You can easily say that you would do anything for your pet, but can you actually follow through? When faced with unexpected pet emergency surgery, hospitalization, or chronic illness, many devoted pet owners reach a financial straining point.
Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital believes unexpected veterinary costs should not decide your pet’s fate. Pet insurance provides peace of mind in an emergency or unanticipated diagnosis, knowing your pet will receive the necessary care. However, pet insurance can be intimidating, and owners often are turned off when they see the complexity of finding the right provider and plan. Therefore, our team has prepared a pet insurance primer to help you know what to look for.
#1: Pet insurance is primarily reimbursement-based
Pet insurance providers pay pet owners through claim reimbursement. The pet owner pays the bill, and then files a claim online to their pet insurance company. As long as the charges are covered under the policy agreement, the insurer will reimburse the owner between 60 to 90 percent of the total costs.
DO prevent surprises by finding out:
- How claims are filed
- How each company pays the pet owner
- How quickly reimbursements are processed
Many providers can process claims and send reimbursement in a single business day, but smaller insurers may take longer.
#2: Pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions
Pet insurance providers will factor in your pet’s breed, age, and medical history into the monthly premium cost. Some companies also will consider these factors when determining the conditions they will cover.
No pet insurance providers currently cover pre-existing conditions. Likewise, some providers may deny a claim for a new diagnosis for your pet that correlates to a past illness noted in your pet’s record. Certain breeds are predisposed to hereditary conditions, and some insurers may not cover the costs should your pet be affected by those conditions or their related complications.
DO ask ahead about these two specific coverages:
- Pre-existing conditions, because some insurance companies will drop a “pre-existing” label from some illnesses if your pet has been sign-free for more than a year
- Hereditary diseases, because each provider may determine differently whether their coverage will protect your pet should they be affected by a hereditary disease
#3: Understand your pet’s insurance premium and deductible
As with human insurance, the deductible and monthly premium go hand in hand in pet insurance. If your finances necessitate a low monthly premium, the deductible will be more expensive. If regular veterinary care is anticipated and you can afford a higher monthly cost, you will benefit from the lower deductible, and receive reimbursement sooner.
DO check your budget beforehand:
- Before you begin shopping for quotes, determine how much you can comfortably afford monthly, and whether a low monthly payment or low deductible makes the most financial sense.
- Use the online quote tool on pet insurance websites—this can provide you with your pet’s coverage costs in a matter of minutes.
#4: Be aware that your pet’s policy will likely have waiting periods
Signing up for insurance sounds like a great idea when a dog suddenly needs knee surgery, but, unfortunately, most pet insurance companies require a waiting period before some conditions, such as an orthopedic injury, are eligible for coverage. Although your pet’s knee injury will be pre-existing, signing up at the time is still worthwhile for future veterinary care.
DO find out the length of waiting periods, and whether they can be reduced for specific coverage.
#5: Know the different kinds of pet insurance coverage and policy riders
Pet owners should carefully consider insurance coverage options and select the one that best suits their budget and needs. Pet insurance policies offer two types of coverage:
- Accidental coverage — An accidental or emergency-only pet insurance policy is for unexpected costs, such as a dog attack, car accident, toxin ingestion, abdominal “bloat,” or another condition requiring immediate stabilization and treatment. These problems, which must be addressed swiftly to ensure the pet’s survival, can be costly. Pet insurance allows owners to be confident that they can provide their pet the necessary emergency treatment, possibly saving their pet’s life.
- Comprehensive care — With a comprehensive care policy, the insurance company covers routine annual wellness costs, in addition to accident and illness coverage. Routine examinations, vaccines, and blood work are often covered, as well as other health and wellness services, such as spay and neuter surgery, preventive medications, and, sometimes, annual dental cleanings.
Many insurance policies offer additional policy riders, or a flexible reimbursement program for preventive care that can supplement accidental coverage. They may charge an additional premium on top of your pet’s regular policy that will be reimbursable as part of the plan, or at the end of the year. For example, a rider for post-operative care, such as physical rehabilitation, which often is not covered by a regular policy, may be available. These options typically also include:
- Chinese medicine
- Chiropractic care
- Laser therapy
DO consider carefully whether:
- You need accidental or comprehensive coverage for your pet
- Any rider options offered by the company may be helpful for your pet
Navigating the world of pet insurance can be murky, because you have many choices, and you want to make the best decision for your pet. Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital understands, and we want to help. Contact us for our pet insurance recommendations.