Tuesday, April 21, 2009
There’s an interesting discussion thread going on over at the Bargaineering forums on pet insurance, with the predictable arguments on both sides. I’ve got a dog with some problematic allergy issues, the diagnosis and treatment of which have been costly. It’s too late now but the discussion made me wonder if I would have been wise to get some pet insurance when we got the dog.
I’ve been doing some research and was surprised by the large number of policies available out there. Google “pet insurance” and you’ll see what I mean. I clicked on a few to see what they offered and, perhaps more importantly, what they excluded. One of the big ones, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), has a whole list of breed specific maladies which are excluded from coverage. Additionally, they exclude all hereditary and congenital issues. So, if you purchase pet insurance as soon as you bring your little German Shepherd puppy home and he later develops hip problems, as many German Shepherds do, that would not be covered. He would also not be covered for calcinosis circumscripta, degenerative myelopathy, dermatomyositis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, lupoid onychopathy, nodular dermatofibrosis or pannus (superficial keratitis), which are evidently all German Shepherd issues.
It looks to me like a mutt might end up with better coverage than a pure bred dog. I find that distinction interesting because I’m assuming that the expense of the dog might be a consideration when making a decision about pet insurance. You might be more apt to purchase pet insurance for your expensive pure bred dog, which would end up having less coverage based on the breed specific list of exclusions, than the mixed-breed dog for which you didn’t get coverage since he was free from the pound. As a point of clarity, mixed-breed dogs also have hereditary and congenital exclusions.
I also checked out the ASPCA’s pet insurance. They have very similar exclusionary policies. Neither company covers elective procedures like tail and/or ear docking or dew claw removal. VIP calls these “cosmetic procedures” while the ASPCA classes them “inhumane procedures”. Pre-existing conditions are uniformly excluded, which rules us out! A lot of wellness procedures are also not covered, which surprised me.
They all seem to offer several different levels of coverage, just like human health insurance policies do, including major medical and injury plans and various riders that can be added to the policies for an additional charge.
In the personal finance blog world one commonly suggested solution to the pet insurance dilemma is to start your own contingency savings account for unexpected pet expenses. Clearly the ASPCA pet insurance people have come across this thinking and have the following to say:
“You could put money into a savings account to help pay your veterinary bills, but this has its drawbacks. For instance, you have to be disciplined enough to stick to your savings plan. You also have to guess how much you should save, since you can’t predict how much it will cost if your pet gets hurt or sick. Your pet could also need care before you have a chance to save enough money to cover your veterinary expenses.”
I’m not sure how seriously I take that demur. Clearly paying your pet insurance premium also takes discipline and, like most insurances, whether or not you’ll need that insurance is pretty much of a crap shoot. At least they took a stab at it.
After my research I suspect the left behind pug’s issues would not have been covered, his continuing care certainly would not be covered and, in addition to the cost of that care, I would be saddled with insurance premiums so I’m glad I don’t have pet insurance. On the other hand, if he gets hit by a car (heaven forbid) and survives, I might change my tune. Therein lies the rub with insurance. It’s a waste of money until you need it!
How do you feel about pet insurance? Do you have it? Do you wish you’d had it before something happened to your pet? Have you ever considered it?