So you finally decided to get a pet dog! Thankfully, your fur baby is happy and healthy. But you have to remember that just like humans, our pet babies also develop health issues over time. With the rising cost of good vet care, you decided to check out pet insurance.
Does your pet need pet insurance?
If your pet is relatively healthy and the premiums for pet insurance is a fraction of what you would spend for vet care or hospitalization in case he needs one, then it makes sense to secure your furry baby with pet insurance. A good coverage will save you thousands of pesos compared to if you were to pay out-of-pocket. It also means you will always ensure the best health care for your pet because you have the means to afford it.
“Relatively healthy” is an important term. You can and should get pet insurance even if your pet has had a few minor vet treatments or has a manageable condition. If your pet is older and has a chronic and serious health problem (ex: cancer and the like), you will not get much value from a pet insurance plan since pre-existing conditions are not covered.
Should I risk it and just pay out-of-pocket?
Your option to self-insure is always there. Perhaps you have the discipline of setting aside money every month for your pet’s medical bills. Assuming you have built a nest egg for this purpose, keep in mind that because your pet is uninsured, any hospitalization or vet care may potentially wipe out your savings and you may need to infuse some more.
Saving money is prudent for predictable expenses, but we get insurance because unpredictable, high expenses exist. You might argue that the incidence of hospitalization for your pet is low. But is it really? Or are pet parents just not as mindful of the health conditions of their pet babies? In the Philippines, experts say that common diseases which are actually preventable or ailments detectable through regular vet visits, tend to worsen because pet parents no longer bring their pets to the vet for “well-baby visits” beyond the first year. If they do visit the vet, it is often for pet grooming.
Then there is the reality that as your pet ages, the probability of illness and hospitalization increases. If you did not take on pet insurance when your pet baby was still a puppy, make sure you do now. Just like humans, our pet’s health situation tend to diminish as they get older.
Some people argue that paying insurance premiums is a waste if you do not have any claim. Well, if you do not need to make a claim, fine and good. Remember that the premium you paid is not wasted – it is the cost of passing on unpredictable, high expenses to someone capable of absorbing it (your insurance provider).
How do I choose a pet insurance plan?
There are many factors you need to consider but on top of your list should be the insurance provider itself. Is it reputable? Does it have a history of claims settlement? How strong is its financial position (an item you can check from the Insurance Commission’s website)? Does it have reinsurers backing up its products? A reinsurer is a company that provides financial protection to insurance companies by handling risks that are too large for the insurance company to handle on its own. Think of reinsurers as a second layer of protection available to you when you secure an insurance policy. Remember, this type of financial support would not be available to you when you choose to self-insure.
As for the type of coverage, there are many factors that go into choosing a pet insurance plan. Keep in mind that even for developed countries like the US, UK or Canada, pet insurance policies are not standardized unlike most other types of insurance coverages that are regulated in terms of features by the Insurance Commission. Pet insurance varies significantly by company.
Given this, it is not fair to compare pet insurance in terms of premiums and features alone. It does not even make sense to come up with a table and simplify things with check marks. You need to understand what goes into the premiums by understanding the inclusions and exclusions in the contract. These may include:
Some breeds are known to have higher medical costs than others. Given this, the premiums will definitely be affected if your pet’s breed happens to be in the high medical cost category.
Age of your pets:
As already mentioned earlier, the pet medical-care costs increase with age as your pet goes from puppy to adult dog and to senior dog.
The higher the deductible, the lower the premium usually is. If a policy does not have any deductible, expect a slightly higher premium. When you secure a policy without deductibles, you get the full compensable amount of your claim.
Policies that limit treatment to accredited vets tend to limit your choices. If you prefer to work with your trusted vet who does not happen to be accredited by your insurance provider, you bear the hassle of having to look for another vet you can trust your pet baby to.
On the other hand, policies that go via medical reimbursements enable you to work with any vet you are comfortable with and with any pet hospital you wish.
Medical claim limits
Are the medical claims per year, or per incident? The latter tends to extend your limit because it can accommodate various incidences in a year. For example, assuming your pet was diagnosed with kidney problem and requires ongoing medication and surgery which will amount to Php 30,000.
Pet insurance from Company 1:
Plan: Max Limit of Php 100k with per occurrence benefit of Php 25k, a deductible of Php 2,500
1st claim Benefit:
Php25,000 (per occurrence limit) – Php 2500 (deductible) = Php 22, 500
2nd claim Benefit within policy year:
Php25,000 (per occurrence limit) - Php 22, 500 (1st claim benefit paid) = Php 2,500
With the year, any further treatment related to this condition will not warrant any benefit anymore, even if the policy has a maximum Php100k limit because there is a per occurrence limit of Php 25k.
Pet insurance from Company 2:
Plan: Max limit of 50k for accident only and 10k medical reimbursement
In this scenario, payment will only be 10k and no more remaining benefit for further treatment because the diagnosis is a kidney problem and not an accident.
Standard Insurance Pet Health:
Plan: 50k maximum benefit for Accident and Illness Treatment
1st Claim Benefit: Php 30k
2nd Claim: Php 20k within the policy year. This can be used for treatments related to the first diagnosis or for any additional tests, medications and other treatments required. It can also be used for treatment costs of another Illnesses or Accidents incurred within the year.
Limits set for Cruciate ligament conditions
First, let us understand what cruciate ligaments are and why is it important that your dog has cruciate ligament coverage. There are two cruciate ligaments in a dog's knee joint. The ligaments connect the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone).
Research shows that approximately 30-50% of dogs will tear their cruciate ligament either because they lack exercise, are overweight, tends to practice the weekend warrior syndrome (tendency to play rough or take long walks with owner only on weekends) or if the owner is inattentive to the early warning signs of a tear (like limping on one foot).
This coverage in your pet insurance policy is extremely important because of the probability your pet dog will suffer from a tear in his cruciate ligament. Because of this, you would want to choose a policy where the coverage refreshes every policy period as against one that provides a lifetime limit. This gives you the assurance you always have this coverage every time you renew the pet insurance policy.
The co-insurance you select
The more that you contribute to the cost, the less the premium will be. For example: If you choose 90% reimbursement (you contribute 10%), you will pay a higher premium compared to what you would pay if you chose a 70% reimbursement (you contribute 30%). An ideal plan is one where you do not pay any co-insurance but expect the premiums for these types of plans to be a little higher.
What other coverages should I consider?
You may not think of these now but other non-health related coverages may also be important. Listed below are the things you should consider.
Let’s face it, our dogs will get into all sorts of trouble before they reach adulthood. An accident coverage for our pets is a must! So choose a plan that covers your pet for accident-related hospitalizations which may include vet care and medications.
Essential Euthanasia benefit
We dare not think about it but when our pets are in extreme pain and are not likely to recover, euthanasia is perhaps the best final act of love we can do for him. A policy that covers essential euthanasia is truly one that considers your pet care until his last days on earth.
Emergency Pet Boarding
When you need to be hospitalized and no one can look after your pet, you may need to provide boarding for him. This benefit considers boarding for your pet in such cases.
Indeed, the options are many and the features of pet insurance plans differ. But there are some similarities and differences you need to understand when choosing one. If you want to understand how pet policies work, call (02) 8845-1111 for answers. Or you can consider looking at the websites of some pet insurance providers. But I urge you to stay away from checklists that may not truly capture the essence, variations and exclusions of each policy. These checklists may over-simplify something that you need to fully understand. Afterall, you are making an important investment on your pet baby.