The Cost of Miracle-Pet Insurance
Between the United States and Canada, pet owners will spend more than $45 billion on their four-legged family members. But, a single traumatic event or serious disease can devastate personal finances or potentially lead to heart-wrenching decisions. Fortunately, the availability of pet insurance, pet health savings plans and even credit for pets may help some pet owners keep their pets around longer.
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Announcer: Is your pet stressed out? Does your pet need annual vaccines? Which pet is best for a child? Would you know if your dog was in pain? Pet Life Radio presents "Pet Doctor", where you'll learn everything about keeping your pet healthy and happy, from pet care, pet meds, and grooming to pet food, pet insurance, and dental care. This is the place to find out everything there is to know about pet wellness, whether you have a dog, cat, reptile, or rabbit, you'll find answers for your pets straight from the vets, because your pet health matters. Please welcome your Pet Doctor host, Veterinary Media Consultant and veterinarian, Dr. Bernadine Cruz::.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: As reported by Veterinary News Network, pet owners love to spend money on their pets. What happens when their dog is hit by a car, or their cat need emergency surgery? Advances in medical care for pets have made miracles possible, but they also come with a price. Are there options to help for those unexpected pet costs?
Between the United States and Canada, pet owners will spend more than $45 billion on their four-legged family members, but a single traumatic event or a serious disease can devastate a person's finances, or potentially lead to that heart-wrenching decision, "Do I need to put that pet to sleep?" Fortunately, the availability of pet insurance, pet health saving plans, and even credit for pets, may help some pet owners keep their pets around longer.
Jack Stephens, founder of Pet's Best Pet Insurance, has some other thoughts. He says, "Medical problems don't wait until you've saved enough, and then stay within your savings that you've accumulated." Stephens also points out that, "Americans are not known for being good savers." My guest today is Lance Olsen, director of business development for Pet's Best pet insurance of Boise, Idaho. We'll be speaking with Mr. Olsen right after this short break to hear from our sponsors.
Announcer: Please have a seat in the waiting room. The doctor will be with you shortly, right after these messages.
Announcer: Welcome back to The Pet Doctor, on Pet Life Radio, with Dr. Bernadine Cruz::. The doctor is in, and will see you now.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Mr. Olsen, thank you so much for being with us, because I know too many times in my own practice, I know that I can do something to help save a pet's life or increase their quality of life, and an owner sometimes says, "I just can't afford it." Tell us a little about Pet Best insurance. How long have you been around? What can a person expect from it?
Lance Olsen: Thank you very much for having me on the air this evening. There are many benefits on pet health insurance. In fact, the reason for it is to decrease pet euthanasia. We're being able to afford medical treatment. We also want to provide the best medical treatment for your pet without worrying about costs. Another opportunity with having pet insurance allows for treatment that otherwise, you just could not afford. Providing peace of mind with that insurance, if the family members get sick or injured, you can provide the quality of care that they need.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Is this pet insurance one that you can only use at certain veterinarians, or is it something that can be used anywhere you want to?
Lance Olsen: With Pet's Best insurance, you can use the coverage worldwide, so if you're traveling in the States, or perhaps if you go out of the United States, Canada, Japan, or mind you, you can use the coverage as well. Some folks have a mobile vet that comes out to their facility. You may use a mobile vet as well.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Is pet insurance fairly new to the US landscape of medical care for pets?
Lance Olsen: Pet insurance has been around since the early 80's. The market wasn't big on the idea of having pet insurance, but it's becoming more and more popular with the technology and the treatments are more evolved for the quality of care of animals these days. It's becoming much more popular. In fact, we're still only at 1% insured pets nationally, compared to the UK, where you're roughly looking at 17%.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Into pet insurance than we are in the United States. Here, our pets are truly part of the family, and you'd never think of not having medical insurance for a family member. Why do you think the difference?
Lance Olsen: Well, that's a good question. In the UK, it's pushed to a higher level. In fact, the vet industry really recommends and helps the pet owners become insured. In the US, the word really hasn't been out. More and more folks are coming around, saying that pet insurance needs to grow and we need to bring awareness to it. You really have to simplify the insurance policy for one, you can use worldwide; two, it pays; and three, that it's understandable.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Is pet insurance more like a PPO, or an HMO? How does it stack up with what we're more familiar with?
