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NEWS FROM THE TRENCHES - THE IMPORTANCE OF PET INSURANCE

Posted 1/5/2012 5:58am by Sharon Kinsey .

DISCLAIMER:  I AM NOT A LICENSED INSURANCE BROKER, NOR IN THE INSURANCE BUSINESS, NOR AFFILIATED WITH ANY INSURANCE COMPANY. 

            Do you have pets that you treat better than your children?  Are you independently wealthy?  If the answer to the first question is yes and the answer to the second question is no – this blog post is for you.  Dealing with Bailey and Bongo’s cancer caused me to sit back and think about our options without insurance.  Unfortunately, the answer is pain management followed by euthanasia.  Since it is possible that, with treatment, some animals live one to two years (or more) after a cancer diagnosis,  that would have been a gut-wrenching situation.

            We have had pet insurance for our dogs since the early ‘90s.  At that time, the industry was in its infancy and the choices were not great – nor were the benefits.  A few years ago, after Samson’s TPLO surgery I decided to review what was available.  The policy we had at the time covered only about 45% because they based payment on a schedule of benefits with maximum amounts for each procedure.  In addition, the deductible was per claim.  I found several companies that offered good policies but ultimately, consumer reviews and opinions led me to Embrace.  Everyone raved about them.  They operate more like a small family than a corporation and they pay based on actual charges.  Huge difference.

            As a rule, I do not discuss personal financial information, but this issue is so important to me that I want to illustrate what an illness such as cancer can mean financially.

 Samson

            Samson was my special needs child.  He had problems from the very beginning.  We went from epilepsy, to bilateral deafness, to three TPLO surgeries, to a spinal cord stroke, to immune mediated thrombocytopenia, to degenerative myelopathy, to finally putting him out of his misery.  When he had the TPLOs and MRIs – we had a different policy.  We submitted approximately $14,000 of invoices to insurance.  When the dust settled, we were out of pocket about $6,000.00.  We were fortunate that, at that time, we had the resources to cover the expense.   After that we changed to Embrace.  During the period of time where we dealt with everything else – we had Embrace.  They could have made a case that Samson’s stroke was related to his prior surgeries or his diagnosed brain abnormality – but they did not.  We submitted about $13,000 in medical bills but paid only around $1500 in the end.  His treatment included 3 weeks of rehab at a boarding facility which included water therapy. In addition, treatment for the IMTP included a new drug which cost more than $800 per treatment.  Embrace covered everything. 

Bailey and Bongo

            As you know from my last blog post, both Bongo and Bailey were diagnosed with bone cancer in the same week.  Bailey had his leg amputated but Bongo is not a surgery candidate and is undergoing radiation.  I recently submitted the first round of bills from my vets and the hospital.  They totaled $4,792.27.  This included Bailey’s amputation.  Embrace is paying $3,580.77.  The unpaid amount represents $400 in deductibles ($200 per dog per year) and $800 in prescription drugs.  You can purchase coverage for drugs but I did not (big mistake).  Our decision to proceed with the amputation, radiation, and chemo were entirely based on the fact that we had insurance to cover it. 

The Policy

            With Embrace you choose your deductible (we chose $200), your co-pay (we chose 90%), and your annual maximum (we chose $10,000).  The annual premium for our six dogs is $323 per month.  This includes a multi-pet discount (not sure how much though).  As I said before, Embrace pays based on actual invoices – not a schedule.  There is no extra charge for cancer coverage, which includes radiation and chemo.  They also pay for continuing care which is a big deal.  When Samson needed additional rehab months after the initial stroke, Embrace covered it – no questions asked.  Embrace also covers alternative treatments like acupuncture, holistic vet consultations, and water therapy.  Both Bailey and Bongo will soon begin acupuncture for pain management.   

            Maybe this seems like an advertisement for Embrace.  It is not.  I have been in a vet office on more than one occasion where an owner had to choose euthanasia due to lack of funds to cover treatment costs.  It is painful to watch.  If I can save one pet owner (and pet) from facing that type of decision – I will feel as though I have done an important service.

            To all those with pets suffering from terminal diseases my heart goes out to you.  To all those who beat the odds with aggressive treatment – hooray to you!  For those that have tried and failed – you can be comforted by the fact that you did all you could.  I understand that not everyone can afford $30-50 a month for insurance.  The real question is: can you afford not to have it?  When people in my community suffer a major illness or accident and face huge medical bills – the churches jump in to organize fundraisers and offer donations.  I am certain that a serious illness or accident involving one of our beloved pets will not rate that kind of response.  So think about it. 

            I am including a link to Embrace if you want to get a quote (which costs nothing).  Do your own homework.  Compare the policies.  Consider the risks and the possible consequences.

 May God keep you and all your furry friends in his hands and grant you health and happiness.  

 Sharon