We got 1 month of free health insurance, when we got James, but we didn’t renew. My first instinct was “This is a scam. Pet insurance? Give me a break.” But then my wife’s family dog, who is less than 10 years old, broke her back just jumping around the backyard. Two surgeries and $2,400 later, she’s miraculously still with us, and limping about happily. I think the main reason pet insurance has come to be popular these days is due to the recent advances in pet healthcare, and the accompanying costs. Did you know your dog can get MRIs and chemotherapy for cancer? So I decided to take another look at dog insurance.
I lost the name of the company that we got the free month from, so I such searched for some companies available online. The three main ones I found were VPI Pet Insurance, PetsHealth, and PetCare.
It seems like the first and most respected insurance company is VPI, started in 1980. They have two plans, Standard and Superior. They cover the same stuff, but the reimbursement levels seem to be about half as high for the Standard. For example, a surgery that would be covered up to $1,000 with the Superior, would only be covered up to $500 with the Standard. I ran a quote for James, at 11 months: $19.33 for Superior, $11.42 for the Standard. However, if he was almost 10 years old, his monthly premium would be $36.42 for Superior, and $19.83 for Standard.
So let’s say it’s $15 a month for the Standard plan. That’d be $180/year, or $1,800 over ten years. That adds up. Now, let’s say he swallows something bad (James has already swallowed numerous plastic objects) and needs surgery. According to their Benefit Schedule [pdf], up to $648 would be covered, with a $50 deductible. Going through the schedule it seems like the max for most procedures is $500 or less. Hmm. Also, a big thing to note is the exclusion of ‘congenital or hereditary defects or diseases’. I don’t know exactly what they consider hereditary, but things like hip dysplasia for large purebreds comes to mind. One good thing is that you can go to any vet, and then file for a claim.
With all the limits and insurance fine print, I think for now the best thing for me to do is to put $20 a month in an ING sub-account named ‘Pet Self Insurance’. In five years, barring any incident, there would be $1,200 in there (plus interest), which should cushion any big medical bills.
I know there are pet-owners that are reading this – What are your thoughts? Does anyone have VPI or similar?