Should You Accept Pet Health Insurance Policies?
Health insurance policies for pets didn't exist a few decades ago. Today, however, some pet owners are purchasing them. As a result, a large number of veterinary practices accept pet health insurance. Veterinary Pet Insurance, the nation's largest pet insurer, has seen its corporate accounts go from a mere 15 to 1,600 in the past six years. Approximately 15 percent of Veterinary Pet Insurance's policies come from its corporate accounts. A handful of corporations are covering pet healthcare as a perk to their executives.
Only about 2 percent of pets in the United States are covered by health insurance. PetHealth Inc., another leading pet insurer, sees the industry accepting more health insurance policies. The company expects a 10 percent increase in the purchase of pet health insurance by pet owners. Noninvasive procedures such as MRIs and CAT scans have become quite common for pets. Some health insurance policies will even cover organ transplants and pacemakers for cats and dogs.
With pets being considered a part of the family, some individual pet owners also are purchasing health insurance for their animals. Still, it's a small percentage. “It's really up to an owner to decide if pet insurance is right for them,” says Dr. May. “There are people who were very glad they had a pet health insurance plan when their animal got sick and they had a $5,000 bill to pay. On the other hand, an owner might pay the premiums and never need them — after all, it's insurance.”
While Dr. May states that the AVMA cannot recommend one provider over another, she does warn people to find out what the policy does and does not cover. She says, “Some policies will exclude coverage for breed-specific problems. For example, if a certain breed is predisposed to a condition, they won't cover it if it occurs.”
She also advises veterinarians looking into accepting health insurance policies to read the fine print. “A wellness plan is not an insurance plan,” she says. “A wellness plan is sort of a package plan that includes the visits, exams, and routine care for the year at a discounted fee. If the animal becomes ill, the wellness plan will not cover treatment of that illness.”