Our pets are increasingly considered as important members of the family. A 2015 study, conducted by the consultant GfK, revealed that more than half of Portuguese households have at least one pet. In figures, it means approximately 2.151 million households in Portugal have pets.
In parallel to the growing number of pets in each family, we’re seeing stronger emotional bonds between owners and their furry family members. Amongst other things, this tendency is confirmed by an increase in pet health requirements. Not so long ago, pet health insurance was something no one dreamt about, but reality nowadays is quite different.
In the UK, for example, pet insurance has been around for longer. Not only are there several pet health plans, but there are also the so-called pet health insurance schemes. The latter work in much the same way as human health insurance. Today, with the advances in veterinary medicine and better care provided by owners and veterinarians, the average life expectancy of animals is higher than it was in the past. However, the risks of accidents and unforeseen illnesses still remain.
The benefits of having pet health insurance
Veterinary costs vary greatly but foreseeable costs are easily calculated. Depending on species, age and weight of my pet I can estimate how much I’ll be spending on food, vaccines and parasitic control if nothing goes wrong. However, what if something DOES go wrong? Essentially, in the event of an accident or illness, veterinary costs can increase unexpectedly and a less wary pet owner may be left in a tough position. It is exactly in these cases that pet insurance is essential, as it will help making veterinary care accessible to all owners.
Pet health insurance guarantees that in the event a pet needs more veterinary care than his/her family is financially capable of providing on short notice, the pet will not go untreated.
Throughout the world, there are many offers on the market: both pet health plans and pet insurance. First of all, it is important to clarify that pet health plans and pet insurance are not quite the same service.
Pet health plans vs. Pet insurance
Pet health plans include the provision of different veterinary services at reduced prices (agreed between the agent and the veterinary center). As a rule of thumb, there is a network of providers within which owners must remain to enjoy these discounted prices. The premium of these plans is generally lower than health insurance and may include, among other services, reduced prices for medical appointments, vaccines or diagnostics.
Pet health insurance, depending on the insurer and the type of policy chosen, may include some of the characteristics of pet health plans; however, pet insurance is more comprehensive in the type of services and care that can be provided, as well as the reimbursement of veterinary costs (up to a certain amount) over the duration of the policy.
In the case of pet insurance, there may or may not be an agreed network of partners; however, some health insurances allow the reimbursement of veterinary expenses from veterinary centers selected by the customer. With regard to the reimbursement of expenses, the amount to be reimbursed may vary with the type of insurance and policy you have, so make sure to shop around and figure out what best suits your needs.
To sum up: if on the one hand, we have a limited supply of services and products at a reduced price, on the other we have the possibility of reimbursement of unexpected larger veterinary expenses. Thus, health plans offer veterinary services at a more affordable cost, but they do not tend to do offer the same level of protection in the event of veterinary expenses resulting from accidents or illness.
What does pet insurance actually cover?
In addition to veterinary expenses, health insurances may cover:
⁃ Loss and theft of your pet;
⁃ Treatments for behavioral problems;
⁃ Death from illness or injury;
⁃ Liability insurance.
Like any other insurance, pet insurance policies can vary greatly from one another. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you get the most appropriate policy for your pet. Take your time to research and carefully review the policies of the insurer and the policy you intend to acquire.
What factors contribute to the cost of pet insurance?
You can find different types of insurance, from basic to more complete ones, including third-party liability (which is even madatory for some breeds). However, more complete policies generally have higher premiums. At the time of choosing pet insurance, bare in mind that the premium may vary according to:
⁃ The type of pet: the cost of insurance for small pets such as rabbits, for example, are generally cheaper compared to dogs or cats; this occurs because their cost is lower and any veterinary expenses will also be lower;
⁃ The age of your pet: older animals are more likely to get sick, so insurance tends to be more expensive to cover the risk;
⁃ Breed: some insurances may be aggravated in the case of dangerous or potentially dangerous animals;
⁃ Pre-existing conditions: it may be hard to get insurance for a pet that has some pre-existing condition. However, all medical conditions must be declared under risk of the policy being annulled;
⁃ Cost of your pet: pets with pedigree cost more to cover than crossbred or non-purebred animals, as they will be more expensive and may suffer from hereditary conditions.
Since veterinary costs are often a deciding factor in the choice or continuation of veterinary care, from your pet’s health point of view, having pet insurance is definitely worthwhile!
Having a health insurance helps avoiding any financial difficulties pet owners may have when more exams are needed to reach a diagnosis or when expensive therapeutical aid is needed. Thus, it is possible to follow up faster, closer, and allows for better health care all around.