Pet Insurance Guide
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is a health plan for your pet to insure against large and small unexpected veterinary bills over the life of your pet.
Potential treatments for your pet now rival human treatments both in sophistication and cost. Pet insurance is designed to alleviate much of the financial risk and insecurity that caring for your pet can bring.
Pet insurance is common in many European countries. However, it remains rare in the U.S. There are about 130 million pet cats and dogs in the United States, but only a handful of pet owners (fewer than 300,000) take advantage of these policies. Pet insurance has been around for about 20 years, but many pet owners don't know that it exists, or they think the insurance costs are too high.
Should You Get Pet Insurance?
There have been tremendous technological advances in the care that is available for our pets. Procedures such as kidney transplants and cancer treatment are becoming more commonplace. Did you know that many pets do not receive potentially life-saving treatments because the cost is too great for the owners to bear? Pet insurance, like medical insurance for humans, can help reduce that risk of caring for a pet and lessen the frequency of "financial euthanasia," the decision to put a pet to sleep because there is no money to pay for the pet's necessary medical care.
A bad candidate for pet insurance is a pet owner who wants cat or dog, but will put him or her to sleep instead of spending large amounts of money to save their pet if he or she gets sick or injured. Unfortunately, many pet owners put a dollar value on their pets' lives. When the bills start to add up, many pet owners consider euthanasia at around $250.
If you are the type of dog owner who would devote an unlimited amount of time and money into healing your dog, then you are a good candidate for pet insurance, because it will probably save you money in a bad situation. Family pets are an important part of your life. You want to give them more than just a loving home. You want your pet to have proper nutrition, a comfortable environment, exercise, and the health care he or she needs.
Pet insurance allows you to provide your pet with the best possible care. Decisions regarding treatment are no longer complicated by financial restrictions. Treatments that may otherwise be unattainable can be provided without a second thought. Your primary concern becomes the health of your pet, not the cost of care.
Which Policy is Best?
Each plan has its pros and cons, and each must be carefully examined so that you can select a plan that's best for your pet.
Here are some things to consider:
- What does the policy cover?
Depending on your needs, here are some items to look for:
- Accidents and Illnesses
- MRI, CAT Scans and X-Rays
- Cancer Treatments
- Prescription Medication
- Heartworm Protection
- Prescription Flea Control
- Spay & Neuter
- Annual Exam
- Vet Fees
- Death Benefit
- Vacation Cancellation
- Boarding Fees
- Third Party Liability
- Accidental Damage
- Other items
- What is the premium cost?
Typically, there are monthly premiums that range from $10 to $45, depending on which benefits you select, the age of your pet, the type of pet (cat coverage is cheaper than dog coverage, usually), and other factors.
- Will the premium increase as my pet gets older?
Be sure that the premium will not change with age. Most policies won't.
- Will the premium increase if I file a claim?
Typical policies will not increase based on claims history, but be sure to check on the policy you are considering.
- Can I cancel anytime without penalty?
Check to see if there is a contract term or if you are paying on a month-to-month basis.
- What is the deductable?
And, is the deductable per year or per incident?
- What is the coverage limit?
Limit per incident? Limit per lifetime?
Does the policy cover 100% of the costs (versus 70%, for example)?
- What is NOT covered?
What are the exlusions? Are there any specific breeds with special exclusions (Does the plan cover congenital and hereditary problems)?
- What about "pre-existing conditions"?
Are they excluded? How is it determined to be "pre-existing"?
- Is coverage limited if my pet does not receive routine preventive healthcare?
What are the limitations, if any?
- How will my policy be limited if I choose not to spay or neuter my pet prior to their 1st birthday?
What will the exclusions be? Are pets adopted from a shelter subjected to this limitation?
- Which Veterinarians are part of the plan?
What about when you are out of town?
Are there geographic restrictions? What if you are out of the country with your pet?
- What is the claims process?
Do you pay the bill upfront and then get reimbursed?
Who submits the paperwork to the insurance company?
How long does it take for a claim to be paid?
- Is there a prequalification requirement?
Some policies might require approval before a procedure is started.
- Is there a multi-pet discount?
Discounts offerred for covering more than one pet generally range from 5% to 10%.
- What is the reputation of the Pet Insurance Company?
Check with your Veterinarian for suggestions.