Keeping their cats healthy and happy is a priority for kitty owners. Today, with the remarkable advances in veterinary care, the diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions is available to help your beloved kitty. However, the fees for these life-saving procedures generally can become quite expensive.
Due to these escalating costs of comprehensive veterinary care, many cat owners are either considering buying pet health insurance, or have already purchased a policy. What’s more, there are some pet owners who wonder if having health insurance for their cat is worth the cost. As far as I am concerned, however, the cost of pet insurance premiums is definitely worth it. Having their beloved cat covered by pet insurance gives the owner peace-of-mind.
The ideal time to purchase a pet insurance policy is when the cat is young and in excellent health. As cats age, premium costs begin to rise. Unfortunately, pre-existing conditions aren’t covered by any pet health insurance company today.
Just like any other insurance company operates, pet health insurance companies must take in more money in premiums than they pay out for reimbursing claims in order to stay in business. As long as cats remain healthy, the premium cost may well exceed the reimbursement for a submitted claim. For example: if a claim for $75 is submitted; depending on the terms of the policy, a $100 annual deductible and a 20% co-pay would not cover the premium cost.
However, once the annual deductible has been reached, in the event that the kitty suddenly became seriously ill or injured and required costly diagnostics, hospitalization and treatment, the reimbursement for that claim would not only cover 80% of the veterinary fee, it would most likely cover the annual cost of the premiums. Having pet insurance saves owners from having to make decisions based primarily on financial constraints.
Although buying pet health insurance for a healthy cat may seem to be “gambling” by some owners; what happens when an unexpected major or chronic condition suddenly crops up? Would the owner have sufficient resources to cover the cost of life-saving treatment for their cat?
There are a few alternatives to having pet health insurance. Opening a savings account solely dedicated to cover veterinary care works for some owners. However having a dedicated saving account requires a sizable initial deposit, along with the discipline to make monthly deposits equal to or more than the cost of insurance premiums. A dedicated saving account can work out nicely as long as the cat doesn’t need costly care at a young age. Another alternative is Care Credit. Care Credit offers a zero or low fixed interest rate for periods of up to 24 months. Interest rates may soar once the initial period is over. Scratchpay is another viable option to explore. Your veterinarian must be registered with Scratchpay to use it. Scratchpay pays the veterinarian up front and owners make their pre-arranged payment to Scratchpay.
There are a wide range of pet health insurance policies from which to choose. They range from catastrophic only coverage, to policies that cover wellness, office visits, the veterinary exam fee, alternative treatment, medications and special prescription foods. Top notch Pet health insurance plans offer policies that provide the appropriate amount of coverage at an affordable cost. Many providers offer options that allow owners to customize deductibles and co-insurance payments. Choose companies that charge annual deductibles and be wary of those that charge per-incident deductibles.
Most pet health insurance companies cover cats from kittenhood way into their senior years. Some plans have annual reimbursement caps, while others are unlimited. For example, a provider may offer a plan that has an annual cap of $20,000 that may include an annual wellness exam, basic dental care, prescription cat food and “alternative” therapies such as ozone and acupuncture. The policy may cover a percentage of the cost of stem-cell therapy if the veterinarian deems it necessary. There are providers that offer policies with no annual caps, but they may charge extra for riders that cover annual wellness exams, or the cost of the veterinary exam. Some companies exclude the cost of the veterinary visit.
Above all, extensive research checking out a variety of companies is extremely wise before purchasing a policy. Most companies offer free quotes on their websites and they have highly trained agents available for answering questions by phone and to assist owners to choose the most appropriate policy for their cat.
By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)