A health insurance policy for your pet can prevent you from making a heartbreaking decision based on finances. By purchasing pet insurance the day you bring your four-legged friend home, you can have financial coverage for a multitude of health conditions and treatment options that may otherwise be out of your budget. However, rather than purchasing the first plan you find, take the time to research and compare policies. Here are seven factors to consider when choosing a pet health insurance policy.
#1: Pet breed exclusions
Although pet insurance plans won’t necessarily exclude certain breeds, they sometimes limit coverage based on breed-specific conditions. So, if you have a German shepherd or English bulldog, coverage may be limited for hip dysplasia, cherry eye, or respiratory conditions. Typically, insurance policies require a waiting period before coverage begins for such conditions, and some plans will not cover your pet for breed-specific health issues after a certain age. However, if your pet is a breed prone to certain conditions, you can still find coverage through companies who will offer an add-on policy.
#2: Pre-existing conditions in your pet
Regardless of the insurance provider you choose, one fact is guaranteed—they will not cover pre-existing conditions. These health issues are defined as any medical condition with signs that appear before the date your policy goes into effect, or during the waiting period. Depending on the company, the waiting period could be up to 30 days before illness coverage begins. Accident coverage typically has a shorter waiting period. Commonly, insurance providers require a wellness exam prior to granting coverage, to ensure your pet does not have a pre-existing condition, so check your chosen provider’s requirements.
#3: Treatment coverage for pets
Before jumping into a policy that has all the bells and whistles, determine the coverage you truly need. If you are able to budget for your pet’s wellness care, like routine physical exams, vaccinations, and screening tests, it’s typically more cost-effective to pay for preventive care out-of-pocket, rather than purchasing a policy. However, a comprehensive policy may include accident and illness coverage, along with wellness care, so compare policy types, and weigh their pros and cons.
In addition, check for exclusions in each type of covered category. For example, although a policy may cover exam fees, they may only provide coverage for illness exams, not for routine or progress exams. Or, parasite prevention or prescription diets may not be covered under the umbrella of prescription medications.
#4: Pet insurance monthly premiums
When determining the coverage amount for your pet, the monthly premium is a major consideration. Essentially, you need to figure out how much coverage you can get for the amount of money you can spare each month. Calculate your monthly budget and see what you can spare for a premium, ensuring you factor in savings for deductibles and other pet-care expenses, like food and toys.
#5: Deductibles in pet insurance policies
Similar to a human health insurance policy, a deductible is the amount you have to pay before you receive reimbursement from the insurance provider. Typically, the higher your monthly premium, the lower your deductible. When weighing premiums and deductibles, look carefully at the two types of deductibles—annual and per incident.
- Annual deductibles — These deductibles are the most straightforward. Once you pay your deductible for the year, no matter the condition applied, you will receive reimbursement for all future claims.
- Per incident deductibles — These deductibles can be further divided into annual and lifetime classifications. Per incident deductibles reset each time you file a claim for a new illness or injury, which can become costly if your pet often becomes sick throughout the year, or frequently is injured. However, a per incident deductible over your pet’s lifetime can save tremendous costs should they develop a chronic condition, like diabetes or allergies.
#6: Claiming reimbursements for pet expenses
The most important factor when choosing an insurance policy is evaluating how the provider handles claim reimbursements. Some providers leave you waiting for weeks before you receive reimbursement, while others pay your veterinarian directly at the time of check out, once your deductible has been met. Based on your finances, determine which reimbursement schedule works best for you, and then search for a corresponding policy. In addition, watch out for reimbursement caps. Some policies only reimburse a certain amount each year, or over the pet’s lifetime. A reimbursement cap may keep your monthly premium down, but may be detrimental later in your pet’s life.
#7: Customer service for pet owner
Insurance policies can be confusing, especially when you’re trying to determine what exactly is covered. Checking insurance provider reviews will be the most helpful for evaluating customer service, outside of calling each company. Peruse the reviews for difficulties filing claims and receiving reimbursements, or muddy language regarding coverage. You’ll want a clear-cut policy offered by an up-front provider to ensure your pet receives coverage that can be backed up.
Depending on your insurance policy, your pet may require a physical exam prior to obtaining coverage, or immediately after. Contact our Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team to schedule your pet’s appointment, to ensure they qualify for health coverage.