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Health Insurance for Pets

The cost of veterinary care is on the rise. Dog and cat owners spend billions of dollars each year to care for their pets. As a result, many Americans are buying health insurance for their cats and dogs. Dr. Jim Humphries, National spokesman for Veterinary Pet Insurance, talks to us about the growing trend of getting the pets covered by health insurance.

Veterinary Pet Insurance founded by Dr. Jack Stephens in 1980, with the support of 750 independent veterinarians, is based in Anaheim, California. It is the nation's number one medical insurance for dogs and cats.

Veterinary Pet Insurance policies make the miracles of veterinary medicine affordable by covering more than 6,400 medical treatments for accidents and illnesses, with optional coverage available for preventive and routine care. Policies are licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Exclusively endorsed by the American Humane Association, Veterinary Pet Insurance enjoys an 82% renewal rate and has issued more than 1 million policies.

Veterinary Pet Insurance is the oldest and largest licensed pet health and accident insurer in the United States. The insurance covers both dogs and cats.

Veterinarians not only designed and developed the insurance plan, they also manage the company. Currently, over 750 independent veterinarians are company shareholders.

Veterinary Pet Insurance operates just like a traditional human health care insurance plan (unlike an HMO). The pet owner can select any licensed veterinarian, veterinary specialist and animal hospital in the world.

Veterinarians provide services previously thought impossible. Services like organ transplants, tumor removal, pacemaker installation ultrasound, chemotherapy, and radiation are now common. Unfortunately, hand-in-hand with increased services are skyrocketing costs, often reaching into the thousands of dollars.

Average claims turnaround of one week or less. Humphries says it works better than human health coverage. Go to any vet, pay the bill, submit the paperwork and within seven days they cut you a check.

Interview with Dr. Humphries

The cost of veterinary care is going up. The average cost of taking care of a dog is about $800, and $500 for a cat. That includes food, grooming and medical costs. The average premium for our pet insurance is $140 per year. Policies for puppies and kittens start at $109.

Our policy covers 6,400 medical conditions, just about anything that can happen to a pet. The policy covers conditions ranging from common ear infections to broken bones.

The policy doesn't cover pre-existing conditions and genetic conditions like a heart defect that can be passed down.

Pet owners can use any vet they want. Pre-authorization is not required.

One of the most difficult situations for a vet is talking to a family that cannot aford to pay for a pet's medical care. It's often a life or death decision and the kids are standing there and the family cannot afford to pay and we end up putting the pet to sleep. It's horrible to have to make a decision based on economics that ends a pet's life. Lots of vets will work for free or whatever a family can afford to pay.

Preventive care is very important and it's easy to check your dog or cat for conditions that are caught early. It can save you medical bills. Start at the head: check the eyes, nose, the throat and teeth, and flex the leg joints to check for arthritis, and move down to the back, feel for lumps. They could be cancerous. Cancer is four times more common in animals than in humans. It's the number one killer of dogs and cats in this country.

Another difficult decision for vets is when to "put down" a pet because of old age. It's the toughest decision a pet owner can make. I always tell people, you know your pet better than anyone else. When life ino longer fun for the animal, when it cannot keep going, when it cannot go to the bathroom and stops enjoying life, then it's time. It's sad but at least we have that option.

For more information on health insurance for your pets, please call 1-800-USA-PETS.

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