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Pet Health Insurance vs. Human Health Insurance

pet health insurance vs human health insurance


In 2018, the percentage of people in the United States with health insurance coverage for all or part of the year was 91.5. Of those insured, 67.3 percent had private health insurance, whereas 34.4 percent has public coverage.

Many do not think twice about protecting themselves and their families. However, what about their pets?

In 2019, $95.7 billion was spent on pets in the United States, $29.3 billion of which was spent on vet care and associated product sales, including routine veterinary care, surgical procedures, and sales of pharmaceuticals, as well as other products sold through vet clinics (excluding food). This number is anticipated to reach $30.2 billion in 2020.

For pet owners who invest in human health insurance, how does pet insurance differ?

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Price Tag?

Whether a dog tears its ACL or a cat requires cancer treatment, an illness or injury can take a significant financial toll on pet owners. As reported by Consumer Reports, a torn ACL can cost around $3,300 and cancer treatment can run a pet own $5,000+.

Based on their analysis, pet owners who would like help with unexpected, hefty vet bills should consider a pet insurance plan to help cover a significant amount of the total cost. In select cases, a policy may actually pay more than the cost of coverage (including premiums). These insurance plans are particularly beneficial for those who own a pet with a costly illness, condition, or disability.

For example, degenerative myelopathy, a serious neurodegenerative disease, is a condition that frequently occurs in large, purebred dogs, such as German Shepherds and Collies. If spinal support is required, treatment options can be expensive. This is why it’s important to take proactive action, as insurers do not cover pre-existing conditions.

If a pet owner obtains the right policy, this decision can be an asset to the health care of a pet. Since a pet insurance policy can have a significant impact on a bill during an emergency situation, it can mean the difference between life and death. For many pet owners, a monthly payment is a small amount to pay for peace-of-mind. After all, pet owners cannot foresee unexpected illnesses or accidents.

5 Key Differences Between Pet Health Insurance and Human Health Insurance

Human health insurance can be rather complicated, and some policyholders have had less than great experiences. According to a report released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, less than half of Americans are fully satisfied with their health care.

One of the greatest variables regarding the perception of the quality of health care was the type of insurance held. In many ways, pet insurance is similar, in that the type of insurance a pet owner obtains can make all the difference in terms of the care their pet receives and the owner’s overall satisfaction.

However, there are also clear differences that need to be considered, as pet and human health insurance are not really comparable. Understanding these differences will help pet owners make more informed decisions.

1. Pets are legally considered to be property

Unlike human health insurance, pets are considered to be property. Meaning, pet insurance is a lot more like car insurance or home insurance. Much like car insurance, pet insurance covers unexpected injuries, or in the case of a car, damages.

Bottom line: Unlike human health insurance, which often covers routine care, standard emergency pet insurance is intended for unexpected situations, which are often the type of situations that are costly. However, there ARE wellness programs available that cover annual examinations, flea/tick control, heartworm testing, and much more.

2. There are no pre-authorizations

Some individuals have had negative experiences in terms of their own personal health in relation to prior authorization. This is because in order to receive a certain procedure, drug, or treatment, a human patient needs to get approval from their insurance company (not their doctor) first. With pet insurance, this process does not exist.

Bottom line: Since there are no HMOs, pet insurance companies leave all medical decisions up to pet owners and their veterinarians. No pre-authorizations are required to obtain the care a pet needs during an emergency situation.

3. Pet owners are not limited to one company or veterinarian

Unlike human health insurance, there isn’t a specific network of veterinarians that pet owners need to choose from. Pet insurance companies in the United States allow pet owners to go to any animal hospital or see any veterinarian. This includes specialists.

Bottom line: Whether a pet owner needs to go to the nearest animal hospital or see a specialist for their pet’s condition, they will not feel restricted in terms of who they can see. The coverage available at each clinic will depend on the owner’s policy.

4. Vets often expect upfront payment but that is rapidly changing

Veterinarians are not familiar with all third-party companies, which is why they prefer to be paid upfront. Depending on the company, pet owners may need to pay for the services and treatments their pet receives before submitting a claim form (with receipts) to their pet insurance company.

Bottom line: Although this was the typical process for quite some time, a number of top-rated companies, such as Trupanion, now offer technology to pay veterinarians directly in minutes. This means that many pet owners no longer need to pay-out-pocket or submit paperwork – which is something to consider. Healthy Paws processes 99% of claims within two days.

5. Senior pets are not as challenging to insure as human elderly patients

Sadly, as seniors age within the human population, many struggle to pay for soaring health care costs. In many cases, this results in immense medical debt or if payments are not made, patients may be dropped. This is not the case with pets. As long as pet owners keep up with their insurance premiums, senior pets will be insured.

Bottom line: As stated by Trupanion and Healthy Paws, all cats and dogs under 14 years of age are eligible for lifelong coverage.

Interested in learning more? Get your free pet insurance quote today!

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