Pet insurance acts as a health insurance policy for your pet, providing financial coverage for the unexpected. Coverage level, premium, deductible, limits, and exclusions vary across policies, making pet insurance highly customizable, yet confusing. Your WesVet Animal Hospital team has assembled a comprehensive pet insurance guide to help you make the best choice for your pet.
Pet insurance coverage
Most pet insurance policies offer comprehensive accident, illness, and chronic condition coverage. Most policies cover common conditions, including emergency surgeries, cancer treatments, and long-term diabetes care. With pet insurance, you can make the best decisions for your sick pet without worrying about how you will pay for treatment.
The best plans offer comprehensive coverage for almost anything that might go wrong. Look for policies that include the following, without having to add them separately as a rider.
- Alternative and complementary therapies – Alternative and complementary therapies can include acupuncture, chiropractic, chinese herbal medicine, or massage. These can be especially helpful for chronic diseases, or arthritis.
- Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation with the water treadmill, pool, or therapy laser will get your pet back on their feet after an orthopedic surgery.
- Congenital and hereditary conditions – These cover a wide range of breed-related conditions that your pet may be born with, or develop later in life. Your insurance company will be able to deny many of your claims if your policy does not include this coverage.
- Bilateral conditions – Bilateral condition coverage ensures that both sides of the body are covered for the same condition. This means the company won’t consider an ACL tear in the right knee pre-existing as a basis to deny a claim for a tear in the left knee.
All pet insurance policies have exclusions. No plans cover pre-existing conditions, because of current underwriting laws. Purchase your plan as soon as possible after acquiring your pet, to avoid conditions being excluded. Most plans do not include coverage for routine wellness services, such as vaccines or dental cleanings, as pet owners can budget for these foreseen expenses. You may be able to add wellness coverage to your base policy, but be aware that your monthly premium will be higher, with little added benefit.
Pet insurance costs
Pet owners purchase a policy after an online quote process directly through a company’s website. Premiums can be paid annually, bi-annually, or monthly, and range from $10 to more than $100 per month. Policies can be customized according to individual needs.
- Deductible – Deductible is the amount the pet owner pays before coverage kicks in. The best policies have a once-per-year deductible rather than per-incident. A higher deductible means a lower monthly premium, but you’ll pay more out of pocket when you file your first claim. Deductibles can range from $50 to $750 or more.
- Coverage level – After you have paid the deductible, insurance pays the remaining balance at 70, 80, or 90 percent. You can save on your premium by choosing a lower coverage level.
- Limits – Some policies have a per-year or lifetime maximum dollar coverage amount. Policies with no limits have the highest premiums.
How pet insurance works
The majority of pet insurance companies operate on a reimbursement basis. Pet insurance does not operate in networks, so you can visit your WesVet Animal Hospital veterinarian, an emergency hospital, or a specialist of your choice. Pet owners usually must pay the veterinarian directly, and then file a claim with their insurance company for reimbursement. Read reviews and look for companies with a track record of good customer service, quick claim resolution, and convenient mobile apps. Also, look for plans that reimburse based on actual cost of services, rather than a set fee schedule.
You’ll also need to consider any potential waiting periods after purchasing your policy. Waiting periods of 6 to 12 months most commonly apply to ACL tears and hip dysplasia, and your pet will not be covered if they are diagnosed with one of these conditions during the waiting period. Your policy may offer a specialized knee or hip certification exam option following purchase, to waive the waiting period, so take advantage of this if offered.
Let’s face it, stuff happens. Dogs and cats like to eat things they shouldn’t, pets are born with congenital problems, and diseases develop with age. Pet insurance ensures your pet gets the care they need, when they need it. Now that you know what to look for, you can shop for the plan that best fits your pet’s needs.
Do you need a wellness, knee, or hip exam for your pet’s insurance policy? Call us to schedule a visit with your WesVet Animal Hospital team.