Today, I'm writing a teaching post. I am including a couple of claims from Embrace for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Although we think of cancer as being primarily a problem in older pets, notice that both of these pets were young.
The thing I appreciate about these examples is that Embrace gave detailed information about the claim and how much the pet owner was reimbursed.
Both pets are doing well 2 to 3 years after their diagnosis and treatment. Both underwent chemotherapy.
Notice that the pet owners paid 2 deductibles ($500) because the policy renewal date fell in the middle of the treatment. If they didn't have a policy that covered chronic conditions, the treatment after the date of renewal wouldn't have been covered. If they had a policy with limited coverage for chronic conditions, the reimbursement may have been less. If they had a policy with a low per-incident maximum, the reimbursement would have been significantly less.
Notice also that the premiums differed significantly because coverage for cats is generally less than for dogs, but primarily because Coney's policy had a 35% copay and Maggie's policy had a 10% copay. But, also notice how a 35% vs. a 10% copay affects the reimbursement amount.
Laura noted in the commentary that she advises pet owners to get a lower copay which I also advise in my book. You know what the deductible will be because it is a set amount per-incident or annually. But the copay amount will vary from claim to claim because it is a percentage of the total bill. Therefore, a policy with a higher copay on a large claim will significantly increase your out-of-pocket expense. Most human health insurance policies have a maximum out-of-pocket limit. This isn't true with pet insurance.
It is possible with many of the companies to actually calculate which policy will give you the lowest out-of-pocket expense in case you have to file a large claim. You will be surprised sometimes. I have designed worksheets for each company's policies to help you with these calculations taking into account the maximums, deductibles, copay and the premium. These worksheets are available with the Pet Insurance Toolkit.
Some things to think about:
- Buy pet insurance when your pet is young before an illness occurs, preferably when a puppy or kitten.
- Buy a policy with good chronic disease coverage.
- Beware of policies with low per-incident maximums.
- Get a policy with the lowest copay you can afford.
Cancer can be treated successfully and/or go into remission giving your pet a good quality of life - sometimes for extended periods of time. I commonly hear from pet owners, "I would never put my pet through chemotherapy." Some cancers like these two examples can have a potentially good prognosis with treatment, and generally, our pets don't experience many of the undesirable side effects of chemotherapy that we tend to associate with humans who undergo chemotherapy. The prognosis will vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. There may be times when the prognosis is so guarded or poor that treatment may not be in the best interest of the pet. I've read about cases where dogs with osteosarcoma (usually fatal bone tumor) underwent radiation therapy to help alleviate pain and the dogs lived a year or more with a good quality of life before the cancer advanced to the stage that the pet owners decided it was time to let their beloved pet go.
The point is that pet owners now have options when their pet is diagnosed with cancer. Surgery, radiation or chemotherapy can be expensive. In fact, sometimes pet owners say to me, "That sounds expensive." But, as you see from these two examples, a good pet insurance policy can help make the decision to treat your pet easier.
If you already have a pet insurance policy on your pet, get it out and calculate how much you might have been reimbursed if you had files these two claims. By the way, if you haven't yet read your policy completely (now that's a novel idea), use this occasion to do so. You might just be surprised at what you find out.