Recently, many pet owners have been asking us about pet insurance. My tag line is simple—you’ll need it the most when you don’t have it!! Although pet insurance has been available in the U.S. since 1981, most pet owners are still unaware that it is even an option to help with your pet’s care.
Operating much like other types of insurance, pet insurance helps pet owners budget for unexpected accidents and illnesses.
From broken bones to swallowed toys, poisoning and cancer, pet insurance was started to help pet owners handle the often rising costs of essential veterinary care and give them the ability to make the best medical decisions to help keep their pets healthy.
As advances in veterinary medicine have been made, pet insurance helps bridge the gap between an owner’s desire to continue care and the ability to pay for it.
Plans vary by provider and your desires for coverage, but all pet insurance companies in the U.S. operate on a reimbursement basis, which is why it’s important to ask about claim turn-around times when enrolling.
When looking into pet health insurance, be sure to also ask the following questions:
Are you allowed to visit your own veterinarian, and what happens if you move out of north america? Will your policy still be in force elsewhere?
What is the company’s method of reimbursement? Every company has a different method of reimbursement—some based on the percentage of the actual bill, while others are based on predetermined allowable charges for a particular accident or illness. so be sure to ask questions and check the fine print so you know what you are paying for. in general, the more reimbursement you want, the higher your monthly premium will be.
What limitations or exclusions are part of the policy? All companies have them – some are just more forthcoming about it.
Will a condition that’s treated this year be considered pre-existing, and therefore not covered, the next?
Up to what age will you insure my pet?
Some companies have relatively low age requirements. Will your pets have coverage when they are older and problems like cancer, kidney failure and arthritis become more common?
Speaking of common, one common complaint we hear about pet insurance is that it won’t cover problems and conditions that already exist. Unlike medical assistance funds, insurance is specifically set up – and priced – for unexpected illnesses and accidents, which is why many companies limit coverage for hereditary conditions and birth defects.
This is why purchasing coverage for your puppy or kitten is so important. By insuring your pet before an accident or illness happens, you are protecting your pet for life, as long as you choose a company that continuously covers your pet from an early age through end of life. Some insurance providers even offer a lock-in rate so that the lower rates for puppies and kittens can be protected until the pets are considerably older.
Doing your homework and reading the policy before you buy are two ways to insure that you adequately cover your pet for life. Recent research shows, for example, that 60% of dogs over the age of 6 will have some form of cancer.
Some alternatives to pet insurance would be third party payers that will cover your bills, and you would set up a payment plan with them—often with nominal interest based on the terms of your “loan.”
Secondly, for the very disciplined, one can consider self-insuring—set up an interest bearing savings account in your pet’s name, and make a regular monthly deposits—even via auto pay—into that account, to be used only for that unexpected accident or illness. The benefit here is that if not used, the saved funds still belong to you!
Whatever you decide, you should definitely consider something and be prepared for the unexpected or unplanned. Both you and your pets will be glad you did.