Health Inc.

Maybe Fido Needs A Public Option

When it comes to our pets' health, out-of-pocket expenses have been just about the only kind until pretty recently. But now there's health insurance for your pet.

A white hedgehog has her own insurance policy.

hide captionFor Harriet's owners, the health insurance premiums were worth it.

Kristin Zorbini Bongard

Who needs it? Well, maybe you, NPR's David Kestenbaum reports. Vets can do so much more for your dog, cat or hedgehog these days, and the bills can pill up pretty quickly.

Your dog can run up a $7,000 tab for reconstructive knee surgery. Brace yourself for the hedgehog's cancer treatment bills, which could hit $2,700.

Enter the pet health insurers. For a fee, they'll cover a modest portion of Fido's health tab. One company Kestenbaum talked with, Veterinary Pet Insurance, a subsidiary of Nationwide, even publishes how much it will pay by condition.

If you pick VPI's Superior option for your dog, as most people who opt for the insurance do, the company would pay up to $1,200 for diagnosis and surgical removal of a foreign object, for instance, according to the fee schedule here. The policy would also cover a few hundred dollars for anesthesia and testing costs.

The owners of Harriet the hedgehog told Kestenbaum they paid $80 to insure her for a year with VPI. During her recent battle with cancer, the company paid about $800 dollars for vet care. The owners were on the hook for about $1,900. All in all, they concluded, she's worth it.

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