This story was updated April 2019.
When I posted a story titled, When Pet Owners Can’t Afford Veterinary Bills, it got a lot of attention from pet owners. The article shared a list of the top nonprofit organizations that give financial aid to people who have trouble paying for their pet’s medical expenses. I later discovered the story left out one important detail. It didn’t cover how pet insurance can make veterinary bills affordable.
This fact wasn’t intentionally omitted; I just hadn’t thought about pet insurance in this way. Then I heard from Trupanion® pet insurance. They wanted me to know the real cost-saving benefits of having your animal insured. And they shared how most pet owners in the U.S. didn’t know this fact.
You see insurance policies for dogs and cats is relatively new in this country. Only 1% of pets are insured, while 25% are covered in Europe. So, I decided to get educated about pet insurance. I used the opportunity of being contacted by Trupanion as a time to learn and share the information with you.
My conversation with Trupanion
Robin Cobb, CVT reached out to me from the marketing and education department at Trupanion. Robin is located in Florida and her job is to educate animal health professionals about the role of pet insurance.
Robin is a Certified Veterinary Technician who worked for many years in a private veterinary clinic. She’s a true animal lover who shares her home with lot of animals. And in her spare time she volunteers with a local rescue group.
Robin explained how she enjoyed being a vet tech, but she became disillusioned when she realized “money was sometimes a barrier to an animal’s care.”
So, she decided to find a better way to help animals. That led to using her background to educate veterinarians and their staff. She played an important role in educating me as well.
Click Here: When Pet Owners Can’t Afford Veterinary Bills
The changing tide of pet insurance
Pet insurance didn’t start off with a bang in the United States. Some companies put caps on how much they paid for procedures. Plans had high deductibles and premiums that increased as your dog or cat aged.
Fifteen years ago when Trupanion entered the marketplace they decided to offer one easy to understand insurance plan for all pets. It covers 90% of the actual veterinary costs a patient incurs, minus the deductible. There two caveats: pre-existing conditions are not covered and they don’t pay for wellness or preventive care.
Robin said this enables Trupanion to keep their premiums affordable. They cover costly medical procedures when your pet is sick or injured versus inexpensive vaccinations or flea and tick control.
That made sense to me.
Questions pet owners should ask a pet health insurance company
There are dozens of pet insurance companies to choose from so it is important for owners to educate themselves about the coverage provided. Here are questions you should ask before purchasing a policy. I’m happy to report Trupanion answered yes to each of these.
- Is there one comprehensive plan for all pets?
- Does the policy cover diagnostic tests, surgeries, hospital stays, medications, veterinary supplements, prosthetic devices and carts? (Yes, the cost of a dog wheelchair is included on some policies)
- Do they pay 80-90% of the actual costs of a procedure rather than place a monetary cap on them?
- Are there payout limits?
- Can you arrange for medical bills to be paid directly to your veterinarian?
- Does your policy include treatments at emergency hospitals and with specialty veterinarians like orthopedics and neurologists?
- Is a rider policy available for Recovery and Complementary Care so your dog can get rehab therapy or alternative care? (If you have a breed that’s prone to IVDD or other spine and neurological problems, this is additional coverage you’ll want to consider purchasing.)
- Is there out-of-state coverage?
- Is there customer service 24/7?
- Are premiums on a month-to-month basis?
- Can owners choose a deductible that works best for them?
- Can owners change their deductible throughout the year?
Click here to read: Does Your Pet Insurance Cover Rehabilitation Services?
My personal information
I decided to test the waters at Trupanion by checking on a policy for my dog Bailey. You can do this by logging onto the Trupanion website or by talking with one of their licensed insurance agents.
As a 2 year-old Rottweiler, the monthly premium for coverage on my dog is $128.93. That was with a $200 deductible. The monthly premium was far less at $71.91 when I chose a $700 deductible
Premiums are based on the genetic risk factors for Bailey’s breed, the age of my dog and the average cost of veterinary care in our area.
Rottweilers are prone to knee problems so I decided to calculate my out-of-pocket expenses if Bailey needed a $5,000 surgery. I would be responsible for $1,200: $700 for the deductible and $500 as my share of the 90% coverage.
Bailey’s not a pure-bred Rottie so I also checked the premiums for a mixed breed dog. The monthly cost was substantially lower at $55.51 per month for a $200 deductible and $32.81 with a $700 deductible.
I was impressed with Robin’s knowledge, but as the former guardian to a paraplegic dog I decided to ask a question directly related to paralysis.
“Would a paralyzed dog be a good candidate for pet insurance?”
Robin explained that Sophie wouldn’t have been eligible for coverage of her paralysis or treatments relating to it. That’s because she was paralyzed prior to becoming insured. But a disabled dog can get insurance. That way Sophie could’ve been covered for other health problems that might’ve occurred in the future such as cancer or heart disease.
Robin also educated me about offsetting costs through pet insurance. That means if Bailey was insured and 90% of her veterinary care was covered by a policy, it would free up funds for Sophie’s continued care. In this way, one dog in the family is helping another pay for medical care.
That was a good fact to consider.
If you’re considering pet insurance please take time to research all of the facts about coverage and the differences between insurance companies. You can compare plans at ConsumersAdvocate.org and at Compare Pet Insurance Companies. Each of these groups update their information annually.
I appreciated the education I got from Trupanion. The company insures 300,000 pets in the USA, Canada and on military bases. And they cover some pretty tough cases. I was especially impressed with their story about how they recently spent $30,000 for a bone marrow transplant for a dog. Robin said the dog came through the procedure like a champ.
Here is one final anecdote from Caroline B. who wrote from the U.K.:
“I live in the U.K. and pet insurance is a fairly common thing here. When Sammy had his spinal stroke and required surgery, the overall cost of all the procedures and his stay at the clinic came to just under £7000 ($9,034. US), of which we only paid £250 ($322. US) thanks to the insurance which paid for the rest. I have to say in our case pet insurance was literally a life saver for Sammy as we would never have been able to pay for his care without it. Well, we would have sold our car and the house, but at least we didn’t have to do that.”
If you found this story helpful, please share it with other pet owners.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Trupanion pet insurance and I was not compensated for this story. I wrote this post to share the information I learned with other pet parents.
Photo by Berkay Gumustekin on Unsplash