Discover which pet health insurance plans are worth it to save money on dog surgery, cat vaccinations, pet medication and more
One minute, you and Rusty are playing fetch in the yard; the next, you hear a whimper and he's limping back to you. When you take him to the vet, you find out Rusty has a torn knee ligament—one of the most common orthopedic dog injuries. Healing it will take a $3,000 surgery. Talk about ouch.
Expensive surgeries, treatments, and prescriptions for dogs and cats are becoming more common—so much so that pet health insurance is a fast-growing market. And as new policy providers enter the marketplace, owners are gaining more freedom to personalize and prioritize.
The cost of a policy depends on everything from where you live to the amount of coverage you want to the age and breed of your furry friend—annual premiums for a 5-year-old Labrador can range anywhere from $200 to $1,000, for instance. But no matter how much you pay, you'll get more value today for your premium dollars than you did a decade ago, according to Dr. Wilkerson. Here, we break down the most significant new enhancements."Because there are more options available, you have a much better chance of finding a policy that covers what's important to you and your pet," says Frances Wilkerson, DVM, a Chicago-area veterinarian and the founder of PetInsuranceUniversity.com.
10 Years Ago: Payment was based on a schedule of benefits; that is, you'd be covered for up to a certain amount for a given procedure—say, $350 to de-quill your pup after a run-in with a porcupine—but you'd pay the remainder out of pocket, no matter how much the final price.
Today: Several companies have opted for reimbursement plans, which many owners find easier to navigate, with deductibles, co-payments, and adjustable limits (some as high as $20,000 annually). Most work on a percentage-based payment plan—for example, 80/20—so when that pup runs into the porcupine, your insurance pays for 80% of the total cost of his treatment, and you cover the remaining 20%. With so many plans out there, the percentage you pay is often your choice.
No Age Cutoffs
10 Years Ago: Once a cat or dog turned 8 years old, it was next to impossible to buy insurance for him.
Today: A few companies have no age limit at all, and the cutoff for others is into the double digits. Know that as your pet ages, policy prices can rise as much as 10% with each year (this usually translates into only a few more dollars each month).
No Breed Barriers
10 Years Ago: Insurers didn't cover conditions known to be common in certain breeds, such as $5,000 hip replacements for German shepherds, who frequently have hip problems.
Today: Several major plans cover hereditary conditions, as long as your pet's not showing symptoms when you first sign her up. For this reason, you might be asked to provide records from a recent checkup before being approved for a policy.