Tuesday, February 9, 2010 1:50 PM

Is Pet Health Insurance Worth the Cost?

The other day, as I was leafing through my latest issue of AARP Magazine, I noticed an advertisement for pet health insurance. I've heard about these policies before, specifically in Consumer Reports magazine, where they were never considered a good value. Perhaps, though, things had changed. I decided to get online and check out this particular company,VPI Pet Insurance.

The ad said that the cost was "about a dollar a day". Figuring the ad text was probably erring on the side of caution, I figured the premiums would most probably start at around $35-40 per month. Of course, I couldn't get their website to download with my lousy connection, so I went to a pet insurance rating site instead, Pet Insurance Review. There, I checked on both cat and dog insurance rates with this company (others are also rated).

I found a page with consumer reviews, both bad and good. Their overall rating is only 5.56 out of 10, though, not very encouraging. I found that a standard monthly premium for a cat is about $10, with a $50 deductible. The plan description says it pays 90% of "approved claims" for the "benefit schedule". The plan covers "select accidents and illnesses", whatever they are. Cancer treatments are not included, but you can pay more if you want this coverage. Policies for dogs were more expensive, naturally.

According to the review site, veterinary costs have ballooned in the last few years and now run to $19 billion a year. This seems to be the driving force behind pet health insurance, but, as this site warns, there are often restrictions. For instance, older pets and pre-existing conditions on others are usually excluded, and certain animal breeds aren't covered. A review in Consumer Reports magazine echoes these caveats, and also points out that coverage for check-ups and shots (the biggest expense for most people) costs more. Also, most pets don't start running up vet bills until they get older and sicker; since these animals are excluded from coverage, insurance isn't even an option.

I tend to agree with Consumer's that you'd be better off investing the monthly premium in either an interest-bearing account for emergencies or buying another type of insurance. Just like human health insurance companies, these vendors are looking toward the most profit for the least payout. Families don't have a choice when it comes to extraordinary medical expenses for humans, but they do for their animals. Pet health insurance sounds like a luxury most pet owners really can't afford.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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