Friday, February 13, 2009

Health Insurance - The Coverage Facts

Medical expenses are on the rise and veterinary care for your guide dog are no exception. Covering your best friend with pet health insurance can save you money in the long run. To help you through the maze of insurance information we have outlined some of the plans available below.

Pet insurance costs vary according to the range of benefits and the deductibles you choose. The premium you pay will depend on the breed and age of your dog. As a rule of thumb the higher your premium, the greater the benefit you will receive. The goal is to pick a balance between the coverage you need and the premium you can afford.

You will need to decide between two types of coverage. The first type covers only emergencies like accidents or sudden illness. The second type covers routine procedures and check-ups. In general emergency only coverage is less expensive. If you can budget funds to cover routine visits then this might be a good option. If you want to include routine coverage make sure the plan you choose covers such basic costs as vaccinations, annual check-ups and dental care in addition to emergency care.

A waiting period is applied by most companies. It can be anywhere from 2 to 14 days for accidents and between 14 and 30 days for illnesses. Waiting periods are enforced so that no one takes out insurance immediately after an accident or illness.

There are limits to the policies available to your dog. Some companies will not write a new policy to a dog over 8 years old. Pre-existing conditions or a terminal illness can also mean a denial of benefits. A policy may be insured if the pre-existing condition has been stable for a given time, such as 6 months. Cancer coverage is available on some policies for an additional cost.

Below is a brief comparison of coverage offered by five companies. For comparison purposes the listed premiums are based on a two-year old Labrador Retriever. The information is included as a guide and not meant as an endorsement for any particular company. For accuracy it is best to rely on the information provided by the insurer. A link to the companies' websites are included at the end of each description.

Company: VPI Standard Plan with $9,000 annual benefit limit-$11.33 per month. You are reimbursed for the eligible benefit amount less a $50 per-incident deductible and a 10% co-payment. Plan covers: accidents, illnesses, x-rays, surgeries, cancer, prescriptions, and hospitalization. Additional WellCare Core Coverage - $12.00 per month. Covers routine treatments including wellness exams, flea and/or heartworm preventive and vaccinations. Total for both plans $25.33 per month. Also available is coverage for cancer at less than $2.00 more per month. Link:

Company: Petplan - Silver Plan with $12,000 annual benefit limit - $23.44 per month with $100 deductible and 80% reimbursement. Plan covers: emergency treatment, diagnostic testing like MRIs and x-rays, surgery, cancer treatment, non-routine dental treatment, prescription medications and specialist treatment. This plan also covers boarding fees if you're hospitalized and no one else can look after your dog. Link:

Company: ASPCA - Primary Plan is for emergency only coverage - $20.12 per month. Advantage Plan with $11,000 annual benefit limit - $38.52 per month with $100 deductible and 80% reimbursement. Plan covers: annual physical exam, fecal exam, heartworm testing, annual vaccinations as well as treatment and medication for injury and illness. Link:

Company: 24 PetWatch - QuickCare Optimum Plan with $2,000 per incident benefit limit - $32.45 per month with $100 per incident deductible and 90% reimbursement. In addition to covering emergency care the plan covers: vaccinations, annual physical exam, heartworm testing and teeth cleaning (scale and polish) $150 annual limit with no deductible. Link:

Company: Pets Best - Basic Plan with $42,000 lifetime limit - $19.99 per month with $100 per incident limit, 80% reimbursement. Plan covers: emergency and illness care Routine Care Option add-on covers: annual exam, teeth cleaning, vaccines, heartworm and fecal test. Cost is $17.00 per month, no deductible, $440 maximum per year. Total for both plans is $36.88. Link:

You may want to check into another option for cutting your dog's medical costs. The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners offers memberships to individuals with an adult guide dog. Among the benefits are; a six month supply of ADVANTAGE, a one year supply of Sentinel Flavor Tabs® for protection against heartworm disease, fleas and intestinal parasites, 10% off veterinary care at Veterinary Centers of America and free nutritional supplements. Link:

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