Getting Pet Health Insurance: Does Being Insured Equal Being Covered?

To get a pet health insurance or not to get pet health insurance, that is the question. 

It’s been a dilemma for us for a very long time. The main reason? We don’t like insurance companies and we don’t trust them.

Getting Pet Health Insurance: Does Being Insured Equal Being Covered?

Insurance companies are not charity organizations

Like any other business, insurance companies are in it to make money. And as they say in Vegas, “the house always wins.” So why would anybody ever pay for any insurance? Wouldn’t any other solution be better?

We were struggling with this dilemma when we got Jasmine.

Why not a dedicated savings account?

We asked her vet at the time what the cost of some common mishaps and accidents could be. We did some calculations. As a result, we decided, that instead of paying insurance, we would put an equal amount into a savings account instead. Made perfect sense to us and it is advice you’ll often hear.

It was the advice we got from Jasmine’s chiropractor when we mentioned we were considering getting pet health insurance for JD.

Logical, isn’t it?

We had five thousand dollars put aside in dedicated savings account for Jasmine’s unexpected vet bills and we felt very good about it.

How far did we get with the savings?

And then Jasmine’s body decided to come down with the following:

  • torn cruciate ligament in the left knee
  • an abdominal mass
  • torn cruciate ligament in the other knee
  • drug-induced hyperthermia which led to a week in the ICU at the teaching hospital
  • emergency surgery for an abdominal abscess

The long story short, over sixty-five thousand dollars of veterinary bills later the five thousand dollars, we’d originally saved, turned out to be about as good a spit in the ocean.

Would having insurance help?

Here is the question, though, how much of that would have actually been covered and paid had we had insurance?

Jasmine’s acupuncture vet adopted a dog who ended up with back-to-back health issues, similar to Jasmine. She did have insurance. Guess what? After a number of claims, the insurance cut her off.

Insurance versus coverage

Getting pet health insurance is one thing. But what does it cover, how much does it pay up, and under what conditions?  Does one actually need to get a lawyer in order to figure out all the different policies and conditions in order to get insurance that will do them any good?

With Jasmine, things were what they were. But what about JD?

Getting Pet Health Insurance: Does Being Insured Equal Being Covered?

Plan considerations

JD might, of course, remain perfectly healthy for his entire life. Not all dogs get sick and keep on getting sick. But short of having a crystal ball, there is no telling what might happen.

Every time I watch JD throw up a bunch of wood chunks, run after a squirrel without any regard for the terrain and obstacles, or simply run into things expecting them to get out of the way, I get covered in cold sweat.

We don’t have any more money or credit to draw from. Frankly, we don’t even have any extra money to spend on insurance. Jasmine is an ongoing project and expense.

We discussed this over and over, time and time again. We looked at different policies from different pet health insurance companies, their premiums, and the conditions. And we kept procrastinating. Stories we heard did very little to encourage us.

With JD, I mostly worry about intestinal obstruction, intestinal perforation, broken limbs, busted knees, bloat …

Reviewing plans

Many companies offer insurance at reasonable rates. But when you look at the policies, you’ll find that the policy might cover only say up to $2,500 per accident/illness/year.

Well, that is all fine and dandy, but how much of veterinary care does that really buy?

  • Jasmine’s hospitalization after her drug-induced hyperthermia, and to remove an abdominal abscess –   $13,000
  • Lilly’s severe adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine – $16,000 (or more, I don’t know the exact number; the insurance covered something around $3,500)
  • Ella’s hospitalization and surgery after ingesting a string – $7,000
  • Diagnostics and treatment/surgery of cruciate ligament injury – $5,000
  • Ella’s syringomyelia diagnostics and treatment – $10,000 plus
  • Cancer diagnostics and treatment – $10,000 – $20,000 plus
  • IVDD diagnostics and surgery – $8,000 plus

And for all that you’d get $2,500 minus your deductible. So that is not very helpful, is it?

A friend of mine had coverage that included stem cell therapy. Awesome, right? So they did the treatment and the insurance paid. $150. (Stem cell therapy comes to $2,500 plus, depending on where you have it done) Their policy covered stem cell treatment but had a maximum of $150 for arthritis treatment per year! That wouldn’t even cover the cost of NSAIDs!

Do you want to get your dog insured yet?

Makes you wanna run out and get one [pet health insurance], doesn’t it?

Some plans out there offer coverage up to $5,000 per accident/illness/year. That’s better, but apart from the knee injury, doesn’t really cover any real disasters either, does it?

If we were going to pay for insurance, we wanted to be covered no matter what happens. You can’t tell your dog to get hurt/sick only within the coverage you happen to have.

Get insurance that provides coverage

Our sentiment in that regard was clear. We’re not going to waste our money on insurance just to get a consolation prize.

Then we found insurance who has a premium plan that offers unlimited coverage per accident or illness. Sounds good, right? They even cover things such as annual check-ups and dental cleaning. HOWEVER—and there always seems to be a, however—they pay out only up to 80% of the actual cost (minus the deductible, of course). AND if you make too many claims they can lower it all the way down to 50%!

No wonder we kept abandoning the idea of getting pet health insurance.

Not to mention all the things that don’t get covered anyways, such as pre-existing conditions, hereditary conditions …

Is there actually a way to get insured AND covered?

On the other hand, as healthy as he is, JD is a disaster waiting to happen…

The most no-nonsense plan we could find is with Trupanion.

The core policy covers:

  • Accidents
  • Illnesses
  • Hereditary conditions
  • Congenital conditions
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Surgeries
  • Medications
  • Hospital stays
  • Veterinary supplements

There is no lifetime limit per claim, per incident, or per year and no lifetime payout limit. It pays 90% of the cost (minus deductible). It seems simple and sweet.

So JD is now officially a Trupanion insuree.

He is now insured—and, hopefully—covered. If we get disappointed, you’ll hear about it.

Do you have pet health insurance? Do you have misgivings with pet health insurance?

Related articles:
Cookie Too Is Insured With Trupanion

Categories: Dog carePet health insuranceReal-life StoriesVeterinary bills

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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