Lance Olsen: Pet's Best is a real simple, flat 80-20 program. You can use any veterinarian worldwide; you don't have to belong to a network, associations, etc. You can use any licensed veterinarian. The fact is that it's easy to understand. In fact, it pays 80% after the $75, $100, or $300 deductible of you plan. You pick and choose the plan you wish to use. It covers accident, illness, injury, and you can even include wellness coverage; that was an additional option.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: What's wellness coverage? That sounds like a great idea. What's wellness?
Lance Olsen: It is. What we've done is we've tried to structure a wellness benefit plan that you can add onto the insurance policy; therefore, you're not only getting coverage for accident, illness, and injury, but the cup is going to help you out on your wellness, routine visits, such as your vaccinations, your annual check-ups, those great teeth cleanings that we should be doing every year.
The wellness structure is really inexpensive. It's about $17 a month, and you're getting three times the money back then what you're paying for. What I mean by that is for your cats, you're actually getting back $505 a year, just for routine visits. For the dog lovers, you're getting about $440 back, just on routine visits.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Well, we know that our pets aren't getting in frequently enough for wellness exams. I think most veterinarians would now recommend at least twice a year, because so much can change in that one year period of time; for us, it's one year. For our pets, it's typically about seven of their years. Yes, a lot can change. Should you be starting this pet insurance when this pet is older? What is the best age to start pet insurance?
Lance Olsen: You want to do it when they're younger, because you know they're in good health; you're bringing in a new pet into an environment. It's like bringing home a new baby; they don't know right from wrong. You want to make sure that you're providing a quality of care so you're not making decisions based on finances. We will take any age of pets, whether it's a seven-week old puppy or kitten, or it could be a 16-year-old cat or a 12-year-old dog. We will not turn away a pet due to an age or illness.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: You were saying that the wellness is only $17 a month. That seems like the bargain of the century, especially that first year with all the vaccines, the neutering, the doctor visits because you're just not sure that puppy hiccupping is sick or if it's just normal. Is pet insurance, overall, fairly affordable for people, or is it something only the rich can afford?
Lance Olsen: No, we actually made it really affordable. With Pet's Best pet insurance, we have three affordable plans. They range anywhere from $16 a month to around $49 a month with the additional routine care coverage at $17 a month. You can pick and choose your plan, and you can change around that plan at any time. An example, with the holidays coming up, and you typically overspend and you need to make some adjustments on your finances.
Some people would consider dropping their pet insurance. I would recommend making some adjustments, maybe downgraded to a different policy but still having pet insurance. That way, you can afford your payments, and then after the holidays, you have the option to upgrade to the higher plan again. You're in control of your policy.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: That sounds very user-friendly. I wish our human insurance was that way. You mentioned being affordable...
Lance Olsen: That is correct. What we've done is, we wanted to provide your listeners a 10% discount, right off the bat of the policy, and we will continue that discount as long as you keep the policy every given year. In fact, we'd like to provide the opportunity, by going through your website, where you can donate that discount back to a local shelter. We believe, at Pet's Best, in not only providing quality care, but we also want to be a pet health resource center by donating back to the community.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: That is fantastic, Lance. That is great. Pet insurance- does it cover just wellness and that catastrophic injury. How about animals, as they get older, tending to get cancer. Would it cover cancer, or are they immediately disqualified?
Lance Olsen: No, not whatsoever. Cancer is becoming more popular with pets over the age of six; really more common at the age of 10. With our Pet's premiere plan that just came out, you will have up to $14,000 for each additional incident. So, if heavens forbid, cancer comes about, you would have $14,000 for that. For the lifetime of the policy, you're actually getting $100,000, which is plenty of money to take care of what you need to do.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: If you had a pet, again talking about cancer, who you're going through this workup, and I know, a client coming in to me, pet's just not seeming right; it's off. You do this workup, you do ultrasounds, I'm spending lots of their money. Now, I've finally come up with a diagnosis: it's cancer. Really, the best way to handle it would be to go see a specialist. Have they now exhausted all of their benefits?
Lance Olsen: No. What's great about the coverage, in fact, as the veterinarian is still running diagnostic tests, we will reimburse a claim on that as you're still trying to come up with a diagnosis. Should a specialist or referral come into play, you have more benefits, as well, toward that.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: That is fantastic. Again, I'm thinking this is much better than human insurance. I'm wondering if I can get myself insured, put myself down as a primate. [laughter]. With pet insurance, does it matter- I know there's different companies out right now that have pet insurance- does Pet Best say that so much money has to be done for X-rays, and so much has to be done for blood work. How does it work for a deductible to kick in?
