While we all want to be healthy and keep our doctor visits to a minimum, most people will need to visit a physician now and then – maybe for preventive medicine such as a vaccine, or perhaps because they are actually sick. If there were no health funds and if we didn’t have health insurance, getting sick would be a very expensive business.The same is true for our dogs, cats and other pets. While the pet insurance market is big business in the US where its estimated value is $660.5 million, to my chagrin and frustration as a dog owner, the industry has never taken flight in Israel.A few years ago, I contacted an insurance agent whose company advertised dog health insurance, but the company told me that in practice there was very little demand for it in Israel and it wasn’t worth it financially as many items were excluded. I would also have to pay the bills first in the hope that I would perhaps be reimbursed later. I therefore resigned myself, somewhat frustrated, to the fact that dog insurance was unlikely to be introduced in Israel in the next few years.This changed a couple of months ago when I read about a new venture in Israel called Marpet – Kupat Holim Lehayot Mahmad (Health Fund for Pets).Marpet was created two years by Limor Noach, an accountant by profession, out of personal necessity when her dog needed intensive veterinary care that she was forced to cover completely by paying in a number of installments, long after her pet had recovered.This got Noach thinking about the need for a company that would cover a pet’s medical costs. After consulting with advisers in the relevant professions for a year, Marpet was born.Marpet works in an almost identical fashion to the health funds for humans. The client receives a magnetic card enabling them to receive a variety of medical services and provide them with an answer for all their pet’s medical needs. For a monthly fee of NIS 70 to NIS 140, depending on the level that you choose (basic, premium or premium plus), coverage includes basic items such as annual vaccines to larger, irregular costs such as operations, hospitalization, blood and urine tests, ultrasounds and X-rays as well as consultation with specialist vets when necessary. Marpet clients receive a magnetic card granting access to a variety of medical services, providing an answer for all their pet’s medical needs.Depending on the treatment and the level of coverage, the client will be required to pay only a small excess fee, for instance 20 percent of the cost for any tests carried out in an external laboratory. The only downside to Marpet, and this is true of medical insurance for humans as well, is that it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.If your dog or cat becomes sick or needs their annual vaccinations, you take them to one of the veterinary clinics on the list – Marpet works with at least 30 veterinary clinics throughout Israel – they receive the required medical treatment immediately and the clinic then approaches Marpet for payment. This is without your needing to lay out the money first or submit a claim (which usually entails copious amounts of form-filling and months before you are reimbursed).The annual vaccines include park worm (not mandatory but highly recommended, particularly if you live in the Tel Aviv area where it is rampant). Biannual anti-worming tablets could cost up to NIS 700 annually, but are covered under Marpet.Incidents such as your dog ingesting a foreign object, which can be a fairly frequent occurrence, are also covered. I wish I had known this six months ago, when my dog almost died after eating a pinecone and required lifesaving surgery. Fortunately she survived, but I had to pay off the cost of the vet visits, blood test, ultrasound and operation in installments – and if I’d had veterinary coverage, this could have saved me a lot of money.If your vet is on the list that Marpet works with, you can continue going to the same vet. If the vet isn’t on the list, it may be a good time to suggest that they join. Marpet is a long overdue and much-welcomed service in Israel and hopefully, it will encourage more people to adopt pets in the knowledge that the vast majority of their medical expenses will be covered.I also hope it will encourage more people to take their pets to the vet when necessary instead of having to think twice about whether they can afford it, which will in turn be better for the pet and cheaper overall if the problem is identified sooner.Israel still has some way to go before catching up with the range of veterinary services offered overseas, which is hardly surprising given that the population here – human, canine and feline – is far smaller than places such as the US. However, it is reassuring to know that this is changing gradually. Marpet is a welcome addition on the scene and while its services hopefully will not be needed beyond routine treatment, it is good to know that our dogs and cats can get the medical coverage they need for the cost of belonging to a health fund – just like their owners.For more information about Marpet: 073-240-9505 or www.marpet.co.il/index.html.