Consumer Reports: Pet Insurance Drawbacks

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Can health insurance for your pets save you money? Owning a pet these days can be a costly proposition due to great leaps in veterinary medicine and rising vet costs.

Just 10 years ago, euthanasia was considered the humane option for many owners. But now vets can take extreme measures to save a pet, and it can be expensive.

"You know in the wee hours of the night God forbid there was some emergency and you have to bring her somewhere, something awful is happening. That stuff can be in the thousands of dollars."

Even if your pet is perfectly healthy, there are routine tests and shots that are part of an annual check-up. Those costs can add up, too.

“What's her water intake like?"

Now there's pet insurance. The pet owner pays the premiums and the insurance companies cough up if Fido breaks his leg. Sounds good, right? Consumer Reports Kim Kleman says not necessarily.

"The premiums seem small, anywhere from 11 to 30 dollars a month. But over your pet's lifetime that's thousands of dollars."

And it's not just the premiums you'll be paying. Deductibles and co-pays come out of your pocket, as do any un-reimbursed costs and exclusions.

To assess the value of pet insurance, Consumer Reports made up "Lucky" the Labrador Retriever. Over 11 imaginary years Consumer Reports gave Lucky nine common ailments, including a broken leg, an ear infection, a cut, and a torn knee ligament.

"We researched five plans, and in every case, it would end up costing the owner more with pet insurance, in some cases thousands of dollars more, than just paying the vet bill."

Consumer Reports then gave Lucky a major medical problem to see if that would make pet insurance a better deal.

"Even when we added the extreme expense of a double hip replacement, some of the plans still didn't save the owners money."

So Consumer Reports says you'd be better off putting your money in a savings account to handle a pet health emergency. That way, if your pet never needs expensive medical treatment, you can use the money to buy him all the treats he can eat.

While Consumer Reports says pet insurance is a bust, there are many ways that pet owners can cut health care costs. Tune in tomorrow for tips on how to save without compromising your animal's health.

Consumer Reports says one way pet owners can save money is by getting a second opinion on treatment. You want to make sure the recommended procedure is necessary and that you are paying a reasonable price for it.

View more Consumer Reports stories here.


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