Pet insurance

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A slight deviation from the usual personal finance posts, here’s one on pet insurance and why you should consider it.

Yes, pet insurance. That’s medical aid for your dog and cat. If that sounds silly then you probably don’t realise the cost of veterinary services, especially when your cute little poodle runs under a car.

Why insurance works and what it’s for

Insurance is all about pooling risk with like-minded people, all paranoid about contracting the same affliction, or worried about golf-ball sized hail stones. If my house burned down as a result of some poor electrical work, I’d probably end up living in a camper van for the foreseeable future, as I just would not have the money to rebuild from scratch.

I do, however, have the several hundred rand per month to insure my house, knowing that if something did happen, my insurance company would make me whole.

It all comes down to pooling risk. Insurance companies earn premiums from the likes of you and me, invest these premiums and hopefully act with care to insure that the sum of all the money they have is sufficient to cover the claims that could confront them in the future.

This is pretty much how medical aids, Gap cover, car insurance, household insurance and life insurance works.

Pet insurance is no different

There has been a huge amount of growth in the pet insurance industry these last few years. You might even have seen ads on TV, or found a pamphlet at your local vet with a picture of a kitten on it and some happy family on the lawn.

Cheesy clichés aside, they appear to offer very good value based on current pricing.

Pet insurance is like most other insurance products, which makes them quite easy to mentally digest and importantly – to compare.

  • There are generally exclusions for pre-existing conditions, which is only fair. If you and I have our pets in the same risk pool, the last thing I want is your scruffy little Maltese spending five nights in intensive care, three days after joining. Just kidding. But, pet insurance is not a ticket to sorting out your current pet ailments.
  • There is an excess. The excess is the amount you pay every time you claim. Excesses are there to keep you and I slightly more cautious with claiming, as by having an excess we will still suffer some kind of economic loss should we claim.
  • Underwriting applies. Underwriting is the process whereby the insurer, understands fully all the risk around your pet, such that they can ensure that they’re not letting a pet onto their books that shouldn’t be there, based on the rules of the policy.

Let’s get down to hard biscuits

And then of course, there is price.

Price alone should not influence your decision for almost all financial products, but all else being equal, paying less for something does make complete sense. Not all insurance products are perfect substitutes and just because one is cheaper than another, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for your needs. It’s always best to compare and interrogate the characteristics of an insurance policy, find those that meet your needs, then find the cheapest from the remaining providers.

Doing some of the hard work for you

There’s a comparison table of various insurers in the post Finding the best Pet Medical Aid in South Africa. It’s quite useful although these things are unfortunately always changing and you’ll need to check up on the various providers if the info is still correct.

If you’re uncertain about whether you need this extra expense in your life, contact the local vet and find out the costs of various standard things. Vaccinations, deworming, a broken leg, stitching up after a dog fight and even bigger procedures.

Unexpected things do happen, it’s just part of life.

Conclusion

Pets are quickly becoming more and more important to us in a cultural sense. Many people now consider them children, and would do anything to keep them happy and healthy. That said, no one likes being confronted with a R20k bill for cat surgery, so I recommend doing some quick research and deciding if it’s worth paying a small monthly premium to offset the worry that you may have to put a beloved companion down because you don’t have the capital to pay for expensive treatment.

If you have a sufficient emergency fund then you could consider to “self insure”. Put money aside or accept the risk that you may use your emergency fund for veterinary expenses.

It’s all about risk and what you can afford

Please share your thoughts