If you've ever had to put a dog down, you know the incredible guilt and hopelessness you feel.  When my wife and I had to make the painful decision to close down our Golden Retriever, Sally, last year, it ruined us.
But I was not just content to mourn our sweet Sally.
I wanted to know:
- Would the pet insurance have covered her cancer treatment?
- How much would it have paid out?
- And should we consider pet insurance for our 2-year-old Dalmatians?
Let me start by saying I'm not a pet insurance expert.
As many of you know, I'm a licensed life insurance agent. This is where my real expertise lies.
But since we had to shut down Sally, I learned a lot about pet insurance and in the end I bought Healthy Paws insurance for our Dalmatians. In this article, I tell you how pet insurance would have saved Sally and why we chose healthy paws for our Dalmatian, Odie.
How pet insurance could have saved Sally
I can still remember crying all the way home from the vet's hospital.
I had to tell my three daughters we're putting Sally down. For two of my children, Sally had been a part of our family all their short lives.
More than anything, I remember feeling a huge guilt.
Sally had cancer and surgery to try to remove it would cost over $ 10,000 . The vet's prognosis was not good. She had told us that there was a 5-10% chance that the operation would "cure" Sally. But the overwhelming probability was that she would die within two to four months even after the operation.
So we had a hell of a decision to make …
Can we afford $ 10,000?
Well, yes and no.
Technically, yes, we had that amount in our bank account. But we have three mouths to feed and lots of bills.
In the end, we decided that we simply could not spend the extraordinary sum of money on a dice that would almost certainly not go our way.  But knowing that we made the decision for the long-term benefit of our family did not make it any less brutal.
I was later told that we could have avoided putting Sally down if she had pet insurance.
Most pet insurance plans pay between 70% and 90% of medical expenses due to accident or illness.
Would we have been willing to pay $ 2000 to try to save Sally?
When I found out I was angry. Angry and disappointed in myself. I felt I could have prevented this!
I decided to take a deeper dive into pet insurance to see if it would make sense for our 2-year-old Dalmatian, Odie.
The Basics of Pet Insurance I Learned
I am a researcher.
So when I decided on a deeper dive into pet insurance I read:
- A LOT about pet insurance works
- read several reviews about pet insurance companies
- and got several quotes
To make it easy for you I will tell you some of the basics I learned here.
# 1 – How Pet Insurance Works
The first thing I learned was that pet insurance works a little differently than health insurance.
You pay a premium like all insurance (your cost) but when it's time to actually use the plan it is like this:
- You can choose which licensed veterinarian or veterinary hospital you want (there is no "network" of approved doctors as in health care insurance)
- You pay for the cost treatment out of pocket
- You send the bill to the pet insurance company
- They reimburse you for qualified costs
So it is basically a compensation plan.
Deductibles and compensation percentage  The plans usually have a deductible.
This is the amount you pay before the coverage starts. You can usually choose between $ 250, $ 500 or $ 1,000 deductible amounts. This amount corresponds to "co-insurance" in health insurance.
Then you select a compensation percentage. This is the percentage of the bill that the pet insurance company pays when you have paid your deductible. You can usually choose between 70%, 80% or 90%, although 90% is usually not available for older dogs.
Maximum payout or payout limit
Lastly, there is usually a maximum amount that the insurance company pays out either per year or during the life of the plan. For example, you can find a plan with a maximum limit of $ 10,000 to $ 30,000 per year. One of the reasons I joined Healthy Paws is that they have unlimited payouts.
# 2 – What Pet Insurance Covers
I also learned that pet insurance usually covers costs related to accidental injury or illness (without an existing permit).
They do not cover existing conditions and most plans do not cover "health" or routine visits or check-ups. The idea is that it should pay for unexpected injuries or illnesses, not for preventive care. Some companies offer a level of coverage that pays for this type of visit, but they cost much more than I personally was willing to spend.
Some companies also have exceptions that cover certain genetic conditions that are common in certain breeds, so be sure to read the fine print before buying.
# 3 – How much pet insurance costs
I also got lots of offers.
I did not just take a quote for my Dalmatians. I also got a quote for other breeds just to get a good feel for an assortment.
Plans start at about $ 25 per month and usually go up to about $ 100 per month.
If you get a "work" plan that covers health or preventive care, you can easily pay more than $ 100 per month.
Why I stopped buying coverage from healthy paws
After reading several reviews about different pet insurance companies, I found that companies differ most in the following areas:
- annual limits or deductibles
- ease of claim
- what is covered?
Let's examine each of these.
I received quotes from several companies including Nationwide, FIGO, PetPlan, Embrace and Healthy Paws.
For my 2 year old Dalmatian, I was looking for a plan with 80% compensation and $ 500 deductible.
Some of the quotes I received were as follows:
- Embrace – $ 98.77 per month
- FIGO – $ 56.49 per month
- Healthy Paws – $ 53.74 per month
- Nationwide – $ 46.72 per month
- PetPlan – $ 144.01 per month  As you can see, Nationwide actually had the lowest cost policy at $ 46.72 per month. Healthy paws were # 2. However, I stopped choosing them due to the fact that the claims are easy and the fact that they pay for alternative treatments, which I will cover below.
Annual Limits and Deductibles
Of the plans I compared, that FIGO, Nationwide, PetPlan and Healthy Paws had unlimited annual repayment limits.
Embrace's limit was $ 30,000, which in all honesty is probably more than enough. If the price was lower, I do not think I care that they limit their coverage to $ 30,000.
Another reason I went with Healthy Paws across Nationwide was how easily they make it to submit a claim.
On Nationwide, you must download a form, print it and fill it out, scan it and then submit it.
With Healthy Paws, you just take a picture of the bill with your phone and send it to them via their app.
You can see the "New claim" option here in their app, which I was able to download after I became a customer.
What is covered?
According to their website, here's what Healthy Paws covers.
- Chronic Conditions – these are ongoing (or even permanent) conditions that require a lot of care such as diabetes, allergies or even cancer.
- Alternative Therapy – these are things like acupuncture or chiropractic
Note that many companies do not cover or limit hereditary or congenital conditions. One of the reasons I chose healthy paws is that my dog will be eligible for coverage as long as signs and symptoms only appear after enrollment.
In the price section, I mentioned that Nationwide actually had the best prices, but I went with Healthy Paws anyway. This is because their Essential and Plus plans do not cover rehabilitation treatments. Here's what's covered:
In the end I went with Healthy Paws because they had a great price, covered everything I wanted and made it easy to file  In my next article, I will walk you through the steps to get a quote, register and use the app.
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