A friend on a vegan forum asked the other day if anyone had health insurance for their companion animals. The question got me thinking, and wondering whether it would be a money savings. For humans, it seems without question, at least in this country. 45 million people uninsured, at least another 40 underinsured, and you end up with people trying to budget their cancer treatments hoping that what they can afford is enough to keep the disease from killing them. Pretty sad.
And there are a lot of people who will put their “pets” to sleep if the treatment is “too expensive.” Of course, the price they put on their pet’s life depends on the person themselves. Some would argue that it is a privilege of the wealthy to try expensive treatments that might not even help, in the end. Perhaps it seems that way, but I would go into debt with hardly a thought if I had to, to save my companion, whether it was guaranteed to save her or not. (Not that I would prolong her life into abject misery. A different issue altogether.) I owe it to her to do what I can. I took the responsibility of her care and her health when I adopted her, and it seems obscene to distill it down to a dollar amount when asking myself what decisions I would make if faced with expensive treatments for her.
I know I’m not alone. The question is whether we can be smarter about it. Would having health insurance for our non-human family members save us from facing the debt vs. “economic euthanasia” dilemma?
I didn’t know much about it, so I started researching. A few things surprised me. First, that there were so many insurance companies out there specifically for this. Second, that at least one company offers pet insurance as a benefit for their employees. Kudos to that (and any other) company! Third, that only 3% of dogs have health insurance and 1% of cats, and that after a 25% increase from 2006!
One of the reasons given for the increase in insurance coverage is that medical technology is rapidly increasing when it comes to our furry companions. This has increased vet costs significantly – not for the routine exams, but for the treatments that weren’t available in the past. We can now save our companions from diseases that might not have even been detected, and therefore not treated, not too many years ago. The diagnosis costs, however, and the treatment generally costs even more.
I’m sure most of us have stories we can share. I have a friend who spent $15,000 one year on vet bills. I had a cat with a baffling anemia that had me at the vet every 2 weeks for six months until we figured out what was wrong with her (pyruvate kinase deficiency), and then she had a mere 2 weeks left of her extremely short life. My vet gave me breaks on the regular blood checks, and we didn’t do many diagnostic procedures overall because there weren’t many that would have addressed her health problem then. I have never counted up how much I paid in those six months, but I would guess it was no more than $1500. Still, pet insurance for me in that case, and for my friend who had $15,000 in bills, would have definitely helped, assuming that the insurance actually paid some of the costs.
But what about for my healthy 8 year old cat? Aside from her routine checkups and an expensive (but <$500) vet visit this past fall, would insurance for a healthy animal still be worth it? Of course that is a risk in itself – you can never predict the future.
MSN Money did an analysis on this, and they seemed to say that it isn’t generally worth it unless you’re “the type of person who would do anything to save your pet, including spend thousands of dollars on medical treatments.” Not that thousands of dollars is anything to sneeze at, but I couldn’t help but to bristle at the characterization of this being “doing anything”, as if it was the most extreme reaction to an illness or injury in your companion, to spend money saving them.
When I hear comments like that, I can never stop myself from wondering exactly how much money these people spend on monthly cable bills, dining out, new clothes, new cars. I realize that I’m in the minority for not having a TV, but it really is a luxury, though most would give up food before they gave up their TV. The point is that there are many luxuries we spend money on to pamper ourselves. How can we justify not spending a fraction of that money on potentially saving the life of our companions?
The MSN article linked above listed four companies that offer pet insurance. A relatively new one was not listed, one that started with a blog before they were able to offer the insurance itself. And, a quick glance through the recent entries and the links on the sidebars makes me think that this, Embrace Pet Insurance, is probably a quality company. They offer coverage for hereditary diseases, for example, something that not all companies do. The blogging addresses many issues, and at least gives the appearance of responsiveness. They list several pet insurance companies in their links, have some great advice in their blog entries, such as “Big vet bills and no pet insurance?” and in general seems to be a great place to start researching. I have not yet found any reviews from their customers, but so far I’m excited about their blog!
This has become a too-long post as it is, so I’ll continue to research and try to tackle some of the issues (like cost comparison, policy comparison, company reviews, other options) more in-depth another night, as well as track down some additional information on Embrace Pet Insurance. (I’ll make it clear – their blog looks good, but this does not mean I have a feel for the business itself at this point – research needed!) Meanwhile, if anyone has or has had pet insurance, please share! The good, the bad, the ugly. Let it be told.