Veterinary Viewpoint: Equine "Health: Insurance: A Critical Option

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As the U.S. economy continues to sputter, an increasing number of veterinarians are reporting that clients are asking about equine insurance.? Is it worth it'? How do you decide whether or not to insure your horse'?? For many veterinarians, insurance is regarded as a welcome friend because it provides options for horse owners during times of critical decision.

HEDGING THE BET. We all know that insurance is a numbers game, almost like gambling.? The underwriter calculates risk and then provides a policy with specific coverage and premiums to mitigate loss should you, the policy holder, file a claim for your particular horse.

When exploring the option of insurance, horse owners consider factors such as available finances, the value and use of the horse, and the risks involved with that particular horse's lifestyle.? If you base your decision to insure or not to insure on the risk of your horse having an accident, then it's a no-brainer. If tHere's any way to get injured or killed, a horse will find it!

Each insurance company offers different policies, so you must do your homework.? Within each company, horses can qualify for several types of coverage depending on their circumstances (i.e. age, medical or lameness history, etc.). The most popular types of coverage include mortality insurance (which we covered in September), lameness insurance, major medical insurance, and colic insurance.? A horse owner must decide which types of coverage will make them sleep better at night.

For instance, a beloved family pet that stands in the backyard and eats grass may not need lameness coverage because the chances of a bad meniscal tear or bowed tendon are less than for a grand prix jumper.? But, because the family children would be devastated if the horse colicked and died, major medical insurance with colic coverage may be a good choice.? No two scenarios are the same, and each owner must decide what is best to suit his or her specific equestrian situation.

SO MUCH VARIETY. There is a wide variation in insurance policies for horses.? Some companies are incredibly comprehensive and ?open-minded? when working with veterinarians and owners on a case.? Others are just plain disappointing.? Some policies will pay a percentage of a colic surgery while others will pay a set amount.

Some policies will cover stem-cell and acoustic shockwave for a ligament injury while others will not pay for any of these therapies.? If these are therapies you would consider for your horse, you need to know if they're covered or if you will need to foot the bill.

THE HOUR OF NEED. From a veterinary perspective, nothing is worse than having to euthanize a horse in distress (that could otherwise be saved) because owners do not have financial options available.? For this reason, equine insurance can be a real blessing because it takes some of the stress and burden off of the owner when he or she is facing difficult decisions.? Injuries and medical problems (especially colic) come on fast with most horses, leaving horse owners traumatized and under pressure to make a quick decision.? Horse owners become a bit less frazzled when they know that they don't need to factor in money when making emergency decisions.? In a perfect world, the decisions made for the horse are based on doing what is best for him, not on what is financially possible. In real life, veterinarians try to support clients and respect that money is a justifiable factor in decision-making.? But wouldn?t it be a luxury to not have to make it be'? That is where insurance can really pay off.

Even the most expensive insurance premiums pale in comparison to the cost of a ligament rehab (potentially thousands of dollars) or a colic ($6,000 to $8,000 in most cases).? Even if a horse owner goes several years without filing a claim, once you do file a claim, all of the money spent plus some is likely to come back to you.

The average horse has a veterinary emergency once every two years, and many of these emergencies may be covered by insurance.? From a veterinary point of view, equine insurance is well-regarded since it can provide much needed help during unexpected occurrences (which we have all experienced at one time or another).

IS IT WORTH IT' Well it's definitely worth the time to at least take a look, get some quotes and consider your finances.? If you decide to purchase equine insurance, you may be thanking yourself when you're racing to the barn on a Saturday night to meet your vet for a colic. And when you get there, the vet may thank you for making the decision to insure your horse.

Article by Contributing Veterinary Editor Dr. Grant Miller.