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Veterinary Services, Animal Hospitals, and Pet Insurance

Updated on April 30, 2013
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With the rising cost of veterinarian care, many owners find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to seeking medical care for their pets. Despite the strength of the bond between the pet and its owner, decisions regarding complex, unplanned, and expensive medical procedures often come down to dollars and cents. For many owners, the options of forgoing needed treatment or even euthanizing the animal become all too real during these times.

Pet Care Insurance Fact

Approximately 5% or U.S. pet owners have pet care insurance.

What is Pet Insurance and How Does It Work?

It may surprise you to learn that pet health insurance is not true medical insurance. Instead it is an indemnity policy and is more similar to your auto or homeowners policies. This means companies providing coverage are not concerned with treatment outcomes, length of hospitalization, physician incentives or other issues most human medical insurers and managed care agencies are concerned with.

When it comes to pet care insurance, the financial relationship is between the policyholder and the insurance company. This means reimbursements are made directly to the client. In most cases, the pet owner will pay the veterinary bill and then complete the necessary claim forms to get their money back from the insurance company. In addition, there is no mandate for the uninsured when it comes to pet health care. There is no provider of last resort and those cases that are not able to pay are often turned away or presented with less expensive (and less desirable) options. This is in strict contrast to human health care where virtually all medical facilities have some non-paying cases.

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The Benefits of Pet Care Insurance

It is quite obvious that pet care insurance can mitigate a growing healthcare crisis in pet health care. In fact, pet insurance does more than just relieve the burden of medical interventions that are more expensive than family resources. Pet care insurance also increases the number of well visits most pets receive, helping to prevent some medical concerns. Pet owners with pet care insurance are more likely to opt for preventive care, more receptive to referrals to specialists, and generally more engaged in their pet's medical care. Families with pet care insurance are also more likely to be presented with the best course of treatment for their pets regardless of cost.

How to Find a Reputable Pet Care Insurance Company

Asking your veterinarian is a great first step to finding a good pet insurance company. Vets are not allowed to sell pet insurance policies themselves. This prevents the possibility of some veterinarians "pushing" their own policies. Instead, you are likely to get a recommendation of companies that other clients were successful with.

Though pet insurance is currently regulated state by state, the attorney general's office for the state in which you reside may be able to provide information regarding complaints some companies you are considering have received.

Another avenue to consider is to contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and check the rating of any pet care insurance company you are considering. Obtain quotes from various companies to ensure you get the best rate and compare coverage to ensure the policy will meet your pets needs.

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