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What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is financial protection for policyholders against veterinary costs for their furry companions and other pets.
Pet insurance works in the same way that human health insurance does. Policyholders must pay monthly premiums and a deductible before their pets are covered.
If your cat, dog, bunny, or bird becomes ill or injured, your pet insurance will pay for some or all of their treatment and care.
Like most pet owners, you want the best for your pet and one piece of that can be making sure they are covered by pet insurance. Here is what to look for when you are comparing pet insurance plans.
There are a variety of benefits to having pet insurance for your furry loved one. There are also a number of things you can do to save money on your pet insurance policy so you can make sure your pet is covered without breaking your bank.
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Each pet insurance policy will cover different expenses, which means you’ll need to check the details of your plan to know what’s insured. Nonetheless, most health-related costs that aren't caused by hereditary or preexisting conditions will be covered.
For example, if you're out for a walk with your dog and they injure their leg, you will be covered for their veterinary care if you have pet insurance. Similarly, if your dog becomes ill and requires medication to recover, your pet insurance will cover some or all of the associated costs.
The most common types of pet insurance plans cover accidents and illnesses. Accident-only plans tend to be the most bare-boned and least expensive, covering things like bites, lacerations, swallowed objects, and abscesses.
Illness plans are more robust and cover treatments when your pet is sick and needs prescription medicine to heal.
Most accident and illness plans cover:
X-rays, ultrasounds, and diagnostic tests.
Treatment for illnesses like cancer and infections.
Some plans will cover routine visits and vaccinations, but they tend to be very expensive, and often the premiums are not worth it compared to the out-of-pocket costs of regular care.
A more expensive wellness plan may also include:
Annual exams, vaccines, as well as heartworm and flea/tick prevention.
Microchipping your pet.
Hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia, cherry eye, or luxating patella.
Alternative care like acupuncture or massage therapy.
Behavioral training against aggression or chewing.
Final expenses like euthanasia, cremation, and burial.
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What Doesn't Pet Insurance Cover?
Because pet insurance does not cover everything, it is critical to understand your coverage. Your pet insurance policy will specify what it will and will not cover.
Here are some common procedures that your pet insurance will not cover:
Expenses not directly related to veterinary care.
Preexisting medical conditions.
Preventive and routine care.
Disorders that are inherited.
Cosmetic or elective surgeries like declawing or tail docking.
Wellness care depending on the plan.
Look for a list of exclusions on your company's website, or talk to an agent before choosing a policy to understand if a procedure you may need is excluded.
Always check your policy before you sign up to avoid problems with coverage in the future. If you’d like to learn more about pet coverage, here are some articles to help you.
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What is the Pet Insurance Waiting Period?
Most pet insurance plans have a waiting period for coverage to begin after you enroll.
Waiting periods for accident cover tend to be a few days, whereas illness waiting periods can range from 14 days up to one month. There may also be a waiting period for surgical procedures of up to a year for some plans.
If your pet needs treatment for these types of procedures during the waiting period, you will need to pay out of pocket and the injury or illness may be considered pre-existing and not covered for further procedures.
How Does Pet Health Insurance Work?
Once you've purchased pet insurance, you'll need to keep your premiums up to date to keep your coverage.
If your pet gets hurt and you need to take them to the vet, you'll have to pay a deductible before your insurance covers their treatment costs.
Most plans will make you pay the vet bills up front and reimburse your costs afterward. Some plans will work with your insurance to reimburse the insurance company up front, meaning you spend less out-of-pocket at the time of treatment.
Here are some key terms you should know about with pet cover:
Coinsurance: A portion of the costs you’ll need to pay, which varies from plan to plan.
Co-pays: A set rate that you’ll pay for specific expenses. For example, X-rays might have a co-pay of $50, while veterinary consultations may have a co-pay of $35.
Deductibles: The amounts you pay before the company begins to pay. Most plans have an annual deductible that resets after each year.
Payout limits: Most companies have maximum payouts, which means they will only cover procedures up to a certain amount.
Reimbursement levels: Almost all pet insurance policies work on a reimbursement basis.
They typically reimburse up to 70%, 80%, or 90% of the total cost. Some companies reimburse a percentage of the vet bill, while others reimburse based on a benefit schedule established for each condition.
It’s best to check your policy and speak to your insurance provider to understand what costs you’ll be responsible for if your pet needs treatment.
What Does Pet Insurance Cost?
The average annual cost of a pet insurance policy is about $600 for dogs and $350 for cats for full coverage. For accident-only plans, the annual premium was around $225 for dogs and $134 for cats.
Prices are determined by:
Your pet's age and breed - The older your pet is, the more you'll pay for pet insurance. Some companies have age limitations starting around 12-13 years, meaning if your pet is older, they may be denied coverage.
Your pet's breed - Some breeds tend to develop more health problems than others, and therefore, are more expensive to insure.
Your ZIP code - Local costs of veterinary care will affect your premiums.
Amount and coverage type - accident-only plans cost significantly less than a full plan.
Reimbursement level and deductibles - the lower the reimbursement level and the higher the deductible, the more you will pay
How to Buy a Pet Insurance Plan
If you want pet insurance cover, here are some top tips for finding the right plan and getting the best deal.
Figure out your budget: Decide how much you’d like to spend on insurance for your pet and look at the costs you might have to pay for veterinary care in your area.
Decide which plan you want to buy: Look at the options available to you and select the type of insurance you want for your pet. Full coverage and accident-only plans will have different costs and benefits.
Do your research: Look at what plans are out there and find out what other people have been saying about pet insurance companies. Read online reviews and look at the benefits that each plan will offer before you make a decision.
Get a few different quotes before you sign a contract: It’s always a good idea to shop around before you settle on a plan.
Speak to an insurance provider or agent: You’ll save time and money by using the experience and knowledge of an insurance professional. It’s a good idea to work with an insurance agent to help you understand the terminology and what plans are suitable for you.
Other points to remember:
You can get an online quote for pet insurance.
Check the reimbursement level and customize the policy to your needs if possible.
Keep in mind that unlike other types of insurance, pet insurance is usually purchased for the life span of your pet. As your pets get older, they are more likely to develop conditions that prevent you from getting coverage. Choose a plan you feel comfortable having for the rest of your pet’s life.
What pets are eligible for pet insurance?
What does pet insurance cover?
Why might I be denied pet insurance?
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