Pet insurance dilemma

chi83December 5, 2011

Hi all,

I'm hoping some of the fellow pet owners can help me with a pet insurance question. I have Trupanion and my three cats are covered. It's a $250 deductible with 90% coverage.

My cats are 6, 6 and 4. In terms of pre-existing conditions, one of the 6 year olds had most of his teeth yanked 2 years ago for gingivitis. The other 6 year old had slightly elevated liver enzymes a year or two ago but no problems since. I haven't had bloodwork done on him lately. The 4 year old had a urinary blockage last May but has had no problems since he was unblocked.

The monthly premium when I was in Boston was $81. I thought that was high. However, I just moved to CA and with my new zipcode, my premium shoots up to $121.

I like the peace of mind knowing I have insurance in case something serious happens to my cats, but I'm wondering if it makes financial sense. To break even, one of them would have to have a $1,350 vet bill per year. But, if one of them gets a chronic illness, it'll more than make up for the years of insurance premiums.

They are generally healthy but they are getting older. I would like to not have to make treatment choices based on money. I know as soon as I cancel the insurance, one of them will need surgery!

What do you guys think? Thanks!

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We just recently became fans of pet insurance. We've had many, many dogs over the many years we've been married, but never had insurance on our pets. However, we got a wake up call this past January. Our daughter's 12 year old lab was diagnosed with lymphoma. Since she was otherwise healthy and active, our daughter opted for chemo, which is quite costly, along with ultrasounds, cat scans, blood work and other associated vet costs.

Because we saw the availability of new types of medical procedures and equipment now available for vet care, we decided to get Trupanion for our dogs - one 7 and one 12. We chose Trupanion because it covered most of the costliest expenses, not ordinary care. So with that in mind, we opted for a high deductible, $1000, rather than opting for a lower one. So our costs are not as high as yours.

We were fortunate that we took out insurance in March because in September our 12 year old dog was diagnosed with diabetes. In addition to the vet bill of diagnosis and continuing meds, she required admission to a 24 hour specialty vet where she was evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon, an endocrinologist, an internist and other specialties, along with specialized (read expensive) blood test to rule out Cushings disease.

It was a nice feeling to be able to say to the vets, "Do whatever you need to do." I also like Trupanion because the owner, not the vet is reimbursed, so you can go wherever you want. NAYY...

So.....what do I think? I'm very glad that I have it and look at it like a catastrophic insurance policy. Of course, this info is specific to Trupanion, as there are other types of pet insurance out there.

I do suggest that you look into raising your deductibles which will lower your premiums significantly. I've been recommending it to everyone I know. It's great to be able to protect our furry ones and offer them a great quality of life.

P.s. Trupanion paid off quickly after I submitted my bills. I'm very pleased with them.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 8:50PM
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Thanks Helene. Do they cover your medications? Was there any limits to what they paid out for you?

The one thing I'm worried about is the elevated liver enzymes. That was last year and I'm concerned if something happens with that cat later on, they will claim it was a pre-existing condition.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 9:02PM
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Insurance is a tough gambling decision. It's going to cost you close to $22,000 to insure those cats for a 15 year span. How does the deductible work on your policy - is it $250 annually (not so bad) or $250 per cat annually? Does your routine care cost (shots and stuff) apply to the deductible?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 10:20PM
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$250 per cat, per if a cat needs surgery, it'll be $250 but if they develop a chronic condition, it'll only be 250 once and then the rest is paid for the duration of the condition/life. It's not for things like ear or bladder infections since a vet visit/antibiotics will generally be less than the deductible.

$22,000 is a lot but I think it's relatively safe to assume that at least one cat will develop a serious condition by age 15 and that will likely make up a lot of the money.

No routine stuff included.

It's a total crapshoot. I could be throwing a lot of money away but I could also save a lot of money.

I like the idea of a compromise and doing the $1k deductible. My premiums would be cut in half and I'd know I would be covered for major illnesses. I would just have no recourse for anything costing up to $1k.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 10:38PM
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Chi83 explained the deductible correctly. Since my Katie has been diagnosed with diabetes, Trupanion paid 90% of the charges. They will continue to pay for 90% of the meds and vet visits associated with her diabetes now that the deductible has been met.

