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Cat Health Insurance

Updated on April 21, 2008

Is Your Cat Insured?

According to the Pet Industry Strategic Outlook report from Dillon Media LLC, Americans spent more than $10.5 billion in veterinary care in 2005 – imagine what it is up to in 2008. Just like in human care, we have seen great advances in veterinary medicine which result in pets living longer and enjoying a more rewarding life. This longer life can mean more expense because as our cats reach their senior years they potentially will live longer with the ailments of old age. This means that medical assistance in the form of advance treatment and medication is administered longer and draining more dollars from our pocketbooks.

Many Americans are finding that reasonably priced pet health insurance is available and is a safety net providing some means of control for expensive veterinarian costs. As a cat owner with an insurance policy, you are in a position to make optimal choices regarding the treatment and care of your feline friend rather than making decisions based on what you can afford.

According to the United States Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, there are more than 82 million cats in the U.S. The industry reports that currently there are about two million pet-insurance subscribers in the U.S. which is less than 3% of pet owners. The number is expected to grow to only between 5 and 7% of pet owners by the year 2010.

So, how does it work? Unlike human health insurance where most doctor offices handle all the paperwork for you and you simply make the co-payment; with pet insurance you pay the veterinarian at the time service is provided and process the paperwork for reimbursement yourself. Most pet insurance companies have you fill out a claim form that will list your pet’s diagnosis and treatment, it requires your veterinarian attest to what is on the form by adding his or her signature, then you attach proof of payment, and send it to the claims department of the company. A check in the amount of covered expenses is then sent directly to you.

Choosing the right insurance policy for your pet is becoming a little more complicated everyday. There are an increasing number of providers, offering more choices in policies, with an ever growing list of “fine print” which has to be read carefully. You have to know what exclusions may exist for older pets, if there is any pre-existing or hereditary conditions that are excluded, or any breed related conditions and problems that may not be covered.

So how do you decide? Best advice – ask your veterinarian, and stick with a larger well known company that specializes in pet insurance. You want a company that will reimburse your eligible out of pocket expenses for accidents, illnesses and routine preventive care, including office visits, diagnostic tests, x-rays, prescriptions, lab fees, surgeries and overnight stays.

General guidelines:

- Insurability for your pet is usually between the ages of six weeks and nine years.

- Different levels of insurance, ranging from limited routine preventive care to expensive high end policies covering advance treatments and long hospital stays, are available.

- Companies only pay a percentage of the claim – this can range from 30 to 90 percent, so be sure you know how much your policy will pay back.

- All policies will have some type of pre-existing or congenital exclusions. Be sure to check this against the breed of your cat.

- Usually the company will have an annual or per-incident deductible, plus an annual or lifetime cap that they will pay for certain procedures or illnesses.

- Be aware that many policies will have a “waiting period” from the time you buy it to the time you can file a claim. This is to weed out pre or recently developed illnesses.

In the end, only you can decide if pet insurance is right for you and your situation. It’s important to make an educated decision and one way of doing that is to multiply the annual insurance premium by the number of years in your pet’s life expectancy, and compare that to the average cost of a vet visit times the expected number of visits during the life of your pet. It’s not exact, but it will give you an idea if you should consider buying pet insurance.

Where do you start? We already mentioned that a good place to start is by asking your veterinarian for his or her recommendation of insurance companies. But if you wanted to do some research yourself and perhaps some comparative shopping here are a few websites to get started:

If you decide that pet insurance is right for you and you make the decision to buy, your kitty will never appreciate your peace of mind that comes from knowing that its future medical treatments will not break the bank – or your heart.

Tom Kartes


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