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In the Dog House: Why You Should be Buying Pet Insurance

Posted on Jul 04, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa ()

When buying a car, you consider purchasing auto insurance. When looking for a job, you inquire about the life or medical insurance benefits. When moving into a new house, you research home insurance. So why, then, do most pet-owners not purchase pet insurance for their new four-legged friends? 43 million households in the United States have a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and yet, pet owners with insurance are in the minority. Andy Robbins, senior national press officer of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), says that by not taking out pet insurance, pet-owners are risking "being presented with often large and unexpected vet bills." Indeed, pet insurance is becoming more and more popular; there was a 21 percent increase in the amount of insured pets between 2005-2009, with the industry making US$303 million in 2009. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) estimates that US$1.1 billion will be made from pet health insurance sales by 2012. When a pet is sick, it's an emergency more often than not; curious cats swallow things lying around the house (US$1,600 to treat foreign body ingestion), dogs run into the road, and any animal may end up having health problems that require serious medical attention such as surgery (US$900 to treat brain cancer in a dog). Lauren Bennett, Co-Founder of Embrace Pet Insurance, says that company sees "37% of pets claim for an accident or illness every year, and of those that claim, one third have a claim over US$500. When buying a pet, people should consider how much they are willing to spend on medical bills. $500? $1500? $3000? If your pet gets sick at a young age, are you willing to pay the medical bills required to keep them healthy and alive for the rest of their life? These are questions that pet-owners considering medical insurance should ask themselves. In these situations, an owner will not want to choose between their pet's health/best interests and their wallet. Nowadays, high quality care can be given to pets with the most up-to-date equipment and treatment in state-of-the-art facilities. However ,without pet insurance, owners may not be able to afford the best possible treatment for their pets. Just as human insurance policies can be tailored to fit specific needs (i.e. maternity and dental coverage) so too can pet insurance policies. Instead of being for medical issues exclusively, certain policies can also protect against legal liabilities such as your pet biting other people or damaging your neighbor's property. Additionally, some policies even provide reimbursement for the price of your pet if it goes missing. PetCare, an American pet insurance company, offers different plans for the type of animal you own, whether it be a senior pet (provides for geriatric health problems and has no upper-age limit), active pet (provides for cuts and scrapes), or indoor pets (provides for accidents caused by appliances in the home), as well as pets that are pure-bred, young, or living in rental accommodations. Policy prices depend on a multitude of factors, such as type of plan, breed of pet, and age of pet. Owners can choose a life-long plan or an annual plan. Annual plans work best for pets with issues such as diabetes, because it can cost thousands of dollars over the course of the pet's life, leaving the owner with a large sum of money to pay if they have only taken out a 12-month policy. Some annual policies also have time and price constraints; the medical condition is only covered for a certain amount of time and up to a certain price, and after that it becomes an uninsured, pre-existing condition. In order to keep premiums low, insurance companies exclude hereditary and congenital conditions, elective procedures, routine examinations, grooming and other conditions from their policies. PetCare also offers a benefit schedule in which the amount of reimbursement possible is dependent upon the condition that a veterinarian's diagnosis corresponds to. MyPetGuard, a subsidiary and pet insurance product of international insurance group Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) targeted at the Hong Kong pet insurance market, will pay up to HKD44,000 for hospitalization and surgical expenses, HKD2,500 for advertising/reward if your pet is lost or stolen, and up to HKD1,000,000 for legal liabilities if the pet kills or injures someone or damages property. Additionally, those who have already purchased pet insurance should act responsibly when taking care of their pets; many pet-owners are driving up the cost of premiums when they overfeed their dogs and create health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory issues. Just as we buy home, life, and auto insurance in the event of anything unforeseen and unfortunate happening, pet-owners should also be considering the benefits of pet insurance. As Andy Robbins of the RSPCA says, "you never know when your pet will need medical attention", and being forced to pay bills out of pocket instead of being insured may lead to "some very nasty surprises" for both the animal and the owner. Perhaps, before even purchasing their next four-legged friend, owners should consider that if they can't afford the cost of pet insurance, then they can't afford the costs or responsibility of caring for a pet. Insurance Companies Mentioned: Embrace Pet Insurance is based in Ohio, USA, and is committed to improving pet insurance, saying that the company "got into this business to change it." The company also gives back to the animal community, donating USD$2 to a pet-related charity for each policy sold. PetCare is a subsidiary of PetHealth Incorporated, which is one of the leading accident and illness insurance providers for dogs and cats in North America. PetHealth Incorporated also offers a range of products and services for veterinarians, shelters, and pet owners. MyPetGuard is a subsidiary of Royal and Sun Alliance, one of the world's leading multinational insurance groups, offering a comprehensive range of personal and commercial insurance products and services.
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