There are other types of pet insurance which will pay for ordinary vet visits, some work with your vet, some are totally independent of the vet. But I felt that most of the usual stuff is relatively inexpensive and one of the responsibilities of the pet guardian. But now that there are x-rays, MRIs, cat scans, chemotherapy, and extensive surgeries available, I'd didn't want to be in the position of having to make an expensive, but potentially life-saving care decision based on money, or lack thereof.

The ability to use the same meds and procedures on our pets have also advanced medical treatment. We had belonged to the canine lymphoma yahoo list and it's amazing how the meds have evolved. Essentially, the dog chemo program parallels the human one. Some of the dogs on the lymphoma list have lived more than 5 years past diagnosis. Unfortunately, my daughter's dog lived only 7 months after diagnosis, but even that, 5 years ago, was almost unheard of.

Related to that, but not to cause controversy, I plan to have rabies titres done rather than to immunize them ever again.

Chi, how much will your premiums be if you cut the deductible back to $1000? BTW, it's really easy to hit that thousand dollar mark - Katie's diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization(2 days) cost over $2200! I pay $52/ month for the 2 dogs with the thousand $ deductible.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 12:39AM
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My only concern would be the pre-existing conditions you mentioned. If these are going to be recurring problems, then they won't be covered. Was the elevated liver enzymes before or after you got the insurance?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:41AM
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It was last December, so it's been a year and it was before I got the insurance. I initially took him in cause he was throwing up and one of his enzymes were slightly elevated. Everything else was completely normal. The vet wasn't too concerned and said it might have been from the vomiting. I was supposed to have him checked again in July but I didn't get around to it in the move. He isn't throwing up anymore except on occasion if he eats too fast. Otherwise he's acting normal so maybe I should have him checked and see if he's in normal ranges and then make the decision. I'd hate to have them use that as evidence for any future problems. I know cats age much faster than humans so I think it's reasonable to think that other symptoms would have shown up by now if there was a problem.

I asked about how they determine pre-existing conditions and they said they go on your vet's diagnosis and whether they think previous symptoms were related or not.

Helene, on a rough estimate it looks like it would cut my monthly payments to about $60 if I go for the higher deductible.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:59AM
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Chi - from what I'm reading, it sounds like you absolutely want insurance if nothing more than for your own piece of mind. It's difficult to put a value on piece of mind where our pets are concerned! I can't imagine how much the cost of cancer or diabetes medicine/testing is running bluebird. I really liked the suggestion about lower the premiums with a higher deductible and that might be a good option for you to consider. That sounds like a more financially sound approach to me and you won't feel like you're getting rooked. If you can already afford to pay the $120 monthly, bank the $60 monthly savings (in a special savings account if that helps you manage easier) and draw from that the additional $750 deductible when needed. The gamble there of course is if you encounter multiple emergencies in one year. But, the probability that you will each year for 15 years is relatively low. I would consider that approach but it's a completely personal decision on what works best for you. The insurance isn't covering your routine care nor some of the more common things (bladder infections and such) so it sounds like it's geared more for catastrophic coverage which realistically is going to cost more than the higher deductible.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 11:24AM
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Thanks for the great thread. I was thinking about getting insurance for my cat but most policies are too expensive or don't cover very much. Trupanion is just what I was looking for. I checked a few other sites and they seem to be well-respected.

I just signed up. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 5:29PM
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I noticed I forgot to address one of your questions ...each month Katie's meds cost about $35 - insulin and needles for injection. Trupanion, since we've met the deductible will pay 90% of that for the rest of Katie's life as long as we maintain the insurance. In addition, she will be seeing her vet several times a year for weigh-ins and observation as long as she's continuing to do well. Since her portion of the premium is about $26/month, we sort of come out slightly ahead each month...but remember, we started off ahead as she incurred a large expenditure only 6 months into the contract. I consider it a great deal, as if she needs any additional care related to her diabetes diagnosis, it's all covered.

Poor Spencer, our other dog, is just a tagalong at this point, which suits us just fine. ;-)

My daughter incurred over $10,000 worth of expenses in just over 7 months, even though she opted out of the more frequent ultrasound which were recommended. For her new dog, she bought insurance immediately.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 8:56PM
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