Updated: Nov 20, 2020
By José A. Sánchez Fournier
Pets are a popular part of the American family, with 67% of households owning at least one. This reflects a significant increase since 1988, when only 56% of households did. Despite the added costs that pets can incur, pet ownership has increased steadily through the decades. Dogs, cats, aquarium fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals are now seen as valuable family members who serve as entertainers, companions and even protectors of the household.
(Photo credit Karina Vorozheeva)
With approximately 85 million households in the United States owning a pet, caring for these nonhuman family members has become a $99 billion a year industry, more than doubling since 2010. This statistic not only testifies to their popularity, but also to the level of financial sacrifice some pet owners make to keep their pets healthy and happy.
The cost of veterinary care alone is expected to reach $30.2 billion this year. As veterinary care continues to incorporate many of the advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques that are commonplace in human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care will likely continue to rise. And with many pet owners facing economic strains due to the pandemic, a sudden pet health emergency, even if not grave, could have them facing difficult choices because they lack the funds to cover sudden veterinary expenses.
(Photo credit O5ky)
An increasingly popular option to prevent this type of situation is a pet insurance policy. Unlike human health insurance which usually pays out directly to the medical provider, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You must first pay the veterinarian for the procedure needed and then request reimbursement from the pet insurance company. The reinstatement amount is never 100% of the cost, although some of the more complete plans cover up to 90% of vet costs. The reimbursement process is usually simple, requiring only the vet’s invoice (and sometimes some treatment records) along with a completed claim form.
Like other types of insurance, pet insurance is essentially a package of many different types of coverage. Some packages cover only the bare essentials, while others are more and include preventive care and rehabilitation. Dental coverage for pets is rare, but a few carriers are now offering it as an option in their pricier policies. However, nearly all pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and specific conditions such as hip dysplasia. They also can include payout caps on particular procedures, on the yearly payout, or even on the total the policy will pay. Most pet insurers will reimburse you for care rendered by any licensed American vet, but some limit policyholders to certain veterinary clinics and networks.
(Photo credit Tran Mau Tri Tam)
All pet insurance plans have a deductible of one type or another. Most insurers give their customers a choice of deductibles; policies with lower deductibles cost more. Being able to adjust the deductible allows customers to pick a policy with a monthly payment that fits their budget.
About the author: José A. Sánchez Fournier is a writer with Money.com. Previously, he spent 15 years as a journalist with El Nuevo Día, the largest daily newspaper in Puerto Rico.