When I posted a story titled, When Pet Owners Can’t Afford Veterinary Bills, it got quite a bit of attention from pet parents. The article shared a list of the top nonprofit organizations that give financial aid to people who are having trouble paying for their pet’s medical expenses. I later discovered the story left out one important fact: How pet insurance can make veterinary bills affordable.
I didn’t intentionally omit pet insurance from the story; I just hadn’t thought about them in this way until my story sparked interest from Trupanion® pet insurance.
Did you know that only 1% of the pet owners in the U.S. have insurance for their dogs and cats while 25% pets in Europe are insured? Pet insurance is relatively new in this country and I admittedly, did not know what is covered by the major plans and what is not. I decided to look at being contacted by Trupanion as an opportunity to learn.
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 is a true animal lover who shares her home with pets and volunteers with a local rescue group. She enjoyed her job as a vet tech, but explained how she became disillusioned when she saw that sometimes the “barrier to an animal’s care was money.”
Robin decided to find a bigger and 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 and they had high deductibles and premiums that increased as your pet aged.
Fifteen years ago when Trupanion entered the marketplace they decided to offer one easy to understand insurance plan for all pets that covers 90% of the actual veterinary costs a patient incurs, minus the deductible. There two caveats: pre-existing conditions are not covered and they do not pay for wellness or preventive care.
Robin explained that Trupanion can keep their premiums affordable by covering medical problems when your pet is sick or injured versus covering vaccinations and flea and tick control.
I think that makes sense.
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 am happy to say Trupanion was able to answer 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 such as orthopedics and neurologists?
- Is there rider policy available for Recovery and Complementary Care so your dog can get rehab therapy or alternative care? (If you have a breed that is prone to IVDD or other spinal conditions or neurological problems, this is additional coverage you will 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?
My personal information
I decided to test the waters at Trupanion by checking on a policy for Bailey. Pet parents can do this on their website or by speaking directly with a Trupanion licensed insurance agent.
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 at the time of enrollment and the average cost of veterinary care in our geographical 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 is not a pure-bred Rottie so when I checked on 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 of pet insurance and about Trupanion in general, 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 would not have been eligible for coverage for her pre-existing paralysis or treatments relating to it. She could have been insured for other health problems that might have happened in the future such as cancer or heart disease.
Robin also educated me about offsetting costs which meant that 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.
That was a good fact to consider.
If you are considering purchasing pet insurance please take the time to research all of the facts about coverage and the differences between insurance companies. You can compare plans at ConsumersAdvocate.org, Pet Insurance Review and at Compare Pet Insurance Companies.
I appreciated the education I received from Trupanion which insures 300,000 pets in the USA, Canada and on military bases. I was especially impressed with their story about how the company recently spent $30,000 for a bone marrow transplant for a dog. I understand 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, of which we only paid £250 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.