Exploring health insurance and wellness plans for pets

Most pet owners will do anything for their furry friends, but when animals get injured or sick the price tag can be overwhelming. That’s why more Americans are now turning to wellness plans or health insurance for their pets.

“I realized there is something very wrong. There’s something so wrong I cannot wait,” said pet owner Kelly Lormore.

Waiting could have led to a very different outcome for this Labrador Retriever named Sanders.

“As soon as he went in, she said is ‘he laying down and stretching out,’ and I said yes, and as I said that, he laid down on the floor and he did this, he just stretched himself out and she said, ‘oh, he has something stuck,'” Lormore added.

Sanders underwent emergency surgery to remove a bone from his intestine. His owner had a wellness plan with the animal clinic which led to a slightly lower bill.

“Because this is very expensive and even ten percent is, is important, and in the end it really was important because it offset the bill that I had from my emergency vet visit,” said Lormore. “Thank God I had it.”

With a wellness plan, you typically pay a monthly fee for coverage of routine physical exams and vaccinations. As was the case with Sanders, you may also receive a discount on other services. Wellness plans are different from pet insurance plans, which are provided by a third party and kick in when your animal is injured or ill.

“People love their pets just like family and it’s important to understand what might happen in the unfortunate incident if your pet is injured or if they become ill,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “Preparing for those costs is an important part of pet ownership. Understanding how pet insurance might be able to help in those situations is an important step.”

Just like human health insurance plans, there may be deductibles, co–payments and exclusions. Deductibles can vary greatly depending on your pet’s species, breed and age.

“I always tell people that if you know your insurance policy and you know what the fine print is and you know what the rules are, there shouldn’t be any surprises,” said veterinarian Dr. Kurt Phillips.

Many veterinarians recommend insuring pets as early as possible because pre–existing conditions are typically not covered.

“I think that when people get used to the monthly premiums in a younger pet, that’s always the best,” Phillips added. “Then they just know that this is a $40 a month payment that I’m going to make for the life of my pet.”

Bottom line – if you adore your pet and don’t have the cash to cover an emergency medical situation, a health insurance plan can provide you peace of mind, as well as the medical care your pet may need.

“Knowing that there is something more I can do for my pet, but I can’t take it that step – if they had health insurance, perhaps they would be able to take it that step, and that’s huge,” said Phillips.

Angie’s List says many pet health insurance policies do not cover congenital or hereditary conditions. If you have a more than one pet, be sure to ask about discounts on monthly premiums or fees.