Pet Insurance- Must or Bust?

I’ve always been an animal lover, and I currently share my life with one sassy little fluff ball.

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She looks peaceful here, but I swear it’s all a ruse

I love her possibly more than she would like (she’s not always a fan of my squishes), and I would do almost anything to make sure she lives a long, happy, and pain-free life. Vet visits can be expensive, so it’s only logical that I have pet insurance- isn’t it?

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As the old saying goes, if it exists, someone’s probably trying to make money off it. The same could be said for pet insurance- I mean, how expensive could one little kitty be? It’s time to delve into the confusing world of Pet Insurance.

A quick google shows that Woolworths Pet Insurance is probably the most economical on offer- plus they offer a price-match service and a 10% discount if you join their free rewards scheme. Putting in Shylah’s details, I get the following options:

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Ok, that doesn’t sound too bad so far. I can have basic peace of mind (with a $200 excess) for only $6.13 a week, or splash out an extra $4.28 a week for a little more coverage and half the out-of pocket expense per claim. For an additional $1.96 on top of that, I can even get routine visits reimbursed. What’s not to love?

Well first of all, my baby girl is strictly an inside cat. Living in an apartment, she doesn’t rub noses with any other cats (and yes, I do feel guilty about this), so shots aren’t on her calendar. This means that I’m pretty safe to rule out the Comprehensive coverage.

I adopted my baby girl three years ago, when she was about four. If she lives to the average life expectancy of a cat (between 15-20 years, so let’s say 17), there’s still a fair bit of living in her. If I go for Standard coverage, I’ll probably pay around $5,500 across the rest of her life. With an annual benefit limit of $10,000 on that policy, it sounds like a great deal!

But if I dig into the Product Disclosure Statement, things start to look a little less amazing. Here’s a list of things that Shylah wouldn’t be covered for under this policy:

  • Parasite troubles (including ticks, worms, fleas, skin mites)
  • Patella luxations (dislocating kneecap), elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia,
    fractured teeth, toxicity (other than that resulting from a confirmed snake
    bite) and intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Panleukopaenia, chlamydia, leukaemia (FeLV), Feline Immuno
    Deficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), viral
    rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, herpes virus and all forms of cat flu
  • Any declared pandemic disease that causes widespread Illness affecting
    dogs or cats
  • More than one instance of swallowing a foreign object
  • Dental procedures; dental diseases; gingivitis; Treatment of
    teeth fractures; teeth cleaning/scaling; orthodontics; removal of deciduous or
    fractured teeth or any oral disease

I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a long list of things that I would still have to cover out of my own pocket if the situation arises. As a thoroughly spoiled indoor cat, my fluff ball isn’t likely to be hit by a car or bitten by a snake. I really hope she doesn’t manage to get burned or electrocuted in my little house, so that really only leaves a few occasions where I would benefit from my $541 per year. On top of that, this cover only pays out 80% of the total bill, minus the excess payment.

I went through this whole process when I originally adopted Shylah, and eventually I decided that Pet Insurance wasn’t for us. Instead, I quietly put away $20 a week until I had $500 set aside. This is her money, and doesn’t get touched for anything else. As she gets older I’ll be looking to increase this to a few thousand dollars, because older animals are obviously more prone to little medical hiccups as they age.

How has it been going for me so far? Well, in the past three years we have had one visit to the vet. I’m not quite sure what happened, but I think she tried to make a ninja move involving jumping off the back of an armchair, flicking the blinds aside and theoretically ending up on the windowsill. She ended up faceplanting into the wall and spraining her tail muscle instead, and I footed the bill of $119 for a checkup and painkillers. That means that if I had been paying for insurance for the past three years, I would be out $1623.84 and received $19 back for my effort. So far, my decision to save for her medical costs without the help of insurance is working to my advantage.

Will I regret this decision if something does go drastically downhill with Shylah’s health and I’m looking at thousands of dollars in bills? Maybe. But probably not as much as I would regret paying that money every month while she lives a long and uneventful life.

Considering Pet Insurance for yourself? Here’s a few things to think about:

Your pet: Do you have a large dog breed that is prone to medical issues, or a moggie that could probably survive the zombie apocalypse? Unfortunately certain types of pets are more likely to experience issues as they get older, and it’s important to be prepared for this

Any exclusions: If you do have a pet that is going to be prone to certain health issues, it’s important to check the PDS before signing anything to make sure they will be covered when issues arise. If you’re not sure, contact the company for clarification and make sure to get the answer in writing.

Old age exclusions: This is a sneaky one! Some companies will automatically cut the cover or add additional exclusions when your pet reaches a certain age- normally right when they’re going to start needing medical attention the most. Not great to find out just as that huge medical bill rolls in or after you’ve been dutifully paying your premiums for five years. Best to make sure you know about any changes to the policy before going in.

Benefit cap: Like any insurance, it’s important to check how much you can claim in any one year, and if that is going to be enough to cover any expenses that arise. The last thing you want is to find out you can only claim $1,000 when you really need ten times that.

Cover percentage: Similar to the Benefit Cap, this is something you’re going to want to be clear on before signing on the dotted line. Do you get 100% of your medical expenses back? 80%? 60%? Can you get more money if you pay a higher excess, or can you pay less excess if you accept a lower percentage? Bear in mind that 60% and 80% of a $15k bill can have a very different impact on your wallet.

Underwriting Company: If you dig deeper, a lot of different companies can be underwritten by the same ‘umbrella’ insurance company (in Australia, there are only two). This means that the product you’re receiving will probably be identical across all of the ‘offshoot’ companies- you’re just paying for the packaging. Investing some time here can be a great way to save extra money,(otherwise you could just be paying for some lush exec’s fat profit margin.

Annual Cost: How much will this insurance actually cost you? Can it fit into your budget without throwing you into debt or derailing your savings efforts? Be honest with yourself- if you’re dreaming of a high-risk pet, can you afford to give it a comfortable, pain-free life if the worst occurs, with or without insurance?

Peace of Mind:  Will having insurance be a weight off your shoulders? Will you be more likely to take a peaky pet to the vet if you don’t have the threat of a huge bill hovering over your head? Sometimes you justcan’t put a price tag on sleeping better at night


At the end of the day, you’re going to be the best person to know if Pet Insurance is right for you. Whatever you do, please please please take the time to read the PDS thoroughly. Print it out, read it again. Highlight what is & isn’t included and make sure you understand what this means! Because the last thing you want is to find out that dental bill isn’t covered when it’s already too late. A little homework and you & your pet can have a long, happy, and financially stress-free life together.

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Pet Insurance- Must or Bust?

5 thoughts on “Pet Insurance- Must or Bust?

    1. Thank you! Like I said, I may regret the choice if something drastic crops up down the line, but at this stage I feel adequately prepared. Knowing I have a little emergency fund set aside for that makes all the difference!

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    1. Yes! That’s the next thing I need to look into, I haven’t needed insurance so far, but with some more big dental bills looming, it may prove to be the cheaper option. Only some thorough research will tell!

      Like

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