Expensive facilities, specialty equipment, and advanced training contribute to today’s high veterinary care costs. Purchasing pet health insurance is one way to mitigate these costs and ensure that you can meet your pet’s medical needs should they experience a veterinary emergency. Pet insurance simplifies budgeting for your pet’s veterinary care and ensures no corners will be cut when diagnosing and treating your pet. In addition, some policies provide wellness care coverage, which helps prevent serious medical conditions. However, the numerous pet insurance companies that offer coverage can make determining the best plan for you and your pet difficult. Keep reading to learn important questions you should ask when looking for a pet insurance policy.
#1: Is your veterinarian listed as a service provider?
While many pet insurance companies allow you to use any veterinarian, some aren’t as flexible and require that you visit only veterinarians listed as a service provider in their database. If you want your family veterinarian to continue caring for your pet, ensure you choose an insurance company that lists them as a service provider.
#2: Does the policy have an age restriction?
Most pet insurance companies require pets to be at least 6 to 8 weeks old before they can be insured, and many won’t insure pets older than 10, since they are at higher risk for health conditions. In addition, some companies will apply an annual rate increase once a previously insured pet reaches 10 years of age. If you have an older pet, ensure the insurance provider will not only offer coverage but also will not drastically increase your premiums.
#3: Does the policy exclude pre-existing conditions?
Most insurance companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions. If your pet has received medical advice or has been treated for an illness or injury before enrollment in a new policy, the insurer will not pay for any care for the condition. In addition, some providers won’t cover orthopedic conditions known to occur bilaterally. For example, if your dog sustained a cranial cruciate ligament injury to their right limb before you purchased coverage, many insurance companies won’t cover the same condition in the left limb. Some companies will cover curable pre-existing conditions if you can prove that your pet has been asymptomatic for at least 365 days.
#4: Does the policy exclude hereditary disorders?
Particular breeds are at higher risk for hereditary disorders, such as hip dysplasia, dilated cardiomyopathy, and certain cancers, and many insurance companies won’t cover these conditions in predisposed breeds. Determine whether your pet’s breed puts them at higher risk for a particular condition before enrolling them in an insurance program. Not all companies exclude these conditions, so ensure the company you choose allows your pet to receive the care they need.
#5: Does the policy include wellness coverage?
Some policies cover only veterinary costs for illness and injuries, while others include wellness coverage, such as annual wellness examinations, vaccinations, parasite prevention, dental cleanings, microchipping, and spay/neuter procedures. In some cases, wellness care can be added as an option. If you want your pet’s insurance to cover their wellness care, ensure you select a policy that offers this option.
#6: How long is the policy’s waiting period?
All pet insurance companies restrict coverage for a certain time period after you buy the policy, to help prevent fraud by pet owners who immediately submit claims for injuries or pre-existing conditions. During this waiting period, you are responsible for the full cost of your pet’s veterinary care. Accident coverage waiting periods average about 3 days to 15 days. Illness coverage waiting periods are typically about 15 days to 30 days. Certain conditions, such as cruciate ligament injuries and hip dysplasia, have 6- to 12-month waiting periods.
#7: Does the policy have a maximum annual coverage?
Some pet insurance companies limit how much they will pay out every year. In these cases, you can typically choose your coverage cap, which usually ranges from $5,000 to unlimited annual coverage. Choosing a higher coverage cap will increase your monthly premiums.
#8: How much will your deductible be?
A deductible is the non-reimbursable amount you must pay toward your pet’s veterinary costs before the insurance policy starts to cover these fees. Deductibles can be annual, meaning you are responsible for the amount each year before eligible veterinary treatments will be reimbursed, or per-incident, meaning you are responsible for the amount each time your pet visits the veterinarian for a new condition. Typically, annual deductibles are preferable. The higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.
#9: When will you be reimbursed?
Some insurance companies provide reimbursement in as little as two days after a claim is approved, while others can take up to 30 days. Ensure you know when to expect compensation.
#10: Does the company offer veterinary advice?
Many pet insurance companies provide 24/7 veterinary helpline services for your pet’s care and can advise you on pet first aid care, or help you determine if your pet needs emergency care. Accessible, immediate veterinary counsel is a nice benefit.
#11: Does the company offer discounts?
Most pet insurance companies offer discounts for multi-pet coverage, as well as for individuals such as teachers, first responders, veterans, active military, AARP members, and people who own support and therapy animals. Check whether you are eligible for any discounts from the company you choose.
Finding the best pet insurance policy can be difficult, and you should definitely take the time to compare multiple companies. Do not choose a policy based solely on price, because the coverage may not be sufficient for your pet’s needs. Thoroughly research the coverage included in each policy to ensure you choose the right fit for you and your pet.