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MARY JO NAGY | Pets Adopt a mutt, insured or not



Published: Sun, May 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



May is a special month for animals. Don't forget about May Day for Mutts today. Angels for Animals has many adorable mutts to adopt during open house, 1-4 p.m. Also, Be Kind to Animals Week begins today. Remember to be kind to animals every week of the year.

I've been asked about pet health insurance. I do not know anyone who has purchased pet insurance, and it's not a hot topic among pet owners.

However, being an owner of several large animals, I know that veterinary bills are a concern throughout the year. Apart from the regular yearly checkups, vaccinations, heartworm testing and preventative and summer flea control, what do responsible pet owners do when a major illness or emergency happens?

We just pay the bill.

Some research: I checked the Internet to find information about pet insurance. Only a few health care plans are available. It appears that in the United Kingdom and Canada, where there is a national health care system for humans, many people purchase insurance for their pets. I tried to decide if pet health insurance would be cost effective. I am not endorsing any of the following companies:

UPet Health Care Plus offers insurance as an employee benefit through payroll deduction. The cost of membership ranges from $90 for one pet to $144 for two to five pets per year, with the enrollment of 20 people or more. The Pet Care Plus Web site claims a 25 percent savings at selected veterinarians for routine and emergency care.

UVeterinary Pet Insurance is designed to function as indemnity insurance, similar to car or homeowners insurance. The company restores the financial loss within the limits of the policy. It is not like an HMO for humans. VIP reimburses the pet owner for out-of-pocket veterinary costs. The company said it pays for 6,400 related accidental injuries, poisoning and illnesses, including cancer.

It offers two major plans. Covered items include diagnostic tests, prescriptions, X-rays, lab fees and surgeries.

The fees appear to range from $9 to $16 a month, depending on the plan. For an additional $99 a year, you could add a routine care plan, which would cover vaccinations and physical exams, heartworm, spaying or neutering and teeth cleaning. The plan does not cover elective surgeries, behavioral problems and congenital and hereditary conditions. Premiums change with the age of the pet; there are deductibles and maximum benefits with each plan.

UTwo other companies, Blue Paw and Premier Pet Insurance, have a basic plan and two upgraded plans with added benefits. They appeared to be similar in covered features. I am sure there are other companies as well. It should be noted that there were also plans for birds and exotic pets.

Are pet owners ready to make pet insurance standard in this area?

Most pet owners don't think about cancer or other major illnesses in their pets until it happens.

Tough times: The Youngstown area has seen troubled economic times and loss of jobs. I doubt that many pet owners would pay pet premiums. Many are thinking about their own health care coverage.

Responsible pet owners will continue to get their pets checked yearly, vaccinated, and, it is hoped, spayed or neutered, with or without pet insurance.

XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.




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