Lance Olsen: We really wanted to simplify insurance, so we did not want to tell the veterinarian industry how to run their practice and what they should charge, so the fact that we're going to pay 80% of the bill, it's not a concern of whether you have a limited amount for diagnostic testing, or you only have so much money for the primary condition. We do not work off of a benefits schedule. We work purely 80% off the veterinarian's bill, and the policy holder can choose either a $75 deductible, a $100 deductible, or a $300 deductible. You pick and choose your deductible, your benefits, and your lifetime benefits. Once you choose your plan, you can change around your plan at any time.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Now, is this something they can just access online and do the changing, or do they need to speak to one of the representatives there at Pet's Best?
Lance Olsen: We've actually, with own integrated technology, you can enroll right online. You can get a free quote; it takes 30 seconds, and you can save that quote for a 30-day timeframe or you can go ahead and enroll. Once you do enroll, our fulfillment is automatic, so you will have your policy within the hour.
If you feel want to make adjustments on that policy, you can call back in and we can accommodate your change in your request. In about six months, we're going to have a Customer Portal, where you can go online and adjust your accounts on your own end. In fact, we're at a three-day turnaround time on claims. We're going to hold on a 24-hour turnaround time should you put a checking account for your claims reimbursement to go direct deposit back into your account.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Again, this is better than human insurance. Hmm. Hopefully, they can learn from you guys.
Lance Olsen: I sure wish my own insurance was this great. I would even go to a vet rather than a human doctor, myself. [laughter].
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Are there certain things that Pet's Best insurance won't cover? For instance, you have the Labrador Retriever puppy who had Hip Dysplasia. I'm always wondering if my new puppy will have this problem, and if it does, will it be covered?
Lance Olsen: That's a great question. The company, actually, there's no company out there that will cover a pre-existing condition. The reason behind that is you'd have to have enough premium up front to pay for an existing condition, and unfortunately, as an insurance company, you'd have to have so high of a premium that folks just wouldn't want to pay that much money for an insurance policy.
A congenital condition, which is a birth defect, the company does not pay on that as well. There are certain hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia, that are not covered. Now, Pet's Best has the shortest limitations on hereditary conditions, which are 15 conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia. We put those 15 conditions right on our website to let individuals know that we will have to limit these 15 conditions after $300. If it's not one of these 15 and it's still a hereditary condition within the breed, we will pay that at 80%.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: That's wonderful. So, it doesn't sound like there's really any downside to having insurance; it's best to get it while the pet is young, but you can insure them at any age. Are the premiums going to be markedly different for insuring a young pet versus insuring an older pet?
Lance Olsen: Well, they would be slightly different, because insurance is based on the age of the pet. This is where we came up with out lock-in rate. You can actually pay $1 a month and lock the rate in for the dog, up to its eighth birthday, or for a cat, up to its 12th birthday. What we're telling folks is we want to start them out while they're young and in good health, and lock that rate in and then their rate will never go up; it may go down, but it would never go up. The age eight or 12- some folks- I don't' want to mislead you that the premiums are really skyrocketed at age eight or 12- there's very little difference in premium.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: With the changes in rates as a pet gets older, it definitely makes sense, because we do know that pets, just like ourselves, things start wearing out as you start getting older. How can pet insurance really help to be proactive? How can it help to ensure that good quality of life lasts longer?
Lance Olsen: People are spending more money on their pets and taking treatment to a higher lever. They're more prone, by not making a decision based on their finances for the care of their pets should something happen or an unexpected illness or injury- in fact, if an accident comes around, you don't want to make a decision based on finances. You want to provide the best care quality, and if you need to seek a specialist or a referral, you have that option. Money should not be a factor.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Speaking of money, you go to the veterinarian; you have the bill. Does the veterinarian bill the insurance company- Pet's Best- or does the owner pay for this?
Lance Olsen: The pet owner pays the veterinarian up front for their services, and then you take a simplified claim form and you can either mail it in, fax it in, or you can scan it and email it back to the company. Our claims process time is within three to five days. Once we have our Customer Portal built, within the next five to six months, we'll be holding to a 24-hour turnaround time, due to the fact that we can do a direct deposit claim reimbursement, rather than mail out a reimbursement check.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: I should probably ask, "Why are you so fast, versus the human companies are so terribly, terribly slow in paying for insurance claims?"
