Bob Bestler

Why pet insurance is a costly extravagance that’s not a necessity

Bob Bestler, a contributing columnist for The Sun News
Bob Bestler, a contributing columnist for The Sun News jlee@thesunnews

We’ve always been meticulous about having good health insurance, partly because my now-retired pharmacist bride would never face life’s uncertainties without insurance — car insurance, home insurance or, heaven forbid, health insurance.

Health insurance, in fact, brought me to The Sun News.

We had opened a bookstore at Barefoot Landing and our business plan covered all expenses — except one, we shortly realized: We had not factored in health insurance costs, which even then could bust a bookseller’s shoestring budget.

We remedied that by sending old Bob to the local paper, which offered a real salary along with health insurance. Problem solved.

These days, of course, we have Medicare and a supplement, and I cannot imagine what life would be like today without those in 2015 when I underwent spinal surgery, a 30-day hospital stay and a couple months of therapy.

Now I learn that maybe we should also have pet insurance.

Or maybe not.

A story in The New York Times said Americans are pretty lackadaisical about pet insurance. Some 85 million American households had pets in 2017 and 69.1 million had dogs.

Yet only about 3 percent of those pets were insured, a pittance compared to Europe.

Sweden offered the first health insurance in 1890 and today about 80 percent of pet owners in Sweden have insurance. Much the same is true in England.

I like to think we Americans love our pets as much as the Swedes and the Brits, but maybe we’re more practical about paying for their insurance.

Medical insurance for individuals is an absolute necessity because costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and ruin families without insurance. Meanwhile, most pet lovers can afford the health care Fido might someday need.

And for families on limited budgets, pet insurance can be a costly extravagance — $43.14 a month for dogs and $26.77 for cats, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, costs that can run into the thousands during the lifetime of an animal.

So our household is among the 97 percent of Americans who have not insured our pets. We love them and when our now-deceased corgi Zoe needed first one operation, then a second, after swallowing coins, we paid a total of about $2,000 — still less than the money we would have paid had we insured her as a puppy.

Now we have another family member, Wasabi, and so far he’s in excellent health. And I think he, as well as our cat Bo, knows we’ll be there if a medical problem arises — as we were for Zoe.

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