How Cat Owners Can Benefit from Pet Insurance
Years ago, owning a cat was considered low-cost entertainment. Veterinary care was minimal, and sick cats often just wandered away never to be seen again. Even when a committed cat owner took the sick cat to the veterinarian, there was too often nothing that could be done.
Fortunately, times and circumstances have changed. Responsible cat owners are now more likely to keep their cats indoors and catch health problems as they emerge--and to seek veterinary care. Veterinary medicine now employs much of the same technologies and procedures that human medicine does, with MRIs, echocardiograms, laser surgery and chemotherapy. Now cats that once had no hope can be saved---but such technology may not come cheap.
Cutting-edge procedures may require expensive equipment or extensive training---which often means they must be performed by a veterinary specialist.
Veterinary care is still much less expensive than comparable human medical care, but it can be costly. While routine visits may cost under $100, problems requiring advanced medical diagnostics or treatments can easily cost several thousand dollars. In many cases, owners cannot afford life-saving treatment, and as much as veterinarians would like to provide such treatment, they simply cannot afford to do so and remain in business. As a result, many cats are euthanized every year because the veterinary care to save their lives is out of financial reach for their owners.
Pet health insurance can make the difference between life-saving treatment or euthanasia for your cat. Most policies cost from $100 to $500 a year, depending on your cat's age, breed and where you live. As with human policies, premiums cost more for older cats. Some companies will not insure older cats at all. Some breeds tend to have more health problems than others, and that difference may be reflected in the premiums charged for members of that breed.
With costs for typical accidents or illnesses running in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, such policies can be significantly helpful over the course of your cat's life. Fortunately, unlike the typical human health insurance policy, pet policies are usually straight-forward and easy to understand. Most have several different plans from which to choose, differing in coverage benefits, length of the policy, and the amount of the required deductibles. Most have exclusions for pre-existing conditions and possibly, congenital defects. Most offer discounts for multiple pets.
Most policies allow you to use your own veterinarian, but a few require that you use a veterinarian in their network. With most companies, to submit a claim, you visit the veterinarian, pay the bill and then submit your veterinary bill to the insurance company for reimbursement. You may be required to pay a deductable (usually of about $50 to $100), and the insurance typically reimburses you from 50 to 100 percent (80 percent is typical) of the bill. Most companies have a cap on what they will pay for procedures; these caps do not always allow for full reimbursement, so you may have to pay on top of the deductible and percentage. Most companies also have an annual cap on pay-outs, generally from $2000 to $14000.
As with all insurance, you are betting that your cat will be sick or injured and need expensive veterinary care. If your cat roams outside, gets into fights, or is generally clumsy, it's a good bet pet insurance will pay off.
It's often argued that if you were able to place the money you spend on pet health insurance in a savings account earmarked only for veterinary care, you might actually come out ahead. Most people, however, dip into such savings, and when they need the money for a veterinary emergency find they no longer have it. Pet insurance makes sure that can't happen, and that you won't one day find yourself grief-stricken and guilt-ridden that you could not pay to save your cat's life.