not make sense for all paw-rents, however, with several insurance companies offering various levels of coverage at varying prices, pet insurance is increasingly more affordable.  I strongly suggest shopping around -- quotes are free! 

 

3.) “I don’t need pet insurance because: …”

“…My pet is in perfect health.” Coincidentally, mine was too directly after her intestinal surgery and for about a year before a tumor grew in her spine seemingly overnight.  Sure, your pet may have an immaculate bill of health now, but as I can attest, pretty much anything can happen to any pet at any age, at any moment.  No pet insurer covers conditions that exist prior to coverage, so it’s actually to your advantage to insure your pet when they are perfectly healthy.

“…My pet isn’t predisposed to any ailments.”  When Carlos and I began to seriously consider expanding our pack, he was initially heart-set on a purebred Golden Retriever and I was adamant that we get a mixed-breed rescue, not only because I strongly advocate rescue adoption, but also, because I knew that purebred golden retrievers are unfortunately susceptible to conditions like cancer and hip dysplasia, while mixed-breed dogs like Barça are presumed less likely to inherit breed-specific issues.  Since we both wanted our dog to have the best chance at a long, healthy, enjoyable life, we ended up with a mixed-breed rescue pup.  Somehow, Barça still had a serious case of IBD and a tumor inside her spinal cord, the latter of which is incredibly rare, but both of which when seen, show up predominantly in purebred German Shepherds and may be the result of bad genes.  While Carlos and I always suspected Barça might be part German Shepherd, we’ll never know for sure.  We do, however, know that she was definitely not purebred anything, and thus statistically, she wasn’t supposed to be at risk for the ailment to which she ultimately succumbed (and to which our finances might have succumbed had we not had pet insurance).

“…I’m the world’s best paw-rent.”  I’m sure you are (and I don’t mean that sarcastically)!  Pet insurance is not a stamp or even prerequisite of perfect paw-renting, but it’s also not a shield that overly lax or irresponsible paw-rents hide behind while they hand-feed their pets squeakers, balloons, fistfuls of chocolate-covered garlic cloves, and other things that dogs can’t or shouldn’t digest.  (In fact, pet insurance companies exclude coverage of intentional, neglectful, and preventable injuries or illnesses caused by paw-rents or other human family members, in order to promote responsible paw-renting.)  Pet insurance is actually a sign of paw-rents’ responsibility and self-awareness:  As good paw-rents, we have to recognize that as much as we train, love, nurture, and protect our pets, they ultimately have minds of their own that don’t always recognize hazardous things or situations, or that things might happen to them that are outside of our control… and that if/when those things do happen, we are accountable for helping our fur babies.  In most cases, pet insurance enables paw-rents to do anything and everything to better their pets’ heath by eliminating the hefty (and often, surprise) costs of veterinary care, which might otherwise prohibit even some of the best paw-rents from providing their pets the medical attention they need. 

If nothing else, imagine if you applied some of these same ideologies to other things that you consider a highly valuable part of your life and thus, insure: “I don’t need medical insurance because I take care of myself, I have a clean bill of health from my doctor, and I don’t have any known hereditary conditions”; “I don’t need homeowners’ insurance because my house is brand new, in a great neighborhood, and in a part of the world where natural disasters and/or severe weather are uncommon”; or, “I don’t need car insurance because I have the safest car on the market and I am a cautious, attentive driver”.  While I certainly don’t wish it upon anyone and hope that your lives are never impacted by a devastating event, the truth is that any number of completely unpredictable things could be done unto you, your home, or your car – things that are entirely out of your control and in an instant, could take control of your life, decimate your finances, and rob you of the things you cherish most.  Those kinds of unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances are why you insure yourself, your home, and your car (among other things), and why you should  insure your pet(s) if you don’t already.   


Is your pet insured? Why or why not? Sound off below -- We'd love to hear your take on this! 

 

Kate is Barça's mom, as well as the founder and content author of Barcelona & Company.  When she's not doting on her adorable pup, Kate is a full-time art and architectural researcher and writer.