Pet Insurance 101
In addition to public speaking, most people share a fear of the unknown. And let’s face it—it’s a valid concern because none of us can predict the future. That is why we invest in insurance—to protect us when the unknown becomes reality. We purchase insurance policies to protect our houses, our cars, and our most treasured belongings. We carry health insurance to guarantee proper medical attention when we are sick or injured.
Given that our pets are integral members of the family, it is no surprise there are numerous companies extending similar coverage to protect our companion animals. Why is it then, a national estimate reveals only 1 percent of people with pets in the U.S. have their four-legged friends insured? According to our most recent reader survey, the top three reasons people do not have pet insurance include: not thinking they can afford it; not understanding how the coverage works; and not perceiving it as a value for their pets.
All of these concerns may be due to a lack of accurate information on the subject. Let’s approach this one issue at a time.
Understand the Basics
Gathering information is the first step. Reading and understanding the fine print is a must. Your pet’s health is too important to skim pages or be shy about asking questions. It’s quick and easy to get a quote either online or on the phone. You should do some comparison-shopping—so we recommend getting a minimum of three quotes. Some important factors to consider include: whether or not the plan allows you to choose your own veterinarian/specialist, what exactly is covered and what is not, how a claim is submitted, and what are some of the available discounts (being in the military, therapy dog certification, etc.).
How Does Pet Health Insurance Work?
1. Do your research. Read through the entire plan.
2. Sign up via internet or phone.
3. Visit your veterinarian and pay for treatment.
4. Submit a claim to cover the costs.
5. Receive a reimbursement check.
When reviewing different policies, it can be difficult to compare “apples to apples” because companies may offer unique, customizable plans depending on what you’re looking for. Always read the fine print to learn exactly what a specific plan requires and entails.
Next: What’s covered with pet insurance?
What Does Pet Health Insurance Cover?
Most pet insurance plans provide coverage for the following:
- Treatment for accidents, illnesses, and diseases
- Cancer and chemotherapy
- Surgery, hospitalization, and nursing care
- Laboratory and diagnostic tests including X-rays and MRI scans
- Medication and drugs
One of the biggest questions you need to answer—which will guide your choice of coverage and premium rate—is how you want the insurance to work for you. In other words, are you looking at it as a “God forbid…” policy to cover the worst-case scenario accidents and major illnesses? Or are you willing to pay a higher monthly fee to receive benefits and discounts on routine vet visits, medication, and vaccines? Depending on your answer, the cost will vary greatly. Some plans can charge as little as $100 per year, whereas others charge up to thousands of dollars annually. Certain policies may cover as little as 10 percent of the bills, while others may reimburse the entire balance if the treatment falls within the coverage guidelines.
Pay attention to deductibles, annual payout caps, and any other hidden fees.
You may be asking: “Will the policy cover my pet’s pre-existing condition?” In most cases, the answer is no. Many times, people wait until something happens to their pet to investigate insurance, at which point that specific ailment will not be covered—this is why purchasing coverage for your pet at a young age is ideal. In addition, some policies limit coverage for breed-specific diseases. For example, Golden Retrievers are prone to developing hip dysplasia—which may not be covered. These rules differ depending on the company and the policy, and heavily depend on the type of pet you are insuring. Yet one more reason to read the fine print of coverage carefully!
Overall, pet insurance may make the most financial sense if you plan to use it to help you and your pet through catastrophic illnesses and injuries. It’s one thing to budget for planned expenses like annual check-ups, shots, flea prevention, etc. But if the unexpected happens, you will have tremendous peace of mind knowing you can provide the best care for your best friend without worrying about the strain it may put on your bank account. No one should ever have to choose between going into debt and saving her pet’s life.
By Brendan Quealy for TAILS