These days, pets are family. We spoil them rotten with a cozy home, plenty of toys, their favorite treats, and our undivided attention and love. But is insurance for your pet just taking it too far, or is it a smart financial move for your family?
"Pet insurance can make state-of-the-art medical treatment and/or traumatic emergency care possible for many pet owners who might otherwise not be able to afford it," says Los Angeles-based veterinarian Karen Halligan, author of Doc Halligan's What Every Pet Owner Should Know: Prescriptions for Happy, Healthy Cats and Dogs (Harper Collins, $15.95).
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"Average premiums range from $120 to $500 per year, depending on the plan - usually, lower monthly premiums come with higher deductibles and/or larger co-pays." The potential savings are significant: Say your pet needed cruciate ligament surgery that costs $4,200. With a $200 deductible, 10 percent co-pay, and $360 for the insurance plan ($30 per month), you'd pay $980 out of pocket - a savings of $3,220.
Here's How to Know if Coverage Makes Sense for You and Your Pet:
1. Add up your yearly veterinary care expenditures. Then separate those costs into routine care versus accidents and/or illness. Develop estimates for one to five years.
2. Investigate insurance companies and their policies. (A.M. Best is an independent organization that rates insurance companies and their ability to pay policyholders.) Read policies carefully for conditions, exclusions, exemptions, and limitations. Many policies, for instance, don't cover hereditary or congenital defects.
3. Consider your pet's age, health, and lifestyle risk factors to establish how likely he is to become ill or injured. For older pets, consider policies that cover dental cleaning, prescription medications, and diagnostic tests.
4. Measure all-inclusive coverage (everything from routine checkups and vaccinations to accidents and chronic illnesses) against a lesser degree that kicks in during emergencies. "Some people feel that insurance is best used as protection against catastrophic expenses, not those you could easily pay out of pocket," says Halligan.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.