HELP WITH THAT VET BILL

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Besides insuring your apartment, your car, your jewelry and yourself, you can insure your pets. There are a lot of companies that offer pet insurance; even the ASPCA has a plan. But while many people would never willingly forego their own health insurance, is it a good idea for a pet? Not everyone agrees.

“I think you’re better off putting $50 in a bank account with your pet’s name on it,” said Natasha Cotter, office manger for East Side Veterinarian Dr. Patrick Cotter.

Based on her experience, she has found that insurers typically pay about 50 percent, “and you have to really work for it to get that reimbursement.”

ConsumersReports.org also says that putting the equivalent of the insurance premiums in a savings account is a better idea over your pet’s lifetime. And the odds that your pet is going to need some incredibly expensive treatment are small.
But Dr. Mike Marder of Westside Veterinary Group disagrees.

“I used to advise clients to self-insure,”—essentially setting aside money in a savings account for pet health care—“but now $3,000 to $4,000 for a sick pet is not unusual, so insurance is a definite help,” he said.

Insurance companies only reimburse a percentage of what they consider reasonable costs—and New York City tends to have its own definition of “reasonable.”
Insurance companies only reimburse a percentage of what they consider reasonable costs—and New York City tends to have its own definition of “reasonable.”

Still, insurance companies only reimburse a percentage of what they consider reasonable costs—and New York City tends to have its own definition of “reasonable.”

“Insurance usually pays 80 percent of their schedule of legitimate costs,” Marder said. “A basic exam in New York City is $80 to $100. In Oshkosh, Wisconsin, it may be $35 to $50. If the insurance company establishes $50 as the cost of a basic exam and pays 80 percent of $50, that’s just $40. But if the exam cost $100, the client still has to pay $60.”

Currently, only about 5 percent of pets in this country are insured, estimates Dr. Robin Brennen, vice president of program operations and chief of veterinary services for Bide-A-Wee.

“Pet insurance is a growing industry, though, and increasingly offers more options to owners,” Brennen said. “There used to be just two or three companies for people to choose from; now there are 20 to 30 options.”

With the economic downturn, middle- and lower-income pet owners, especially, may not have a lot of disposable income, so insurance may help them make better decisions for their pets, Brennen explained. Owners of adopted or shelter animals also may want to make sure they have coverage for a previously existing condition.
“Their pets may have diseases that weren’t apparent or uncovered at the time of their adoption,” Brennen said.

Another non-insurance option is called Care Credit, a short-term health care credit card with a line of credit you can apply for and get on the spot. Bide-A-Wee does not recommend any particular plan, and Brennen advises pet owners do research to figure out what makes the most sense for their individual needs.

I went prowling online to compare insurance packages. PetsBest.com offered a real range of plans with optional wellness coverage (like cleaning your pet’s teeth).
Although there was a $75 deductible for illness and accidents, after which they paid 80 percent of the vet’s actual bill, there was no deductible for wellness care; teeth cleanings were reimbursed a flat $100, with an annual limit of $505 for “Wellness Care.”

Another website, Petcareinsurance.com, also offered a wide range of plans and optional routine care coverage, but their annual cap for Wellness Care was $105.

The ASPCA also offers plans, including optional Wellness Care. The deductible for illness or accident is $100, but it’s a one-time deductible, not per illness or accident.
The details and exact benefits and limitations of all insurers vary, so you really have to burrow in there to find out which one is best for you.

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