Pet owners can protect Fido with more than a dog house

Christina Smith

Although pet insurance has been around for several years, East Peoria and other Central Illinois residents might not be aware of the benefits or costs involved.

“Pet insurance is more like car insurance than like human health insurance, in that you don’t have to show proof you have it every time you visit a veterinarian,” Dr. Raymond Ramirez, of Lakeview Veterinary Clinic, said.

“From our perspective, it doesn’t impact what we can or cannot do.”

While Ramirez said none of his clients use pet insurance, information on it is provided at the clinic.

“Most veterinarians I know provide information, but I do not know of any vets that sell pet insurance,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said pet insurance can benefit pet owners, especially in emergency situations.

“I think there are benefits for all patients,” Ramirez said, adding he suggests owners with a kitten or puppy purchase insurance because pre-existing conditions in older pets are not covered.

Ramirez said he plans to schedule a phone consultation with a pet insurance representative for his staff.

Local provider  

Melissa Klemm, an insurance agent for R.W. Troxell & Co. Insurance, located at 110 S. Wood St. in Washington, said the rising costs have prompted pet owners to seek insurance.

But, for the most part, pet insurance has been lackluster, Klemm said.

“Now that veterinarian science is so much more advanced, it is costing a lot more to care for pets,” she said.     

Klemm is now taking aim at local communities, specifically Morton, to begin selling a new insurance plan provided by Pets Best Insurance.

“It works a lot like health insurance,” Klemm said. “Except, you can take it to any veterinarian. There is no network.”

Pets Best Insurance reimburses pet owners for services from the veterinarian they choose. There are no schedules or fee restrictions.

Founded by Dr. Jack Stephens, a veterinarian and pet enthusiast, Pets Best Insurance includes a choice of four coverage plans. Each plan is set with an 80/20 claim reimbursement structure.

Klemm said each pet owner will be required to pay their bill at their veterinarian’s office. The bill is then sent to the insurance company and the owner is reimbursed for 80 percent of the cost.

“It works for a wide variety of pet owners,” Klemm said.

“(Owners) also get a multi-pet discount,” she said.

Klemm said the insurance will cover 100 percent of routine visits for teeth cleaning, shots, examinations and blood tests, up to $400 for dogs and $500 for cats.

Klemm said many pet owners do not have insurance for their animals.

Connie Bartley of Washington said she wishes she would have had pet insurance when her horse got ill.

“It would have been nice to have the insurance for unpredictable expenses,” Bartley said.

Her quarter horse, Dallas, had a twisted intestine and it had to be operated on at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Champaign. The operation cost $10,000.

Bartley paid for the operation with some inheritance money she received about the same time that her horse became ill.

Klemm said people are starting to recognize a need for pet insurance.

“They used to put animals to sleep because people could not afford to pay for a medical visit,” Klemm said.

With insurance, fewer pets will have to be put to sleep, she added.

Klemm said she is targeting owners who treat their pets like family members.

“People that have animals are a different breed,” Klemm said. “What they want for themselves, they want for their pets.”

Ideally, the insurance is designed for pet owners with a yearly income between $30,000 and $100,000, Klemm said.

The insurance is being made available to employers to add as benefits for employees, she said.

The idea is catching on with large companies, she said.

“With time and more publicity, more and more employers are catching on to it,” Klemm said.

Klemm began selling the insurance in early February and said she is excited to keep it going, as she is a pet owner herself.

Klemm said she wanted to work with animals before she started in the insurance business.

“This is the closest way I can get to pets,” she said. “It takes a certain person to do this.”

“I am extremely excited,” she added. “I wake up thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it.”

Klemm can be contacted at 444-3089, or e-mailed at mklemm@rwtroxell.com.