Pet Insurance Policies: Worth Your Money Or Not?

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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If you think healthcare in America has problems, you should talk to your dog.

A report put out by the Daily Mail today shows that many pet owners who pay hefty insurance premiums for their four-legged friends aren’t getting their money’s worth out of their policies.

For an example, take a look at the story of UK woman Vicky Hughes and her French Mastiff Emma.

Emma collapsed on the floor one evening. Hughes took the dog to a veterinarian, who told her that Emma would require a $4,000 surgery. Hughes gave the vet the green light to do the surgery. After all, she paid health insurance for the dog. Isn’t that the kind of thing health insurance should cover?

Apparently the answer is no.

Her insurance provider called four days later and told her the surgery would not be covered under her policy. Hughes, an office worker, was forced to pay the big bill off on her own despite the fact that she pays a $220 premium to her dog’s insurance provider. She sold her fridge, freezer, and many of her clothes in order to pay the bill.

Hughes story isn’t uncommon.

Many pet insurance policies are so riddled with loopholes and small-print stipulations that policy owners almost never get a worthwhile financial benefit from their policies. Experts in the field say pet insurance policies are just as much about peace of mind as they are about making financial sense.

“If you get the right policy, it can be an asset to the health care of that pet and have a significant impact on the bill that results from a visit in an emergency situation” says veterinarian Jean Maixner. “If people had acquired pet insurance before the emergency occurred, they might have been able to move forward with some reasonable treatment to help their pet.”

But consumer group did a report on pet insurance policies recently, and most of the time the policies don’t pay off.

“It’s common to pay $300 a year or more for pet insurance. Over the life of a dog or cat that might be $5,000 or more. Most people are not going to have a big expense like that,” the report said.

Like all insurance policies, pet insurance is a matter of risk management. If your animal stays healthy, chances are you wasted a bunch of money on their insurance. But if they get sick or need surgery, an insurance policy can make the difference between life and death for an animal.

“It’s a way to manage risk,” says Grant Biniasz, a spokesperson for VPI Pet Insurance. “If you look at any form of insurance and try to run the numbers, you’re going to find that most people are not going to get back what they pay in premiums. But the people who do are happy they made the investment.”

Sources: Daily Mail, NBC News