A Guide to Choosing Personal Pet Insurance

Dec 1, 2019 | Personal Insurance

A Guide to Choosing Personal Pet Insurance

Some huge questions need to be taken into consideration when we decide to get a pet such as what will we name them, what breed should we get and how much will it cost to care for them? The final question is the most difficult to answer since expenses vary when it comes to dogs and cats. However, we all know that healthcare costs are expensive when there’s an accident or you come across an illness.

Choosing the right pet insurance may be confusing. There are tons of insurances to choose from. Average pet insurance costs $10-100. That’s why knowing what to look for before purchasing one is a must. It’s best that you discuss your budget and your pet’s needs with the insurance company for them to be able to give you a plan that best fits your needs.

Pet insurance will pay for your unexpected veterinary bills when needed. You can have your attention on getting your dog or cat the medical care they need. However, acquiring an insurance plan without understanding the terms could cost you your precious time and money.

Pet insurance plans differ depending on what they cover and not include, how they execute the fundamentals like the deductibles. It is best to understand and dig into the policy details to find the best option for your beloved pets.

Unexpected expenses for veterinary treatment can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Many pet owners struggle with how to pay for their pet’s medical care when their pet gets sick or was injured.

Pet insurance falls under the Property and Casualty insurance classification since pets are legally considered to be the property of their owners. The insurance you get also functions as indemnity insurance. Some more examples of this kind of coverage are home and auto insurance coverage.

What Is Pet Health Insurance?

Pet health insurance is a proactive and useful financial tool that:

  • Protects you and your finances against possible veterinary costs
  • Allows veterinarians to provide your pet with the best care, doing the most advanced veterinary medical treatments
  • It helps pet parents avoid economic euthanasia. Euthanasia is a kind of choice when pet owners choose to put down an untreatable illness since they can’t afford the pet’s medical care.
  • It also helps owners to avoid setting financial limits on the cost of a pet’s life
  • Provides pet owners with confidence like not having to hesitate before taking a pet for veterinary treatment or waiting it out to see if their medical condition worsens before consulting a vet
  • Provides pet parents with peace of mind and knowing that no matter what happens like loss of a job or other financial crises. The financial resources are in place should a beloved pet become sick or be injured
  • It also helps pet owners to avoid being in deep debt by choosing other financial ways to pay for the medical expenses like high-interest credit or loans
  • Also helps pets to live healthier and longer lives

What Does Pet Health Insurance Cover?

Pet health insurance is a distinct and specialized coverage that is made to reimburse pet owners for possible or unforeseen veterinary fees and related expenses. Please find below the three main types of health insurance for pets:

  • Accident and illness – This is an all-encompassing coverage for vet treatment for sudden injuries, sickness, disease, and any other changes to the normal state of your pets.
  • Accident only – This is insurance coverage for medical care exclusively for accident-related incidents.
  • Wellness – Wellness is a coverage plan that includes vaccinations, tests, and dental work. This is sometimes called “routine” or “preventive” care. Some accident and illness plans may include some of the wellness coverage such as dental benefits.

Some other pet insurance plans offer other additional benefits. These of course differ from plan to plan and from one insurance provider to another. 

Some pet insurance plans may include other special coverage like:

  • The expenses of emergency veterinary treatment for the insured pet when traveling out of the country of origin
  • Third-party liability coverage if your pet injures someone or damages someone else’s property
  • The expense of having an award for the return of a lost or stolen pet and the expense of the reward perse if the pet is found
  • The expense of looking after a pet after you are brought to a hospital or requiring emergency treatment
  • The cost of a holiday if it is canceled because the policy-holder’s pet needs emergency surgery
  • Membership for the pet-owner in an online community

Do you need pet insurance?

The cost of care increases as veterinary medicine becomes more technologically advanced due to higher costs when it comes to equipment, facilities, and training that are needed to provide higher quality services. Pet insurance can also pay for the expenses of diagnosing, treating, and monitoring your pet’s sickness or injury. However, pet insurance is not for everyone and there’s no way to tell if it’s right for you and your pet. We suggest talking to your veterinarian and do some research if you’re considering purchasing pet insurance. Here are some basic considerations:

