Oh, we do so love our pets! Our furry friends eventually become part of the family, as we celebrate their birthdays and even include them in our holidays. We even travel with them, be it by car, plane, bus, or train. However, our pets, much like other family members, occasionally require medical care, which can be costly. Pet Insurance is an option that can alleviate some of those costs. The following information will help to educate you about pet insurance and determine what may be right for you.
Pet insurance is actually Pet Health Insurance. Similar to health insurance for humans, it typically covers some of the cost of veterinary care in case your pet suffers an injury or becomes sick. Depending on the plan, it may also cover wellness or preventative measures, such as spaying/neutering and vaccinations.
Like human health insurance, pet health insurance is structured similarly, with premiums, waiting periods, deductibles, co-pays, payout maximums, and pre-existing condition exclusions. As always, it’s advisable to do your homework beforehand to determine which company offers the price and features that work best for you.
Pet Insurance premiums work pretty much the way your own insurance premiums work. When you apply, your coverage is based on your location, amount of coverage desired, the age of your pet, and the deductible and co-pay that you select. The one unique difference is that your premium is also determined by the breed and species of the pet you wish to insure; for example, the same coverage for a Golden Lab may have a different premium when applied to a Siamese Cat.
Pet Insurance also requires a waiting period before coverage kicks in. The length of the waiting period differs among insurance companies and various coverage plans. Until the waiting period has concluded, pet injuries and illnesses will not be covered by the policy. Some companies may offer separate waiting periods for specific medical issues. Some may offer separate waiting periods for injuries vs. illnesses.
For Pet Insurance, deductibles come in two forms; annual deductibles and per incident deductibles. The annual deductible works the same way as in any insurance that has an annual deductible; your insurance does not kick in until the annual deductible amount first been spent on your pet’s medical expenses.
A per-incident deductible is where the deductible is applied for each instance where your pet needs veterinary services. For example, if your policy has a $100 per incident deductible and you take your pet to the vet for a leg injury, you pay a $100 deductible. If you take your pet to the vet in another month for an intestinal issue, you pay another $100 deductible. Regardless of how many vet visits you make, you will pay your deductible each time a different medical issue arises.
Pet Insurance Co-Pays are similar to the co-pays that many of us have on our own health insurance plans. Typically, co-pays begin once your deductible has been met. Depending on the coverage, a co-pay could be a fixed fee, for example $40.00 per visit, or a percentage of your plan’s covered expenses, depending on your plan. Using the percentage formula, let’s use a co-pay of 25% as an example. If the vet bill is $200.00, you would be responsible for a $50.00 co-pay (25% of the $200.00) while the insurance company would be responsible for the remaining $150.00 (75% of the $200.00). Before signing up for a pet insurance package, take the time to note what is included as ‘covered expenses’ as they can vary from plan to plan.
Much like human health or disability insurance, pet insurance has stipulated maximum payout amounts, which vary by insurers and policies. These amounts represent the maximum that the insurance company will reimburse you. Maximum Payouts come in a variety of forms. The most common are Maximum Annual Payout, Maximum Lifetime Payout, and Maximum Payout Per Incident.
A Maximum Annual Payout is simply the maximum amount of money that the insurer will pay you over a policy year. Once that limit has been reached, you are responsible for any other expenses until a new policy year begins.
A Maximum Lifetime Payout is the maximum payout from your insurer over your pet’s lifetime. Once that limit is reached, you assume responsibility for any further medical expenses.
A Maximum Payout Per Incident works in a similar fashion as the per-incident deductible. It’s the maximum that an insurer will pay you for a specific injury or illness. Once reached, you are no longer reimbursed for that specific scenario.
Less common are Maximum Payout Based on Pre-Determined Benefits, and Maximum Payout Per Body System; your insurer can provide you with the details. Some insurers offer only one type of maximum payout system, while others use one or more combinations. Always check before signing up to make sure that the payout structure fits your particular needs.
While some human health insurers do cover pre-existing conditions, pet insurers typically do not. Pet insurers generally do not pay medical providers directly; you pay your bill and then file a claim with your insurer for reimbursement. A nice feature is that you are not obligated to use a specific network; you may use any veterinarian practice that you choose!
There’s an old adage that goes, “what makes a horse race is a matter of opinion.” The same can be said for insurance companies, as one company’s features & benefits may not appeal to everyone. Given that, I’ll leave you with links to four different sites that rank pet insurance companies. These sites offer rankings and supporting opinions that hopefully help to simplify your decision-making process:
Insured or not insured, unplanned medical issues do occasionally arise with your pet. Don’t let a temporary cash crunch stop you from giving your pet the treatment it deserves; apply for an easy, inexpensive installment loan and get your pet back on the road to good health!