Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is pet insurance worth it?

There is an interesting post at Consumerist.com (one of my fave daily reads) about pet insurance (particularly a company called VPI) and whether it's a rip-off or not. I had been thinking about whether I would try such a thing with future dogs (my current dogs are old enough that the premiums would be exorbitant), but now after the article, and especially the comments, I'm thinking maybe not. It seems like people are very unhappy with the rates of reimbursement they get from pet insurance.

Currently we are on a plan at our vet that completely covers certain routine vaccinations, diagnostics and teeth cleanings and gives us a discount on most other things. It's worked out well for us, but if we were to need a specialty vet for rehab or a serious illness, that would all be out-of-pocket. (Currently I supplement their regular vet care with chriopractic, which has fortunately been affordable so far.) So I was very interested in one of the ideas that came up a few times of "self-insuring," that is putting aside a monthly amount to cover catastrophic costs. That amount could be earning interest until one needs it, which is one advantage over giving the money to an insurance company that seems reluctant to pay it back out, if the anecdotes at Consumerist are any indication.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone (other than a pet-insurance-industry flack) who's had a good experience with pet insurance.

6 comments:

Elayne said...

I've never had pet insurance but I saw an article a few years ago that said it wasn't worth it, probably for the same reasons listed at Consumerist. Can't remember the source but if was someplace fairly reputable like Consumer Reports or Clean Run.

Marj said...

I took out pet insurance for my dogs, but cancelled it when I read the documents. Most of the expenses I'd had over the past three years would not have been covered - paralysis ticks, complications after speying, a second cruciate tear, repeated problems with nails, hereditary neurological problem.

lintqueen said...

Hi Lisa -

This is Gina... India and I took your Sr. Puppy class last summer.

Not sure if Val sent this link: http://www.lintqueen.com/gallery/album13 but there's a pic of you I took at the Agility trials.

BTW -- do you know anywhere for pups to swim?

:-)

-gina

Steve said...

Lisa,
Nancy got insurance for Mr. P and Milo and it covered a most things. But you have to do the paper work. Mr. Ps medical bills for his final years ran in the $5k+ range each year. Eye surgeries, cancer treatment etc can get expensive. IIRC the cancer stuff is usually an extra $ thing.

So it depends on how religious you are in your savings plan if you are going on your own. I ended up not getting insurance for Meeker so we'll see how that goes.

Steve

Johann The Dog said...

I got Johann a catastrophic policy through quickcare when he was four months old. I didn't get the routine care, because we thought the price of the policy outweighed the cost of routine care.

But the accident/injury/first time illness policy that we have has really paid off.

He has racked up over $3500 in vet bills in two years with a broken bone, dislocated toe and a bad bite from another dog. They paid everything except the deductible of $50 up to $1000 for each incident, saving us over $2500 in two years.

At $10 a month it was well worth it. But I sure wouldn't get the routine care policy.

Elf said...

Consumer Reports commented on pet insurance briefly in its July '07 issue. They note that, if you have a young dog who has a severe accident or needs major surgery, you'll be delighted with the insurance. If you have an older dog (8+) with the same issues, you'll have paid thousands of dollars over the dog's lifetime for the insurance and the coverage is lower and you will most likely not even break even.

When I ended up paying around $12,000 for my 9-yr-old dog's final 4 months of life with cancer and surgery, I did my best to add up how much I'd have paid over the lifetime of my 4 dogs to date, and tried to figure out how much of their medical bills over that time (inhaled foxtail, treatment for raccoon bite, stuff like that) would have been covered (very difficult to do without actually getting the policy), I figured that the insurance company would still have come out ahead.

CR says that the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says that annual surgical visits cost, on average, $453 per year for dogs. So if you have a dog whom you think is likely to need accident-and-illness coverage (usally an older dog) and can find a policy that covers a reasonable amount AND that costs less than $453/year, you might consider it.

A friend had a French Bulldog who had something like 4 surgeries in his first 2 years of life, plus ended up dying of something after several days in the hospital, and she had insurance and said it covered a lot of her expenses. But the breed is also known to have lots of health problems (French Bulldogs), so she felt it was worthwhile. Her older Frenchie lived many years and didn't have problems, as far as I know, so I don't know whether she actually broke even given the expenses over both their lifetimes.

-ellen