  • Your veterinarian should be monitoring the health of your pet as part of your veterinary-client-patient relationship regardless of your insurance provider.
  • The details, as well as the limitations and exclusions of your coverage for wellness or routine care, should be clearly explained to you by your insurance provider. Checking out how your premiums will rise as your pets grow older or if make any claims are suggested.
  • Check if there are add-on options to provide you any specific coverage you may want like dental care or travel insurance.
  • Also, check how your insurance company defines and handles pre-existing conditions such as diseases and conditions your pet has now or may have had in the past before buying your insurance plan.
  • Sometimes, insurance providers will not insure a specific pet or breed of pets or they may limit the number of pets you can buy insurance for cases such as they are considered “high risk”.
  • Some insurance companies include discounts for different and multiple pets.
  • All kinds of charges such as co-pays, deductibles, add-on charges, and other fees should be clearly explained to you so you fully understand the insurance policy and its limitations.
  • You’re given the chance to choose the veterinarian who will take care of your pet when he gets sick.
  • Generally, pet insurance is like reimbursement plans. You pay the bills first and they are reimbursed by your insurance provider. We suggest asking your insurance company how claims are processed and what the timeframe is for the reimbursement. If you’re worried about paying for the expenses upfront, we suggest better asking your veterinarian about payment options that will work for you if you want to make arrangements. It’s best to know your options ahead so you don’t get stressed in making payment arrangements during emergencies.

Choosing Coverage

These are some of the things that you should take before choosing a pet insurance plan:

The Best Plan

What is the Best plan? That maybe is the most common question that a pet owner always asks. Well, it depends on what kind of pet you have. For example, your pet is a dog, there are insurances that are known to be best in handling cats and dogs alone,  while some are good in handling different kinds of pets. You can also do some research about the different insurance companies that already have a good reputation in handling the kind of pet that you have. Being said, knowing the specific kind of service you are looking for is a good start.

Your Pet’s Species

According to research, dogs and cats are the most commonly covered companion animals around the globe. About 85% of all of the policies cover dogs while 15% cover cats in North America. In other countries, exotic pets like birds, reptiles, rabbits, and ferrets are also covered.

Your Pet’s Breed

Some breeds are naturally susceptible to develop certain medical conditions. It is essential to know and consider the risks connected with your pet’s breed before you choose the kind of coverage you require. For instance, some kinds of dogs are more prone to diabetes or cruciate ligament injuries.

Cost of Treatment

We suggest asking your veterinarian about the expenses tied with treating some of the most common conditions for your pet’s breed. This knowledge will help you know the level of coverage limits or benefits that you will need or require. You may be surprised however at the costs connected with certain conditions which strongly suggest acquiring pet health insurance.

What Is Covered and Not Covered?

There are roughly 250 policies for pet insurance. Though they are all different, most cover accidents and illnesses. Preventive and regular check-ups, vaccines,  annual blood work, dental cleaning, heartworm medications, neuter, and spaying are considered as part of a wellness plan and are not covered. Though you can pay an additional fee if you want to cover that.

Purebred Dogs may not be covered in most pet insurance policies. There are certain breeds that are genetically linked to some diseases and health conditions such as hip dysplasia and cancer.  Therefore, it’s best to check first if hereditary conditions are excluded from the insurance that you are eyeing to buy.

Pre-existing illness is not covered. Like most insurance policies pre-existing illnesses and conditions will not be covered by the insurance provider.

Some things are excluded from the most normal kind of pet insurance coverage or accident or illness policies. You may find the most common ones below. However, this is not a complete list and will differ from each insurance company. You should know first the terms of your policy.

  • A pre-existing medical condition or something that relates to your pet’s medical history should be considered. This only applies when you change your provider.
  • Any incident that is related to pregnancy or when you were born
  • The purchase price of your pet if your pet dies after a certain age normally nine years is likely to be excluded
  • Most Wellness coverage (routine, preventive, or planned treatments such as flea, worm and tick treatments, vaccinations, grooming, claw clipping, dental maintenance, spaying, and neutering) unless your plan has incorporated some wellness benefits

Waiting Period

All insurance policies have medical exclusion periods from the beginning of the policy that is called the “waiting period” which can last about 10 to 30 days. The coverage is not in effect until the waiting period ends and claims against the coverage can only be made for conditions or that start to show symptoms or accidents that happen after this date.

Discounts

Who doesn’t love discounts right? When it comes to finding the right plan, those who offer more discounts are already on top of your choices. So you better make a good research on different insurance companies that offer the best discounts.

Deductibles

Is the amount the customer pays before the insurance kicks in. Deductibles can be per incident, condition, or per visit. But most insurance companies offer an annual deductible. The higher the deductible,  the lower your annual premium will be. Pet insurance deductibles average between $50 to $100.

