YOU Magazine - January 2008 - Pet Insurance:Health Plans for Fido and Fluffy
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Kathleen Petty     Kathleen Petty
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Alaska USA Mortgage AK#157293
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Pet Insurance:
Health Plans for Fido and Fluffy

Pet Insurance:Health Plans for Fido and Fluffy

Do you think of your pets as members of your family? Considering their propensity for affection and devotion, it's rather hard to feel otherwise. So, it's safe to say that you want the best for your animals, with the hope of ensuring their well-being for as long as you possibly can. Did you know that health insurance might be the key to making that happen?

We're not talking about your personal health insurance. Rather, we're referring to the medical plans available to your pet. If you haven't heard of this concept, you'll definitely want to read on, as the options can vary. Also, there are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right policy for your pet.

What is Pet Insurance?
While the first health insurance policy for pets was written for a dog in Sweden in 1924, it's a much newer concept for the rest of the world. England, a world leader in writing pet insurance policies, began doing so in the late 1940s. At the present time, 18% of pets residing in the UK have medical coverage.

In terms of the United States, the first policy was written in 1982 for TV's Lassie. By the mid-90s, companies such as The Hartville Group, Inc. (partnered with the ASPCA) began writing policies for pets throughout the country. Currently, there are a host of companies offering several pet insurance options. According to American Demographics magazine, only 1% of this country's pets were covered by insurance plans in 2005. Today that number is at 5%.

The growing popularity of pet insurance is due in large part to the incredible advancements in veterinary medicine. Nowadays, pets can receive many of the same treatments that humans do. From Cat scans to chemotherapy, the only obstacle is the owner's ability to pay the bill. Simply put, diseases and conditions that were once fatal to pets can now be treated with success. The catch is that the costs can potentially exceed several thousands of dollars.

Most pet insurance policies work like regular ones in the sense that they have monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. The costs vary depending on everything from your pet's breed and pre-existing conditions, to the level of coverage you desire. With most insurance companies, a healthy pet can be insured for anywhere from $5 to $30 a month.

Is Pet Insurance Right for You?
Considering that an insurance policy will cost between $2,000 and $6,000 over the life of the average pet, there are a few things to consider before deciding to enroll.

The first question you should ask yourself is, in the case of an unexpected accident or illness, how much money are you willing to spend in order to save your pet's life? Furthermore, can you actually afford to spend that amount of money? If the answer is that you'd spend whatever it cost no matter what, then obtaining pet insurance could be a very good idea. We've already talked about the rising costs of emergency pet care. What we haven't addressed is the fact that thousands of Americans go into debt every year because of an unexpected vet bill.

For some people, the idea of starting a "rainy day" savings account is much more palpable than paying an additional insurance premium. The upside to this option is that it allows you to control how much money you put away, as well as how often you do it. It also allows you to spend the money on any household emergency.

The downside to this option begins with the discipline it requires to sock away extra money on any sort of a regular basis. In addition, there is no guarantee that the money you have saved will even come close to the potential cost for treating your animal.

Finding the Right Insurance Plan
Obtaining the perfect pet health plan starts with finding the right insurance company. We suggest that you start by asking your current veterinarian for a few referrals. Double-checking the referrals with your state's insurance department is also a good idea. From there, it's all about shopping around and asking the right questions. Here are ten questions that are important to ask:

  1. How long has the company been underwriting for pets, and how much in claims has been paid out during that time?
  2. Does the company pay against your vet bill or a benefits schedule?
  3. Does the plan have exclusions such as hereditary or pre-existing conditions?
  4. Does the plan cover chronic conditions?
  5. Does the plan cover wellness care like check-ups?
  6. Does the plan cover dental care and drugs?
  7. Are rates raised after claims are filed?
  8. Are rates raised after the insured pet reaches a certain age?
  9. What are the deductibles, co-payments, and financial limits of the plan?
  10. How is reimbursement handled?

Controlling Your Costs for Pet Health Care
For the most part, much of what you spend for your pet's health care depends on your overall diligence as an owner. Here are a few tips for keeping your costs down:

  • Keep your dogs on a leash – Whether it's being hit by vehicles or being attacked by other dogs, many tragic events could be prevented by keeping your pet on a leash.

  • Consider getting a mutt or a cat – Statistically speaking, cats are far less costly than dogs. In terms of canines, mixed breeds tend to have fewer medical issues than purebred dogs.

  • Keep your pet in good shape – This begins with buying the proper food for your animal, so ask your vet for his or her recommendations as well as a proposed feeding schedule. Also, do your best to make sure your pet is getting an ample amount of exercise. Remember, all domesticated pets were at one time wild animals.

  • Shop around for medications – Start by asking your vet if he or she has any free samples. If your pet suffers from a chronic condition, it's advisable to seek out any one of the online purveyors of discount pet medications.

Regardless of whether you decide to purchase insurance or not, one thing is for sure. Your pet depends on you for his or her health and happiness. See to it that your animal has regular check-ups and, above all, listen to your vet. Doing so will reap benefits for you and your beloved pet.

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