Pet owners should purchase pet health insurance to cover those unexpected accidents or illnesses where the cost is unknown -- potentially hundreds to thousands of dollars. Coverage for wellness care where the procedures and costs are predictable should be a secondary concern. Since wellness procedures and products can be planned for and saved for, not all insurance companies offer wellness care benefits. Following your veterinarian's recommendations about wellness care is extremely important to your pet's overall health and well-being. Wellness care prevents disease and allows early detection and intervention that saves lives, reduces suffering, and saves you money because prevention inevitably costs significantly less than treatment.
What are we referring to when we say wellness procedures and products?
- Wellness examinations by your veterinarian
- Vaccinations for infectious diseases as indicated
- Intestinal parasite testing
- Heartworm testing
- Feline leukemia and AIDs testing
- Spay and neuter
- Blood and urine testing for early disease detection screening -especially for senior pets
- Heartworm preventative medication
- Flea prevention and treatment medication
- Dental prophy
Wellness care procedures and products should not be expensive. However, I know from experience as a veterinarian that many clients don't opt for some of the recommendations I make for their pet. Perhaps cost may be a factor for some clients. It has been my experience that clients are interested in coverage for wellness care. Companies that offer wellness care benefits don't always cover everything in the list above. Pay close attention to what they do cover. Some companies offer different levels of wellness coverage. Some companies advertise almost double in benefits compared to what you pay in premiums. Realize, however, that you likely won't get everything on the list every year. For example, you will only get your pet spayed or neutered once. Some practices are now recommending vaccinating for some diseases every three years instead of annually. The bottom line is that you likely know about what you pay for wellness care annually. I would go through the list above and write down the cost of each procedure or product. If you don't know, call your veterinarian and get an estimate. Then, it is simply a matter of adding up the benefit reimbursements that you would receive for those procedures and products and subtracting the additional premium you pay the company to cover those things and see if you would come out ahead. Sometimes it is hard to estimate accurately.
If a company pays wellness benefits according to a defined benefit schedule (usually listed on their website), it is relatively easy. But, if a company pays according to a schedule of what is usual and customary for your region of the country (usually not listed on their website), it is harder, if not impossible, to determine if you'd come out ahead. The company may not be willing to tell you what the benefit would be for each procedure or product in the list above until you actually file a claim. Sometimes wellness care benefits are subject to your deductible and co-pay. If you haven't used your deductible yet for an illness or injury, your deductible will be subtracted from your wellness benefits. Likewise, if your deductible was applied to your wellness claim, then you wouldn't have a deductible if you filed an illness or injury claim (assuming it is an annual deductible). It is also hard if the company includes wellness care in their accident/illness coverage for one premium (not as a separate rider for an additional premium). You don't know how much of the premium is going for the accident/illness coverage and how much is going for wellness care coverage. In these cases, you may have to actually purchase the wellness care at least one year and see if you think you come out ahead.
In fact, wellness benefits may definitely be worthwhile if purchased for a new puppy or kitten. Some companies now offer generous benefits to cover the complete puppy or kitten vaccination series. This is also the best time to get your pet neutered or spayed which is also covered in most policies as a wellness care benefit. You may also be reimbursed for heartworm preventatives and flea control products. If purchased as a rider, you can always drop the wellness coverage later. If it is included in the policy (not a separate rider), you must be careful and inquire whether changing to another policy (without wellness benefits) later on will affect your accident/illness coverage -especially how pre-existing conditions are handled.