The deductible is applied yearly under some pet insurance plans. The plan begins to reimburse you once you have paid for the deductible toward covered treatment. The deductible will restart when you renew the policy every year. In some other plans, the deductible is applied per incident. The plan reimburses you up to the limits of the policy once you pay the deductible toward the treatment of a certain injury or illness. The negative side of this however is when your pet develops a few different medical problems in one year. You will be charged for deductibles.

Caps or Limits

It’s good to ask the insurance company about the caps or limits that the insurance covers in each illness or incident.  For example, the caps for a broken bone is different from neutering. 

Good Customer Service

This part may be neglected in considering the best insurance company. But this has a bigger impact more than you think of. Since almost everything right now can be searched online, take that as an advantage. Do some research about the insurance companies that have good reviews. Are they reputable? Are they good at explaining the plans to their customers? Did they provide the reimbursements on time?  These things are a big deal. They will be handling your claims so make sure that you choose an insurance company that you can trust.

More tips in choosing insurance for your beloved pets

Compare Pet Insurance Providers

We greatly suggest that you compare pet insurance providers before you decide to purchase a pet insurance policy. Make a side-by-side comparison that will show the difference in plans, premiums, deductibles, co-pays, sample reimbursements, and plan details, including exclusions and additional features.

Check Out the Insurer’s Track Record

We also suggest checking the pet insurance provider’s track record if they are reliable. They should be stable, have experience and recommendations. Ask yourself how long has the provider been in business? Are they a trusted financial service? How many in-force policies do they have? Do they have a staff or most especially, veterinarians who know and specialize in pets’ needs and help develop policies? 

Research what are the things that are covered and what might affect those

We also greatly suggest researching what’s covered in certain pet insurance and what might affect it in the said coverage. Some pet health insurance plans may have exclusions for conditions that are already there, hereditary, congenital, or related to breeding and this may apply restrictions on your coverage when you file a claim.

Before you purchase an insurance plan for your pets, ensure that you are aware and understand what factors may affect the coverage such as your pet’s breed and any pre-existing conditions. Find out how often and why your premium will increase. Ask if the number of claims you submit will affect your insurance premium. If you are not sure about how the policy was made, call your insurance provider and ask customer care to further explain it in a simple way for you to easily understand.

We greatly suggest that you understand what are the different factors that may affect your insurance plans such as the breed of your pet and any pre-existing conditions. Be also aware of how frequent and why your premium will increase. Be also sure how many claims will affect your premium. If you are not sure regarding this, call your insurance company and kindly ask them to explain this to you in a much easier way.

Choose Coverage that Works for You

We also suggest to ask yourself these questions:

Do you want a pet insurance plan for routine wellness like vaccinations, flea and heartworm prevention, wellness exams, unknown medical care like injuries, illnesses, lab tests, chronic conditions, surgeries and hospitalization, prescriptions, exams,  or complete care with coverage that also provides protection for hereditary conditions and wellness?

Confide with your veterinarian regarding your pet’s health. It is best to get an idea of what common health conditions your pet could face that may be breed-related or if there’s already a history of health issues in your pet’s family tree.

You definitely want to be prepared in case of an emergency or an unexpected illness. You have to know in advance so you don’t have to be in a scenario wherein you’re unable to receive coverage due to a pre-existing condition once your pet begins to get old.

Choose the kind of insurance reimbursement that perfectly works for you

Pet insurance companies give reimbursement in two different ways such as percentage of invoice or an annual schedule of allowances.

An invoice is a physical bill your veterinarian hands you after treating your pet. If you choose a percentage of the invoice plan, you’ll be reimbursed for a percentage of what you paid for your veterinarian. For instance, Nationwide pet insurance’s Whole Pet with Wellness plan reimburses 90% of your invoice minus your yearly deductible.

A benefit schedule of allowances lists everything that is covered under your plan with a specific amount for reimbursement. The reimbursement amounts renew yearly.

There are other factors, however, that can affect your reimbursement amount whether you have chosen a per-incident deductible or a yearly deductible.

Review Cost and Value

Please don’t buy a cheap pet insurance policy if it doesn’t cover what your pet needs. You should take note of your pet’s wellness, medical, and complete care. Your monthly premium and reimbursement amount will differ based on the kind of coverage and deductible you choose.

You should also consider the deductibles: a per-incident deductible is applied to every incident and can lessen your monthly premium. A low yearly deductible will result in a higher premium while a higher deductible will result in a decreased premium. However, take note not to base your purchase on the costs alone. It may sound that a lower premium is great. But, you don’t want to, of course, limit the number of benefits you will receive when you really need them.

