Pet insurance can be beneficial by providing you a financial safety net when your plan covers a portion of your pet’s veterinary bill, allowing you to focus on your pet’s treatment, and minimizing your financial worries. Each pet insurance plan is different, and researching and comparing providers can be time-consuming if you want to choose the right plan to meet your pet’s health care needs and to keep your financial concerns at bay. Follow our Wales Animal Clinic team’s considerations as you navigate the pet insurance research process, and before you commit to a pet insurance policy.
#1: Consider how pet insurance works
Your pet insurance provider reimburses you for a portion of the costs associated with your pet’s medical care. Typically, you pay a monthly premium, and the insurance company reimburses you for a percentage of your pet’s care costs. The reimbursement percentage varies according to the policy and the specific coverage you select.
#2: Consider your pet’s age, breed, and health
Each pet insurance company has their own coverage eligibility requirements. Before you enroll in a pet insurance plan, verify the eligibility requirements with your provider to ensure the policy covers your pet. Insurance companies consider these factors:
- Your pet’s age — Purchase pet insurance when your pet is young and healthy. Most pet insurance companies cover pets as young as 8 weeks of age. Older pets may qualify for reduced coverage, and some companies do not allow pets to enroll if they are older than a certain age.
- Your pet’s breed — Some companies will not cover dog breeds predisposed to certain adverse health conditions, or deemed ineligible.
- Your pet’s health — Most pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions (i.e. any health-related disorders diagnosed before your pet’s health insurance coverage takes effect). Pre-existing conditions may include:
- Chronic conditions — Chronic conditions are pre-existing conditions that can recur during your pet’s life, including breed-specific conditions (e.g., allergies, breathing problems).
- Bilateral conditions — A bilateral condition can occur on both sides of your pet’s body—hip and elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament issues, cataracts, and luxating patellas.
- Intervertebral disc conditions — Degeneration or trauma causes intervertebral disc conditions that affect the spinal cord.
Although your pet may have a pre-existing condition, you can find an insurance policy that likely covers their unrelated injuries and future illnesses.
#3: Consider the coverage your pet needs
Most pet insurance companies offer several plan types. The most common pet insurance coverage types include:
- Accident-only coverage —This plan type covers accidental injuries (e.g., broken bones, foreign-object ingestion) and other medical conditions. Generally requiring the lowest monthly premium cost, accident-only insurance does not cover medications, vaccinations, or routine examinations.
- Illness and accident coverage — This plan type usually covers diagnosis and treatment costs for conditions such as cancer, endocrine disorders, and some orthopedic injuries. Because illness and accident coverage is more comprehensive, you will pay a higher monthly premium for this plan type than for accident-only coverage.
- Wellness coverage — Many pet insurance companies offer wellness coverage riders you can add to accident and illness plans. These riders may cover preventive services such as:
- Annual wellness exams
- Routine blood work
- Spay and neuter procedures
- Dental cleanings
- Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention and testing
#4: Consider the cost of pet insurance
Pet insurance costs vary based on the company, coverage type, and your pet’s age and breed, and you should get multiple insurance providers’ price quotes before you choose your pet’s policy. Ensure you understand the following financial terms, and how they apply to a specific policy’s overall cost:
- Deductible — The deductible is the veterinary bill portion you must pay before your plan’s reimbursement kicks in. Most pet insurance policies offer an annual deductible, while some offer a per-incident deductible.
- Premium —A premium is the fee you pay for coverage each month or year. If you pay a lower premium, you typically pay a higher deductible, while if you pay a higher premium, you usually pay a lower deductible.
- Reimbursement rate — This is the percentage a pet insurance company pays you back for the cost of your pet’s care—after you meet the deductible. Most insurance companies offer reimbursement options such as 70%, 80%, or 90% of the care’s cost.
- Payout limits — A plan’s payout limit is the maximum dollar amount your pet insurance provider is willing to reimburse you. Payout limit types include:
- Per-incident limits — These cap the dollar amount your pet insurance company reimburses you for a single illness or accident.
- Annual limits — Annual limits cap the dollar amount your pet insurance company reimburses you within a 12-month period. Once you reach the annual limit, you must pay all your pet’s veterinary expenses until the coverage resets.
You must consider many important factors when choosing a pet insurance policy—compare rates, read the fine print, and ensure the policy covers your pet’s specific health care needs. While the pet insurance research process can be time-consuming, you will be grateful you considered the details, and will enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a financial safety net to help cover your pet’s veterinary care expenses.
Have questions, or need help choosing the right insurance plan for your pet? Contact Wales Animal Clinic to discuss the details you should consider when researching pet insurance plans.