Options in Basic Equine Insurance

The basic types of coverage purchased by most horse owners are death and major medical policies, roughly corresponding to life and health insurance for individuals. Generally, death insurance reimburses the horse owner if the horse dies. Depending on the policy, the owner may be paid for the full or partial value of the horse. Medical and surgical policies cover the costs associated with treating an injury or illness. An owner can purchase mortality coverage alone, but medical and surgical policies are generally only available in combination with mortality coverage.

mortality insurance every horse has value. Although not a pleasant thought, it is important to consider how much it would cost to replace your horse if it were to die. Are you prepared to pay the cost yourself, or do you need an insurance policy to help bear the burden?

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Most mortality policies cover virtually any cause of death, including natural occurrences such as colic, as well as fatal injuries resulting from accidents, fires, lightning strikes, and other causes. often human destruction and theft are also covered. Some policies even protect against freak accidents, like a horse being fatally injured by wild dogs or falling debris from an airplane. although age limits vary by provider, full mortality coverage is typically available for horses from 24 hours to 17 years. When evaluating a policy, make sure the exclusions are clearly spelled out. a company may be reluctant to pay, for example, if a horse dies due to actual or perceived negligence or other human error.

Another consideration when choosing a death policy is how much coverage you really need. You can insure up to 100 percent of your horse’s value, but obviously the more expensive the horse, the higher the premiums. Fees depend on several factors, including the horse’s current value, age, sex, breed, and discipline. For most owners, value is the most difficult variable to determine. basically the question you want to answer is “how much would it cost to buy another horse similar to mine?”

loss of use One variation of mortality coverage is called “loss of use,” which pays a percentage of the value of the horse in the event an injury renders it permanently unable to perform in the discipline identified in the policy. . for example, if an injury ends a jumper’s career, the owner can collect up to 60 percent of the insured value of the horse. But be sure to read the fine print: Many loss-of-use policies give the insurance company the right to take possession of the horse after a claim is paid. others offer two options: a larger refund if the insurer keeps the horse, or a smaller refund if the owner keeps the horse.

Technological advances in

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medical and surgical insurance are having a tremendous impact on equine health care, but the costs of certain treatments can be prohibitive. An insurance policy can help you avoid the heartbreaking decision of whether you can afford veterinary measures that could save your horse’s life.

As the name suggests, major medical/surgical insurance covers medical and surgical treatment of illnesses and injuries that occur during the term of the insurance policy. some companies describe their coverage simply as “major medical,” but it often includes surgery as well. Coverage generally includes diagnostics, medications, surgery, and post-operative care.

Medical/surgical policies generally do not cover routine care, such as immunizations and dental treatment, nor do most policies cover elective or cosmetic surgeries or the treatment of birth defects or developmental defects. Alternative therapies, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, or magnetic therapy, are often excluded from policies, but some companies review such treatments on a case-by-case basis. other exclusions are quite common sense; for example, don’t expect a refund if someone other than a certified veterinarian performs surgery on the animal.

Weighing the costs Whether you purchase mortality insurance alone or in conjunction with medical/surgical insurance, your annual premiums will vary depending on your horse, your location, and the terms you choose. For mortality coverage, you can generally expect to pay premiums between 2.5 percent and 4 percent of the value of the horse. That means, for example, the annual premium cost to insure a horse valued at $7,000 will likely be $220 to $280. obviously, the lower the declared value of the insured horse, the lower the premiums, and vice versa; however, many providers charge a standard minimum of $150 for mortality policies.

Adding major medical/surgical insurance to your death policy generally means you’ll pay an additional flat fee based on the coverage limit and the amount of the deductible, the amount you must pay if you file a claim. plan to spend an average of $150 to $250 per year in addition to the mortality premium. Most providers offer several different major medical/surgical policies, which are available for flat rates determined by coverage limit (typically $5,000 to $10,000), deductible (typically $150 to $250), and coverage details. the cost does not vary for each horse in particular, it does with mortality policies.

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You can save money on medical coverage by opting for a slightly cheaper “surgical-only” policy, which typically covers only the costs of surgery and post-operative care. These policies will often not cover any diagnostic work or hospital costs that occur prior to surgery. Surgery-only policies aren’t as common as major medical policies, simply because coverage isn’t as comprehensive and cost savings are often minimal. american equine insurance group, for example, sells its major medical/surgical coverage for just $50 more than its surgical-only policy.

Many people also save money by purchasing mortality coverage for less than the full value of their horses. “I always insure my horses, but my main concern is medical benefits, not mortality,” says Debbie Rosen, an Agoura, California-based competitor and event trainer. “Full value mortality is cost prohibitive for me, but I insure for less than full mortality because I want medical and surgical coverage. I never want to be in the position of having to put a horse down simply because I can’t afford the treatment that could save it.”

this attitude is not uncommon, says rich maggard of west coast equine insurance services in central point, oregon: “some people may accept the financial loss of a horse’s death, thinking it’s money they already have. It has been paid. It’s water under the bridge. but most horse owners I know would spend their last dime to provide their horse with potentially life-saving medical care.” Some owners will lower the insured value of the horse as it grows older because they want to be able to purchase significant medical coverage but feel they don’t need as much mortality coverage.

As much as the premiums are, they are still much cheaper than buying a new horse or paying for major surgery. “A lot of people think insurance is more expensive than it really is,” says Andy Beauchamp of Equine Insurance Specialists in Muncie, Indiana. “If you buy the minimum mortality coverage, which costs $150, along with major medical insurance for $150, are you only paying $25 a month? less than a dollar a day.”

gretchen ditto specializes in freelance writing and corporate communications. She lives in Thousand Oaks, California, where she does a bit of events in her spare time. This article first appeared in the May 2000 issue of equus magazine.

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