Pet Health Insurance Providers
How to Compare Between Companies
Finding the right pet insurance can be tricky if you don’t keep a few things in mind before you begin. A number of variables are involved but once you get into your research, you will find that shopping for pet insurance is very similar to shopping for human health insurance.
Keep in mind the basics:
- The language and issues are much the same as human health insurance.
- Almost all policies cover accident/injuries and illnesses/diseases, and many have provisions for reimbursement for routine preventive care like vaccinations, heartworm medicines, annual physicals and so on.
- Almost all policies from all carriers have deductibles, and most also have certain exclusions for some breeds of dogs or cats, pre-existing conditions and genetically transmitted conditions.
These are the questions you should be asking your agent or yourself while you are shopping for pet insurance:
What does it cover?
- This refers to the illnesses, conditions, accidents and wellness care the insurance company will pay for during a year’s time. Coverage varies widely and is linked to the annual premium (see below).
How much will you pay per year?
- This is the amount you pay per year for coverage or annual premium. Most companies bill premiums on a monthly basis. Monthly premiums range from $10 a month to $50 and upwards. Currently the average monthly premium for pet health insurance is $25-$30. Most companies offer discounts for insuring multiple pets and for pre-payment of 12 months of coverage in one lump sum.
What is the deductible?
- This is the amount you have to pay before the insurance company will begin paying for vet fees. Usually companies have deductibles for the year, deductibles per incident (accident, illness or disease) and per vet office visit.
Do you have a Co-Pay?
- This is the amount of money the pet owner must pay per vet office visit or treatment, and is in addition to the deductible amount.
What is excluded?
- Exclusions are just that: breeds, pre-existing conditions, and age of the pet that are not covered by a policy. Most companies exclude some breeds of cats or dogs, will not cover (or offer limited coverage of) pre-existing conditions, and exclude genetically transmitted conditions.
Are there Annual Caps on coverage?
- Caps refer to the upper limit a company will pay for a condition, disease or accident. Usually there are “per incident” caps and “annual” caps for the amount of money a company will pay for these things. Some companies have caps on the amount they will pay “per incident” for the life span of a pet.
What are the limits of the policy?
- Nearly all pet insurance companies have annual policy limits above which they will not pay. Typically there are policy limits for illnesses, accidents, life of the animal, and total policy limits.
How do I get reimbursed and how long does it typically take?
- Unlike health insurance for people, pet insurance companies expect the pet owner to pay the vet for services rendered at the time they occur and to file insurance claims with the company for re-imbursement of the portion of the fees that are covered under the policy. The good news is most pet insurance companies reimburse policy holders quickly, sometimes within a month of filing a claim.
Are there Renewal Rate increases?
- Pet insurance policies have clauses concerning allowable rate increases at the time of annual policy renewal. These can be tied to inflation in the cost of veterinary care and, unfortunately, the claims you have filed for vet fees for a pet during the previous year. Occasionally, a company will refuse coverage for a pet that has had expensive vet care in the previous year and which also requires ongoing treatment for a chronic condition.
What is the reputation of the company?
- It pays to check carefully the reputation of the company with past and current policy holdeers. This is fairly easy to do online. A number of websites exist which review pet insurance companies’ track records with policy holders.
All of these matters require careful consideration, but you will be successful in choosing the right policy for you and your pet armed with this information. As with any contract or policy, just be sure to read the fine print!