Gambling With Pet Insurance: The Sick Hits The Fan

Health insurance is one of those things that I just don’t “get.” I understand the gist, but it’s a complex system. After I started cancer treatment in December 2011 through follow-ups for many years to come, it’s been a convoluted mess of co-pays, paperwork, phone calls, CT scan price comparison charts, claims and more.

That is partly why I never pursued pet insurance. I figured it would be overly complicated, and I didn’t really understand how it worked in terms of submitting claims, what was covered and what would be reimbursed. Plus, my dogs were healthy; it seemed silly to put money towards something I might not use.

Related: How To Convince Your Boss To Offer Pet Insurance

Hopefully, two paragraphs into this story, you’re seeing my foolishness. Having been through the insane expenses for cancer treatment myself, one would think that I had learned a lesson or two about the benefits of insurance. But nope. Now, two of my three dogs have cancer diagnoses. Emmett was diagnosed in April 2014 with hemangiosarcoma. Lucas was diagnosed earlier this year with osteosarcoma. Both underwent surgeries: Emmett to remove his tumor, Lucas to remove his leg. Lucas received IV chemo at Purdue University’s veterinary teaching hospital. Throw in blood tests, ultrasounds, x-rays and ongoing oral chemo, and the costs have been astronomical.

When I look back on the expenses incurred by my own treatment and compare how much I paid either as a co-pay or as out-of-pocket expenses not covered by my insurance, the vast difference is clear. I got my money’s worth out of my health insurance. Looking at it for my pets as less than that was a big mistake.

Related: Pet Insurance: Why I Think It’s Worth It, No Matter The Cost

Sure, we have a “pet budget” in our family budget, but the expenses for their treatments far exceed not only what our monthly budget allows for, but both have gone way beyond our yearly pet budget. Not combined. Each. We’ve made a ton of adjustments in all other areas of our spending, and we’ve accrued credit card debt.

I’m not complaining. Well, okay. I’m complaining a little. I love my dogs and would do anything to ensure long, happy, healthy lives. But this has cost an arm and Lucas’ leg (amputation humor).

Obviously it’s too late for them to qualify for insurance, but the lesson I’ve finally learned is that I will get pet insurance for every future pet with the hope, of course, that we’ll never need it. But if we do, the safety net is there. Illnesses, especially major ones like cancer, are traumatic enough. Financial pressures compound the physical, emotional and mental strain. Even if pet insurance only covers a fraction of the cost—and I have no clue what the costs of their cancer treatments would have been for us with health insurance, and I probably don’t want to know at this point—a fraction less out of pocket when you’re talking thousands of dollars would be a huge help.

I’m still not clear on all that pet health insurance covers or even how to go about choosing a company and submitting a claim. Luckily, there are tons of resources online and lots of personal stories from pet bloggers, like this extensive comparison from Rubicon Days.

It may be complicated and convoluted and time-consuming, and I may not ever actually “get” it, but looking at pet insurance from the perspective of hindsight, I sure wish I had it now.

Maggie MartonMaggie Marton is the definition of “crazy dog lady” and an award-winning writer based in Bloomington, Indiana. Obsessed with dogs, she writes for numerous pet-related publications and is active in animal welfare. Recently, she launched her first eBook, Authentic Blogging, to inspire others to write with their own voice. When she’s not reading about dogs, writing about dogs or walking dogs, she loves to hike and nap—both activities usually with her dogs. Maggie lives with her husband, John; Emmett, a pit mix; Lucas, a shepherd mix; Cooper, a pit mix; and Newt, the lone kitty (who, of course, runs the show). You can find her online at OhMyDogBlog.com.


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