Enroll Young and Healthy Pets

We greatly suggest enrolling your pets when they’re young and healthy to avoid limited coverage due to pre-existing conditions and to lessen the cost of your policy. Pet health insurance premiums can also increase as the policyholder gets old just like human health insurance.

What Else Should You Know?

There When You Need It

Pet insurance is a type of coverage that’s designed to be eventually used. For home and auto insurance, it may take years before claiming it. However, for pet insurance, it is very likely that you use it over the course of its life since your pet will become ill or injured and will need medical care.

You Get What You Pay For

You really get what you pay for. This is the same with all kinds of insurance. The more comprehensive the coverage, the higher the benefits, and the higher your associated premium will be.

Where You Live Affects Your Options

We also suggest taking note of the laws and regulations that govern pet insurance since these may vary from one state to another. Where you live actually defines the kind of coverage you can purchase and the terms and conditions that apply to it.

Changing Your Coverage

We also suggest checking the kind of product and the level of veterinary fees covered to make sure that it will continue to meet your financial needs when you choose a policy. Also, always keep in mind that many companies will allow you to downgrade your coverage. However, upgrading is not usually allowed. Always remember that your pet’s medical history may be requested and your vet will be asked to disclose your pet’s full medical records.

Coverage For Chronic Conditions

The available amount and kind of insurance for chronic conditions such as diabetes or cancer differ among pet insurance plans so we greatly suggest asking your provider about any policy terms or limits that may apply. These chronic conditions are illnesses or problems like the ones mentioned above. If your pet develops a chronic illness, you’ll know beforehand what to expect.

Co-Pay or Co-Insurance

The totals that you would be paying for your insurance claims are “Co-pay” and “Co-insurance”. This amount varies between plans and providers so we suggest referring to your policy terms and conditions.

The most commonly offered and selected co-pay amount is about 80%. You are reimbursed for up to 80% of the amount you claim for. In some areas in the United States, 90% and 100% co-pay levels are sometimes available.

Premiums – the Cost of Your Coverage

The total cost of pet insurance can differ according to a number of factors such as your address, the breed of your cat or dog, its gender, and age. The premiums depend on your veterinary charges. For instance, the cost of veterinary treatment and the costs of running a veterinary practice is normally higher in urban areas than in rural areas so expect your premiums to depend on this.

Breeds

Of course, purebred or a pedigree dog or cat is typically more expensive to cover than mixed breeds since mixed breeds are less likely to inherit medical conditions. Some specific breeds are more likely to be exposed to more conditions than others. This is why we suggest that you should ask your veterinarian about some of the conditions that your pet may develop in their whole lifetime. It can help you be aware of future veterinary expenses and the kind of coverage you may need to fully protect your pet.

Impact of Age on Coverability

Most insurance policies will not cover pets that are less than eight weeks old. However, please be aware that your coverage will become more expensive and even more difficult to secure as your pet gets older. Some insurance companies will not offer new insurance to pets that are above a certain age. If you obtain a policy when your pet is younger, you can normally continue with the same insurance company for the lifetime of your pet.

Effects of Aging on Coverage

The premiums, deductibles, and policy co-pays will also increase as your pet ages since their risk of illness also increases. However, the effect of your pet’s age on the cost of your insurance coverage can differ a bit across differ

As your pet gets old, the premiums, deductibles, and policy co-pays will also add up since the risk of illnesses will also increase. However, the effect of the age of your pet on the expense of the coverage can differ a bit on different insurance companies and plans so it is essential to consider this factor before selecting a plan.

Always remember the following:

  • We suggest making a list of what’s most important to you and rate these considerations in order of priority.
  • Canvass for the policy that best meets your needs.
  • Get a free and no-obligation quote from a few reputable providers and compare the different kinds and levels of coverage.
  • Talk to these providers in person or via email and ensure to have all your questions answered. Their care may be an essential factor in selecting the best choice for your pet.
  • We also suggest reading your insurance policy and documents for all the needed details of the benefits and essential exclusions of your insurance policy. Today, most companies offer their policy document in plain English rather than in difficult terms. You can also view them ahead of the enrollment.
  • Always answer the insurer’s questions honestly. If you didn’t answer truthfully, it will be considered as fraud and your insurance company will refuse to pay for the claim.
  • Your veterinarian is a professional that practices ethics and he may be of help for you to understand the advantages of pet insurance and the expenses of veterinary medical care.

Stay always informed. You’ll receive updated policy documents, emails, and important notices from your insurance provider. Being familiarized with your coverage terms and conditions will help you make the best decisions for your pets when they become ill or injured. Reading about them when you’re also dealing with emotional stress when your pet is sick is absolutely never ideal.

