"Pet insurance provides pet owners peace of mind when it comes to paying unexpected and expensive veterinary bills."
It's an often quoted statement (or something similar) the pet pet insurance industry uses when promoting their product.
Here is just one example of many I found from Avery Insurance's website:
"Pet insurance is an easy way to protect your pet’s health and help mitigate the stress of expensive bills and allows those who haven’t had the time to ramp up their savings to get their pet on the road to recovery. And it provides you with peace of mind in the event a pet has a life-threatening disease."1
Sounds good doesn't it? But is this really true? Does it really provide "peace of mind?"
Well, it depends and here's why - this statement from Progressive's website:
"Pet insurance can reimburse you for eligible veterinary expenses, particularly if your pet suffers an unexpected accident or illness."2
Aah, that's the exception. Let me explain. Those pet owners with insured pets who can afford to pay for a large veterinary bill out-of-pocket (up front) with their discretionary funds, savings, or available credit, then file a claim and wait for reimbursement do have at least some measure of "peace of mind."
In reality, these pet owners don't really need pet insurance, but buy it to protect their assets from being wiped out by a major pet healthcare event.
If you have pet insurance and don't meet the criteria above, you should ponder whether you really have the peace of mind that you can manage a large veterinary bill (e.g. $5,000 to $10,000 +).
You should contact your pet insurance company right now and ask how they can help you if you cannot afford to pay up front (cash or credit) for a large veterinary bill.
Will Your Veterinarian Help?
If your pet is insured and you can't afford to pay the bill up front, another option might be that the veterinary hospital will work with you allowing you to pay the deductible and/or copay out-of-pocket, and allow the insurance company to reimburse them for the balance of the bill.
But, there are a number of pet insurance companies that don't offer the option of paying a veterinary hospital directly. Does yours?
Neither are all veterinarians willing to accept direct payment from pet insurance companies. Some veterinarians just won't - period. Others won't unless they can be assured by the pet insurance company that their treatment is covered and reimbursable.
What About Emergencies?
Here's another problem: Most pet insurance companies will not give verbal/written pre-approval to a claim in case of an emergency - when a significant number of expensive healthcare events occur. There are two obvious reasons for this:
- Most pet insurance companies aren't even available during typical emergency hours (nights, weekends, holidays). Even if they offer a 24/7 helpline, this doesn't usually include access to a trained claim adjudicator who can pre-approved claims and/or verify coverage. So, when your pet needs a $5,000 to 10,000+ emergency surgery at 3 AM, will your veterinarian proceed with treatment if he/she isn't absolutely sure they will be paid for it? Not likely.
- An insurance company will need to have already done a comprehensive medical record review to determine if there are any pre-existing conditions that won't be covered. They simply cannot guarantee coverage without knowing this information. Not many companies are willing to do such a review up front (soon after signup and before a claim is filed). Has your pet insurance company done this?
When people say, "I wouldn't have been able to afford to pay such a large veterinary bill if I didn't have pet insurance," in most cases they are really saying, "My savings would have been almost completely wiped out if this wasn't covered by insurance" or "I would have a huge credit card debt to repay if I didn't have pet insurance."
For many pet owners who've had insured pets, but couldn't afford to pay up front for their veterinary bill (cash or credit), they've found out the hard way that perhaps pet insurance doesn't provide the peace of mind they'd been led to believe. I've heard several stories of insured pets being euthanized at emergency clinics because their owners were unable to pay the up front deposit for treatment of a life threatening condition.
Here's some steps you can take to increase your odds of truly having peace of mind when purchasing pet insurance if you're not financially able to pay a large vet bill out-of-pocket and get reimbursed later.
- Buy only from a company that will review your pet's medical record (after initial signup, the waiting period and before filing a claim) to let you and any veterinarian you may visit know what conditions are pre-existing and ineligible for coverage.
- Buy only from a company that will do 24/7 claim pre-approvals and direct pay your veterinarian (if necessary).
- Check with you veterinarian and local emergency/specialty hospital now, before a crisis event to determine what types of payment arrangements they offer for owners of both insured and uninsured pets.
1 "Pet Insurance For Peace Of Mind" (https://tinyurl.com/rxnze964)
2 Progressive Pet Insurance (https://tinyurl.com/5n7n7kmw)