Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?
We have a big dog. She's huge, actually — over 100lbs but with all the energy of a puppy. And for that reason, we figured we'd need at least some basic health insurance for her. Everyone is talking about the staggering costs of health care these days, but they don't talk about pet health care. And it's not cheap. Not even close.
So, my wife and I chose the "top" pet health insurance provider (VPI) and went with a basic package. We didn't want anything that covered the check-ups or wellness exams, we could cover those just fine. What we wanted was coverage in case the worst happened. We didn't want to be stuck choosing between a $7000 vet bill and a $50 shot to put her to sleep. We wanted peace of mind that, should she get sick or be badly injured, we'd have coverage.
The basic package we chose costs us just over $14 per month and covers the big stuff: the accidents, illnesses, and other costly procedures. Well, that's how it's described on the site, anyway. The more expensive package also covers exams, shots, and other general health and wellness costs. It's around double the cost of the basic package.
We've had this insurance for over 18 months now, with no use for it up until a few weeks ago. Then, our dog was bitten by another dog, quite badly, and we had to rush her to a 24-hour animal hospital. She required some urgent care, overnight stay, and many other services. The final bill came to $545.43.
I told my wife to pay it, obviously, and then I'd submit the claim to VPI and get a big chunk of it back.
Why did I assume we'd get a big chunk? Nothing is guaranteed, right? Well, take a look at the screenshots below, from the VPI site.
Here, the owner of Rufus paid $504 for treatment and received $404 back. That's everything except the $100 deductible. Or, just over 80 percent of the bill was refunded.
Maybe that one was a rare case. So, here's another.
Coco's bill came to $1,994. Total reimbursement was $1,894. Again, only the $100 deductible wasn't covered. That means 95 percent of the bill was refunded. Wow, even better.
I looked at another "typical" case study.
Kona's fees were $715. After the whopping $250 deductible, Kona's owners got $465 in return. That meant 65 percent of the bill was reimbursed. Not too shabby despite that huge deductible.
So, armed with all of that knowledge, I figured we'd probably get at least 50 percent refunded to us. And $272 or less for treatment made the insurance worth it, even though we'd paid out more than that in monthly premiums.
I submitted the bill with the claim form and waited. I recently found out that we are receiving $135 of that $545.43.
That's less than 25 percent! Far, far less than the examples shown on the website. As you can see, the main injury (the bite wound) was covered for just over 10 percent. Wow.
I downloaded the complex bill reimbursement forms (PDF) and they read like quantum physics. There are several categories of reimbursement for each line item, and even then you only get a percentage of what they say you're covered for. Wait, what? So, if you're covered for $100, you get $90. Well why not just cover you for $90? Seems odd.
As I tried to make any kind of sense of this, I realized something: I wasn't supposed to make sense of it. This is made as complex as possible so average Joe's like you and I don't know what we're expected to receive or how to fight it.
In this case we were lucky. 76 percent of $545 is something we can afford right now. But what if it was 76 percent of $7000? That would have been a lot more difficult to come up with. And the very reason we got pet health insurance in the first place was to avoid that dilemma.
We were considering canceling VPI, but we figure 24 percent is better than nothing. However, we are looking into other policies that give us something we can expect, like a regular health insurance policy for people. For instance, many people have a $150 deductible for the ER, plus they pay 20 percent of the final bill. That's simple. You know what is coming. But with pet health insurance, you're rolling the dice. You may get 94 percent back (although I doubt that very much) or you may get as little as 10 percent back. And unless you're an insurance wizard, you most likely won't know until you get the check.
So Wise Bread readers, what has been your experience of pet health insurance? Did it save you a bundle? Is my case rare? Or do you even think pet health insurance is worth it? Let us know.