Lance Olsen: We have taken doctors even through the experience of 25 years. Items that have not worked over the years and so we have restructured it. With the integrated technology that we have copy written from Denmark, we believe we are able to provide not only quality care, but the right processes.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: We're talking right now with Lance Olsen, Director of Business Development for Pet's Best Pet Insurance of Boise, Idaho. We're going to take a short break and come back and learn more of how pet insurance can help to save your pet's life. We'll be right back.
Announcer: Let's Talk Pets, on petliferadio.com. Welcome back to the Pet Doctor, on Pet Life Radio with Dr. Bernadine Cruz::. The doctor is in, and will see you now.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Thank you for staying tuned. I'm Dr. Bernadine Cruz::. You're listening to The Pet Doctor on Pet Life Radio, and my guest today is Lance Olsen, of Pet's Best Pet Insurance of Boise, Idaho. Now, Lance, there are quite a few different pet insurance companies in the United States right now. Why should somebody choose Pet's Best instead of one of these other companies?
Lance Olsen: We have the experience of Dr. Stephens being a pioneer in the pet insurance industry. He has taken 25 years of experience on what has and has not worked, and we believe we're on target in the fact that we've really simplified insurance. We're taking pet health insurance to a whole new level. It's easy, it's understandable, it pays, and you can use it worldwide. The fact that we have three affordable plans and you can change those plans around at any time, and you can add on wellness that will give you the right amount of funds to actually have the pet vaccinated, to make sure you're staying caught up on your teeth-cleaning, to take care of the quality care that your pets and your babies need.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: How does somebody pay for these premiums? Is it just "Oh, I have to remember every month to write you a check,"?
Lance Olsen: What's great about Pet's Best pet insurance is that we can pay out on a monthly payment automatically out of an account or off a credit card. We can pay quarterly; we can pay semi-annually, or we can pay it annually. We waive the service fees; we take care of those. We just want to make sure that we're keeping premiums low and affordable so that we can continue quality care each given year.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Now, if I were to have four or five pets, because most people have multiple pets in their house, is there a discount for having more than one pet?
Lance Olsen: That's a great question. With Pet's Best pet insurance, you actually can have a multiple pet discount, and if you have two to three babies, you receive a 7% discount; if you have four to six pets, you have a 12% discount, and if you have seven pets of more, you actually receive a 15% discount.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: A baker's dozen.
Lance Olsen: That's correct, and your listeners will receive a 10% discount, and I'd like to note, if folks would like to write down their discount code, that will be: 211301. You can go right online, at petsbest.com and go to "Get a Quote". It will give you your free quote and you can lock that in with your 10% discount up to 30 days. If you enroll, it will carry that discount each year that you have the insurance policy.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Such a deal. Now, some people might say, "I have all these animals, and they don't seen to get sick all that often. They're healthy; I take them in for their exam. I can pay for that. Why don't I just put the money into a savings account and just save the money that way?" What would be your response to that thought?
Lance Olsen: Having a savings account may work for pets who require little or no care. It may limit the type of veterinary care due to cost. If you have a savings account, let's say $35 a month, it would take you seven years to save $7000. That amount may only cover one illness or injury.
Having pet insurance will give you up to $14,000 for each new incident, which will give you $100,000 for the life of that pet. Once again, if you compare having a savings account, assuming you don't spend those savings for other means other than pet care, you're still limited on your treatments that, if you're putting that money into an insurance policy, eventually, should you heavens forbid need to use that, it will have more than paid for itself.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Can you give the listeners any great stories of somebody who said, "Okay, I'm going to get pet insurance," and how it really made a major difference for their particular pet?
Lance Olsen: We just had a claim, about six days ago. It was a new puppy, new for this family, and they brought home the puppy. Thank heavens they had the insurance on the dog, because it ate an earring, and it got lost in the esophagus. We paid $7000 for that claim, so the policy holder felt really helpful and beneficial that A: they didn't have to make the decision based on finances, and DR. BERNADINE CRUZ:: that they're able to put the money back into their account by having pet insurance. Otherwise, they wouldn't have seen that money coming back.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: I've seen, again, too many incidences where pets come into the practice, something that I know can be treated. Maybe it's a dog that has a sudden bloat condition, where the stomach literally has blown up because it's eaten too much, drank too much for whatever reason, and then the stomach literally flips on itself 360 degrees, known as torsion. Nothing comes up, nothing goes down; it's a major medical emergency that needs to be treated. That would be a catastrophic reason. Even the everyday things of itchy skin. That is such a real common problem. Would an itchy skin problem be covered?
