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Children’s names? Well, there’s Bobby and Sally and Snickers

Wed Nov 26th, 2014 on     Health Insurance,    

Leona Helmsley made headlines after she died by leaving her dog, Trouble, about $12 million. The money was held in trust for Trouble’s care and feeding and, some said, extravagant lifestyle. The move made sense to some of us: Trouble was part of Helmsley’s life.

Most people don’t have $12 million to spend on themselves, much less their dogs. Nevertheless, we are willing to wager that attitudes about Helmsley’s decision have changed since her death in 2007. Without backing the sentiment up with statistics, pet insurance professionals say that pet owners are treating their pets more like children than they have in the past. All these little friends need is an opposable thumb or two, and Fluffy and Fido will be taking over both the role and responsibilities of a full-fledged family member.

That is one reason that, as we said in our last post, pet insurance is increasing in popularity. The policies are similar to human health insurance policies, but we wondered how premiums were calculated. A quick look at Trupanion Inc.’s website — Trupanion is a pet insurer established in 2000 — shows us one approach.

Trupanion considers six factors when determining a premium: breed, age, gender, spay/neuter status, geographical location and deductible. The premium will not change if the owner makes a claim or as the pet ages. Again, fairly similar to human health and accident insurance.

And, as with human insurance, pet insurance premiums can be surprisingly pricey. A friend with an older dog was quoted $53 a month (not by Trupanion) — just about twice what she pays for her own employer-sponsored health insurance. She decided against it and promptly shelled out $500 for dental surgery and, a year later, another $800 for eye surgery. The medications added another $100-175.

Some pet owners wouldn’t go home from the shelter without insurance, though. Pets, like humans, can have long, complicated last illnesses. The dog owner with pet insurance may not be faced with the “Is it worth the money?” decision when expensive and potentially life-saving treatments are available.

Considering that research shows that owning a pet can improve both physical and mental health in a human, should pet coverage be covered by human health insurance? Maybe there will be a new line on the enrollment form, or a tweak to the definition of “dependents” to include the non-human members of our families.

Source: Carrier Management, “Pet Insurance Sales Soar Past Accident & Health Cover,” Katia Dmitrieva, Nov. 18, 2014 

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