Pet Insurance

Reporter: Graeme Butler

Captain Kirk the cat might well have faced his final frontier if it wasn't for pet insurance. The 2 year old cat came home one night with a serious leg injury - "in total nearly $6000, would you be able to afford that? No not at all we would have to loan the money if we decided to pay it ourselves or ad it to our mortgage or something." Julia Reed says with pet insurance the excess was just $100 - a fraction of the total vet bill. The take up of Pet Insurance in Australia is now around 30% - and there's plenty of plans on offer.

Financial Planner Nick Bruining has looked at a variety of Pet Insurance Plans on offer. "What's really interesting is that there's many promoters but basically all insured by one mob which is Hollard insurance and that's one of the things that will hopefully change over the next few years as the take up of pet insurance increases we might see more players enter the market and that will see competitive pressures and drive those prices down. At the moment it's basically one insurer with multiple promoters of the same or similar product." While the policies are basically alike it's still critical to compare the cost and coverage to make sure you're getting the deal that's best for you and your pet. "You can get accident only insurance accident and illness insurance and accident illness and routine cover which covers for things like micro-chipping and sexing and that sort of stuff a lot of these policies have limits or caps to how much they'll pay on a particular treatment bit like ancillary cover with dental for humans but none the less there are caps you need to be aware of. "Nick says people need to be aware that Pet Insurance doesn't operate in the same way as human insurance and there are exclusions and changing price structures. "The big differences between pet insurance and human health insurance is that we don't' have this community rating system which basically means as your pet gets older the insurance premiums go up so certainly for a puppy or a kitten you might be paying one price and then once the pet's say 8 years old you're talking about 40% more in Premiums you need to be aware of that."

Dr Mark Lawrie from Murdoch University's Vet Hospital says as vetinary medicine becomes more complex the cost of animal care can top that of humans as there's no Medicare for pets... it can result in staggering costs. "i think one of the largest costs we've had here at Murdoch Pet emergency centre is a cat that's been bitten by a snake that required about 2 -3 weeks of treatment some of it intensive one on one care on a ventilator multiple anti-venine that was around 40 K and those people weren't insured and they took out a mortgage on their house to cover the cost of treatment."

While Pet insurance wouldn't cover that sort of bill with most capped at between 9 and 15 thousand. It can still be the difference between undertaking expensive treatment or not. "One of the critical things is that nowadays people see their dogs and cats as part of the family it's like they're children, when they're confronted with the need to pay a large sum of money their torn apart emotionally sometimes their desire is to do whatever it takes and sometimes they do that with or without insurance but that insurance gives that buffer there's not that pressure on you financially necessarily you've got to spend a lot of money."

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