Pet insurance is becoming increasingly popular among pet owners to ensure their pet receives high-quality care, while they are financially protected against high veterinary expenses. For many owners, their budget does not cover some expensive surgeries or treatments, or emergency care, forcing them to choose between their pet’s health and financial security. Fortunately, the right pet insurance policy can help you avoid such heartbreaking decisions and give you peace of mind, knowing an unexpected injury or illness won’t break the bank. However, despite pet insurance’s increasing popularity, pet owners can still be confused about what is and what is not covered, so our team at Metro Pet Veterinary Clinic shares the information you need to choose the plan that works best for you and your pet.
Pet insurance: Coverage eligibility
You must consider many factors when purchasing pet insurance, with eligibility one of the most important. Eligibility refers to the conditions your pet must meet to be granted coverage, and you must research various policies’ eligibility requirements before you buy. Eligibility factors can include:
- Age — Most pet insurance companies cover pets as young as 8 weeks old, but may not cover senior pets, or offer them reduced coverage only.
- Pre-existing health conditions — If your pet has a current or previous health problem, most pet insurance companies will consider this a pre-existing condition and refuse coverage.
- Location — Some providers offer coverage only in certain states, so your eligibility for a specific plan may depend on where you live.
- Species — Many pet insurance carriers cover only domestic dogs and cats, although a few options are available for exotic pets, such as birds and reptiles.
- Breed — Some companies will not cover specific dog breeds who are predisposed to certain conditions, or whom they deem ineligible for coverage.
Pet insurance: Veterinary services covered
Some pet insurance plans provide substantial coverage for many veterinary services, including routine care, such as annual check-ups and vaccinations, as well as treatment for illnesses and injuries. However, some plans may not cover every condition or service, so knowing what you want in a plan, and how to find a plan that provides that coverage, is essential. Most companies offer one or more of three policy types:
- Accident only — Accident only plans will provide reimbursement only for emergency care related to accidents, such as a pet who is physically injured after being hit by a car and has broken bones, bruises, cuts, and possible internal injuries, or a pet who was burned when they got too close to the grill. Accident-only coverage does not include illnesses or breed-specific issues.
- Accident and illness — These more comprehensive plans cover accidents and illnesses, but usually do not cover preventive care or pre-existing conditions.
- Accident and illness, plus riders — Many pet insurance companies offer wellness riders that you can add to most accident and illness plans. The riders are an additional expense, but your pet will have the most comprehensive coverage. Riders may may include:
- Annual wellness exams
- Routine blood work
- Spay and neuter procedures
- Dental cleanings
- Flea, tick, and heartworm testing and preventives
Pet Insurance: Knowing the meaning of their words
Insurance terms can be confusing, but familiarize yourself with their meanings before you select a plan.
- Deductible — The deductible is the portion of the veterinary bill you’re responsible for before your plan’s reimbursement kicks in. For example, if you buy a policy with a $500 deductible, you will have to pay the first $500 of veterinary expenses before the company begins to reimburse you. Most pet insurances offer an annual deductible, while some offer a per-incident deductible.
- Premium — A premium is the fee you pay each month or year for coverage. A lower premium typically requires a higher deductible, while a higher premium usually comes with a lower deductible.
- Reimbursement rate — Reimbursement rate is the amount a pet insurance company pays you back for the cost of care after you meet the deductible. Most insurance companies offer reimbursement options such as 70%, 80%, or 90% of the cost of care. Companies also use different reimbursement methods, with some making full or partial payments directly to the veterinarian, so you are never out-of-pocket, while others require policyholders to pay their provider in full and submit a claim to their insurance company to process their refund.
- Payout limits — Limits should also be considered when choosing a plan, and your choice will depend on how much and what type of care you anticipate your pet may need.
- Per-incident limits — These cap how much you can be reimbursed for a single illness or accident.
- Annual limits — Annual limits cap your reimbursement amount in a 12-month period. Once you reach your plan’s annual limit, you are responsible for your pet’s veterinary expenses until coverage resets at the beginning of the next year.
Pet insurance: Treating the customer
One last consideration is the customer service the insurance company provides. How often are their representatives available? Do they answer your questions so you can understand? Do they show empathy about your sick or injured pet? Customer service is an important consideration when choosing a pet insurance company.
Pet insurance can give you invaluable peace of mind and reduce the burden of veterinary expenses, helping your pet live a long, healthy life. The best time to buy pet insurance is when your pet is young and healthy, when they have no pre-existing conditions, but pets of every age can benefit from coverage.
If you have more questions, or still need help choosing a pet insurance provider, contact MetroPet Veterinary Clinic and we can suggest resources and make recommendations.