Lance Olsen: It would be. In fact, there are well over 6,000 different major medical conditions that can happen on a dog. We hope to have very little, but if we have a simple torn nail, poisoning- with the holidays coming up and maybe a dog or cat gets into the turkey or into the bones- gets into some tinsel- it covers minor incidents such as allergies, torn nails, upset stomachs, to more major events; fractures, cancer, diabetes. In fact, they're doing pacemakers and the technology to improve cataracts. There's so much human technology to improve the quality care of pets that you don't want to base what you can do on what you can afford.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: And Pet's Best will cover seeing the specialist to have the eyes treated, and seeing the cardiologist and have the- how about some of these procedures that may be deemed somewhat experimental. They don't have FDA approval right now for use, for instance, in cancer, but the oncologist goes, "Yes, I know, but they're doing this study right now in Europe. It's having great success. I want to be able to use that on your pet." Will Pet's Best insurance cover that?
Lance Olsen: That is correct, yes. Pet's Best gives you the option to treat with quality care as you deem fit. The fact that the policy will pay 80%, straight across the board, whether it's a mercy visit, or it's a general practice, specialist, referrals. In fact, it even pays for chiropractic and acupuncture.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Again, I keep saying that this is better than human insurance. Lance, tell the listeners about the discount. Tell them where they can get more information about Pet's Best insurance.
Lance Olsen: Well, listen, folks. Do yourself a favor. At least, go to www.petsbest.com and have us a look. You can get a free quote by going to "Get a Quote". It takes about 30 seconds. You put in your pet information. In fact, with Dr. Bernadine's discount- her discount code is 211301- you will receive a 10% listener discount. You will have that discount each and every year that you keep your policy. In fact, if you want to go around and look at other plans, you can build your policy and you can simply save that policy for 30 days or you can continue an enrollment. If you have any questions, call us. We have a call center that would be more than happy to discuss the plans, the options, how we work, and the benefits. The toll-free number is 1-877-738-7237. Once again, the website is www.petsbest.com.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Is this insurance available in all 50 states?
Lance Olsen: Well, New York is the only state that's pending, so if you happen to live in New York, we apologize. It's probably going to be another 30 days, but please call us. We can still go over the plans. Our plans were filed and approved in each given state. We have a strong financial underwriter, which is Northpoint, with an "A excellent" financial standing, and we're doing really well on the market.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: So you're going to be around; it's not like some of these companies that have tried to dabble in pet insurance and then back out. Is that correct?
Lance Olsen: That is correct, and we're not in it for the money; we're in it for the quality care of animals. Dr. Stephens, our founder of the company, has taken 25 years of experience and really wants to decrease the economic euthanasia. He's an avid pet lover himself. I believe he has 10 pets now, a mixture of dogs and cats, and they have a couple-
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Only 10? I know he's had lots!
Lance Olsen: They do fluctuate. In fact, I encourage everyone to come to www.petsbest.com, and go to the "About Us" page, and you'll see Dr. Stephens with a few of his pets, and he continually adds many pets, with his wife, Vicky Stephens. They are very well-known in the pet community by doing volunteer work. His wife, Vicky Stephens, has a pet therapy group, the Skeeter RX team.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: Isn't it true that all of his pets are insured with pet insurance?
Lance Olsen: Every one of his pets have been insured ever since Pet's Best was approved in each state.
Dr. Bernadine Cruz: I love it. Well, Lance Olsen of Pet's Best Pet Insurance of Boise, Idaho, thank you so much for letting us know that there's ways out there for our pet-owning public to help protect their pets, to keep them alive as long as possible. We know that there are miracles available in veterinary medicine, but those miracles come at a price, and sometimes that price is hefty. We never want to make those really tragic decisions based on money alone. Thank you very much. You've been listening to Dr. Bernadine Cruz:: on petliferadio.com station. This is the Pet Doctor. Please stayed tuned for next week, for more, hopefully, wonderful information that keeps your fantastic pets healthy, happy, and an enjoyable part of your life. Thank you for listening.
Announcer: Pets can be a wonderful addition to you life. Because they're a member of the family, keeping them healthy and happy is important. Pet Life Radio presents "The Pet Doctor", with Veterinary Media Consultant and veterinarian, Dr. Bernadine Cruz::. Whether you have a dog, cat, reptile, or rabbit, you'll find answers for your pets, straight from the vets on demand, every week, only on PetLifeRadio.com.