Insurance is always a gamble. Pet health insurance, much like human health insurance, is a bet that your pet’s covered medical expenses over its lifetime will add up to more than the premiums you pay. Following that logic, Howard got a health insurance plan through VPI for his late pet Chihuahua, Tonka. He paid his bills faithfully and filed only a few small claims over the years, until his pet suffered from heart problems in his last six months. Then Tonka began to suffer from heart problems. This is the very situation that pet owners buy insurance for. How did things work out financially?
Before our pet-loving readers begin to worry: Tonka didn’t make it. He was put to sleep after suffering one too many instances of heart failure. Not for lack of medical care, though: he saw a veterinary cardiologist and was hospitalized at a 24-hour emergency clinic when he suffered sudden heart failure. We’re very sorry to hear that Tonka died, but that wasn’t the reason why Howard wrote to us. He was following up on a post from a few years ago, “Does Your Pet Need Health Insurance?” based on calculations by our number-crunching siblings over at Consumer Reports Money Advisor.
In that article, they argued that for most pet owners, you’re better off taking the money that you would have spent on insurance premiums and putting it in a savings account. After Tonka died, Howard put this theory to a real-world test, and came to the same conclusion.
I signed up for VPI Superior Plan (Best available) in 2006 for my Chihuahua Tonka. Prior to late 2012 I had submitted 3 small claims), once in 2006 which I submitted a $260 bill and VPI paid $151. Once in 2009 which VPI paid $0 and once in $2011 they paid $26.
In late 2012 my Chihuahua was diagnosed with cardiac issues. We had an emergency trip to the Vet which cost us $862, I was happy when I saw VPI reimbursed us $732, but it quickly went down hill from there. I was told we need to take Tonka to see a cardiologist. The visit to the Cardiologist cost $630 and VPI paid back $310, the biggest issue being VPI only covers $150 of a Echocardiogram which runs about $500 and is the best way to determine what is going on.
It was determined his heart was failing and we were given a bunch of meds and asked to come back in 6 month for a follow up. The followup visit in March cost us $565 (another Echocardiogram and consultation). VPI paid just $247.
Then just 2 weeks later Tonka started having breathing issues at 3am. We rushed to the emergency room where they said he was going back into heart failure.
We left him there for 24hrs, while they kept him on oxygen and monitored him and gave him his meds through injections. The total bill for this was $1718 (see attached photo), VPI paid $256. 6 days later Tonka went back into Heart failure and we had to put him to sleep. (still waiting to see how much they reimburse me for).
When I questioned the reimbursement amount, especially for the last bill I was told that we had used our benefit allowance. And they don’t adjust based on where you live, obviously in some states 24 hour emergency care must be a lot cheaper then Northern VA. Also I guess next time my dog has a relapse or needs followup checkups I better tell him to wait until the year is up so I can actually take advantage of the insurance I’m paying for.
As a quick breakdown:
In 7 years of having their “Top of the Line Plan” and paid around $2200.
In that time period I submitted $4286 in claims (mostly in the last 6 months).
They paid out a total of $1801 in those 7 years..
So in total we paid $2200 + $4286 – $1801 = $4685
Had we not had insurance and just put money away, we would have paid $4286 out of pocket.
So having insurance cost us $399 more then not having it.
Needless to say I’d like to warn anyone who is considering Pet Insurance and especially if they are to avoid VPI.
That’s Howard’s experience: if you’ve crunched the numbers on your own pet’s health crises, please let us know!