What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance, also known as pet health insurance, is the pet equivalent to human medical insurance. It is NOT, however, a Wellness program. In general, it helps cover the cost of veterinary care should something unexpected or bad occur and your pet becomes ill or injured. Some pet insurance companies do offer plans including wellness services, however, this is an additional fee, and they usually are not cost-effective.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Upfront, you should know that having pet insurance for your pet does not provide an inexhaustible source of payment or cover every possible veterinary expenditure. The aim of pet health insurance is to provide for the unexpected expenses resulting from an illness or trauma and those associated with debilitating conditions related to advanced age.
Virtually all pet insurance companies offer coverage for pets related to accidents and illness; as stated previously a few offer coverage for wellness services, if desired. Accident coverage can include services related to torn ligaments, broken bones, bite wounds and other serious health needs. Illness coverage can cover things like cancer, arthritis, UTIs, allergies and more.
Pet insurance companies usually cover x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, rehabilitation, specialized exams, surgery, hospitalization, emergency care, specialty care, hydrotherapy, chronic conditions, cancer, diagnostic treatment, alternative/holistic therapy and even euthanasia. Be sure to ask the carrier what is covered and what needs additional riders.
Pet Insurance Does Not Cover Pre-Existing Conditions
None of the pet insurance providers will cover pre-existing conditions, however, different companies may have different criteria and waiting periods for what they consider a pre-existing condition. If you’re unsure, ask. It’s better to know upfront.
Many pet insurance companies also set limitations to their illness coverage based on the age of the pet.
Therefore, it’s important to get insurance while your pet is young to reduce pre-existing condition exemptions and your monthly cost, as well as maximize your illness coverage.
Why Would I Need Pet Insurance?
People buy insurance of any kind to help them pay for large, unexpected or unplanned expenses for which they would have trouble paying for out-of-pocket
You’ll Never Have to Decide Between Your Wallet & Your Pet!
Choosing whether or to pursue expensive diagnostic testing /treatments or have emergency surgery performed on your pet is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make as a pet owner. With pet insurance, you can remove the financial aspect out of your consideration and base your medical decisions purely on what’s best for your pet.
It doesn’t matter how well you take care of your pet; accidents happen. Whether it’s a toenail on your cat that got caught in the couch cushion or a torn cruciate ligament when your dog jumped off the bed, your pet could have an accident that leads to unexpected (and often untimely !) veterinary bills. A pet’s accident or illness can result in costly bills, but having a good pet insurance plan ensures that you’re able to recoup a vast percentage of those costs.
How does it work?
Like our own health insurance plans, it offers different levels of coverage for different premiums. Generally speaking, it is more cost effective to start insuring your pet when it is young and healthy than when older and more prone to illness. Premiums can be paid monthly, quarterly or annually; many companies offer discounts for direct deposits or multiple pets. Many policies have the premium rate linked to the age when first insured. Premiums and the deductible tend to increase as the pet gets older.
Unlike human health insurance, most pet health insurance plans reimburse you for the cost of veterinary care. After paying the initial price of your pet’s vet visit, you’ll request a duplicate itemized receipt which you then send to your pet’s insurance company along with a completed claim form. You’ll typically receive a reimbursement check within a week to a month.
Some companies guarantee a specific payout turnaround time as an added benefit. Your reimbursement amount generally, depends on your insurance policy details and exclusions, the type and cost of each procedure, your policy’s allowance per procedure and your plan’s deductible. Make sure to check if your plan has limits per procedure or illness, vs paying a % of all costs. The latter tends to be better.
A few insurance companies are starting to offer direct payment to certain partnering veterinary hospitals, as such claims can be approved and paid “on-the-spot”, thus eliminating owners having to pay out of pocket, submit paper claims as there is no waiting for approval and then reimbursement.
What are the Cons of Pet Insurance?
As stated above, pet insurance is designed to protect you and your pet against an unexpected expensive event such as an accident or illness. But like anything, it has its downside/cons. Here are the big minuses of pet insurance:
- Choosing a company and policy can be confusing. When choosing a policy, make sure the features that are most important to you are part of the plan. For example, some policies exclude coverage for hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia which can affect your breed of dog but may not show up until later in life.
- Contact those companies and obtain quotes based on information you provide about your pet’s breed, age, health and needs.
- Before you purchase your dog’s insurance plan, be sure to familiarize yourself with what each plan offers. Compare the coverage provided under each plan with individual health concerns for your pet and its breed.
- Currently, there are a number of companies offering pet insurance for dogs and cats but not for exotics. Narrow down your choices to just a few providers that seem to meet your needs.
- Your policy may never pay for itself. Remember, it’s a safety net, not an investment. You can’t expect to get your money back, and you could spend more on premiums over your pet’s life than you ever would if you just went to the veterinarian. That said, you don’t know what’s going to happen in your pet’s lifetime and it’s often best to be prepared. You can’t put a price tag on peace of mind so that alone may be worth the premium for you.
- Review plan deductibles and payout percentages that may impact your real out-of-pocket costs.
- The sooner you sign your pet up for health insurance, the lower the premiums.
- You should expect annual increases on your premiums from any pet insurance company. These rates and increases will vary based on your location, changes in veterinary costs, etc.
- Weigh the cost of monthly premiums against the types of coverage offered: accident, illness and wellness, as well as any add-ons.
What Pet Insurance Is Right For You?
The best pet insurance offers coverage that’s broad enough for whatever care your pet needs and with enough options to get the perfect coverage for you and your pet.
Lastly, the most common question pet owners ask about pet insurance is —- “Is pet insurance worth it?”
You never know when the unexpected will strike! It is estimated that a full 1/3 of all household pets in the US, WILL visit a veterinarian due to illness or injury each year and nearly 100% will need such veterinary care over their lifetime, at least once.
Today, there are a whole host of diagnostic and medical options along with surgical procedures, not to mention veterinary specialists available/being offered to pet owners regularly as they seek to provide the best care to their beloved animal companions. Many of these were unheard of in the field of veterinary medicine only a few years ago. Unfortunately, few pet owners are truly aware of the costs associated with these options. All too frequently we, veterinarians, see pet owners struggle and have to choose the level of care they can provide their animal companions solely based on the costs involved and not what is considered “best”. When an owner has pet health insurance, these types of concerns become a thing of the past.
Pet insurance is important for any pet owner to consider when deciding on their pet’s health and well-being and the level of care they wish to provide should something unexpected happen. Having adequate health and medical insurance for your pet also means that you have less stress when you have to visit the veterinarian to address and treat a health problem with your pet.
It just makes sense!
For more information on learning if pet insurance is right for you and your pet; and to compare quotes, you can log onto https://petinsuranceinfo.com/.