Enrollment rules

A young and healthy pet will be eligible for any plan. However, some plans won’t let you enroll in senior pets. In general, your pets should be at least 6 to 10 weeks old at a minimum depending on your insurance provider. Even though some plans have no maximum age limits, a lot of them cut off first-time enrollment at 10 to 14 years. Once you’re enrolled, most of these plans will give you coverage as long as you keep on paying for the premiums. Some plans will also require your pet to be checked by your vet in the past year or they will ask you to let your pet undergo an exam before they’ll sell you a policy.

Types of incidents covered

Some of the pet insurance companies that are in that market only offer accident-only plans. Meanwhile, others offer more comprehensive plans that cover both accidents and illnesses.

An accident-only plan covers the treatment of injuries such as a car accident or poisoning. If you only have this plan, your insurance company won’t pay anything if your pets get sick.

Types of treatment covered

The area where coverage can vary among plans are: 

  • Alternative and behavioral treatment – Some insurance plans cover behavioral care and a wide range of alternative treatments such as acupuncture and chiropractic care. However, other insurance companies don’t cover them at all or they limit such coverage to the most expensive plans. If you want to obtain coverage for alternative medical care, we suggest reading the details of which treatments are covered since there is no specific definition of alternative care
  • Continual treatment – If your pet gets sick, some insurance companies will not extend the insurance plan coverage for the next year after your policy renews not until you’re willing to pay more fees for continual care.
  • Exam fees – Some insurance plans will reimburse you for certain procedures and medicines but would not cover exam fees for routine check-ups or when your pet gets an illness.
  • Routines and wellness care – Most insurance plans don’t cover the basics such as yearly vaccinations, spaying, neutering, and teeth cleaning. However, others offer the choice of adding such coverage but for additional fees.

Payout limits

A few certain plans don’t tell how much they will pay out for covered treatments. However, most plans have maximum payouts. This is why you need to read your policy carefully. Some have a payout limit for the year, for your pet’s lifetime, or for a type of incident or condition. There may also be a combination of limits.

Pre-existing condition definition

We already know that some plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions. However, the definition of “pre-existing” varies. In most cases that it applies, a pre-existing condition is a medical problem that was apparent in your pet before you acquired your policy. However, past conditions that have been cured for a specific period of time may still be covered by some plans.

Exclusions

Aside from pre-existing conditions, some plans don’t include coverage for certain illnesses and conditions. For instance, some insurance companies won’t cover hip dysplasia, a genetic disorder in which the hip joints fail to develop normally. This is normal in large dogs but can also be found in cats.

Waiting periods

Pet insurance plans have waiting periods for coverage to start after you have signed up. Normally, the coverage for injuries from accidents begins within a day or two. The waiting period for illness coverage is usually longer which is 14 days or more. There are also instances where there are waiting periods of several months to a year or more for orthopedic problems. In some cases when you really need help from your insurance, the plan will pay nothing.

Reimbursement levels

Usually, pet insurance plans reimburse you a percentage of the treatment costs. You have the option to choose the reimbursement level when you purchase the policy such as 70%, 80%, or 90%. Some plans reimburse you a percentage of your vet’s bill. Meanwhile, others reimburse you a percentage of the usual and customary charges for the treatment. Any amount that is above the percentage that they will cover will be your responsibility.

Pricing

The average yearly premium for a pet insurance policy covering accidents and illnesses in North America was $433 in 2014 according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. The average yearly premium for accidents-only plans was averaging $154.

Prices for pet insurance are based on:

  • Your pet’s age and breed – The older your pet is, the more the expenses you’ll pay. Some of the pet breeds are more costly to be insured since they have more health problems.
  • Your location will affect the costs of insurance premiums.
  • Amount and kind of coverage – The more the policy covers, the more you’ll pay.
  • Reimbursement level and deductible – The lower the reimbursement level and the higher the deductible, the less you’ll pay for the plan.
  • Insurance company – Prices vary by company.

Next steps and don’t forget to ask us questions if you have any

We greatly suggest to determine the kind and amount of coverage you need and then get quotes for pet insurance from several companies. Better compare the prices of policies with similar reimbursement levels, deductibles, and yearly payout limits. Before you finally make a decision to purchase, we strongly suggest reading the documents to ensure that you don’t miss anything in the restrictions and exclusions.

Need help in finding the best plan for your furry family member? Get a free quote instantly by tapping here.

Please also don’t be shy if you have any questions in mind. We will gladly answer them back immediately. Have a great day and thank you for visiting our site!