What Is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance policies pay for medical expenses for your pet, similar to how your health insurance plan covers your doctor’s visits. You pay a monthly or yearly fee, and the insurance company reimburses you when you have any qualifying vet bills. Some visits to the vet can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so pet health insurance can be a financial safety net.
Most insurers offer a variety of plans, including accident-only, accident and illness, and preventative care. Many of these policies even cover high-ticket treatments like surgery. Still, there are some limitations to even the best pet health insurance. For example, most companies won’t cover pre-existing health conditions, like an injury that your pet sustained before you opened your policy.
How Do Pet Insurance Plans Work?
Most animal insurance plans are reimbursement-based. You pay a premium each month to your insurer. When you get a bill for a qualifying vet visit, you send a copy of the receipt along with a claim to your insurance company. After reviewing your claim, your insurer reimburses you, either via check or direct deposit.
Of course, the process depends on your insurance plan and your insurance company. Most companies have a waiting period of up to two weeks before coverage begins. You’ll also need to check that your policy covers your pet’s condition or treatment by reviewing your paperwork or calling your insurer.
Your pet also plays a big role in the insurance plan. Companies offer different policies for cats and dogs. Plus, plans vary depending on your pet’s age. Insurance policies for puppies and kittens often automatically include vaccinations, deworming, and initial health checks. Additionally, your pet’s age and breed impacts how much an insurance company charges you for a policy. More aggressive breeds and larger animals generally cost more to insure. Policies are typically cheaper for younger pets since they are less likely to have costly conditions.
How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance Policy for Your Pet
As a pet parent, you want to choose the best pet insurance for your furry friend. You can begin the process by getting multiple pet insurance quotes from different companies. Still, it can be challenging to compare pet insurance providers since each insurer and policy have different exclusions, coverage, and pricing.
You can start by choosing which type of plan best suits your pet. Just like the name implies, accident-only plans will only cover treatment related to accidents. Meanwhile, accident and illness plans cover vet expenses related to both illnesses and surprise injuries. Many insurers also offer wellness add-ons or separate plans, which cover checkups and preventative treatments.
Once you determine your plan, you’ll need to choose a coverage level, which will affect your monthly premium. This includes:
- Deductible: You must meet your deductible before your insurer will reimburse you for qualifying bills. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly cost. Deductibles typically range from $100 to $1,000.
- Reimbursement percentage: The lower your reimbursement percentage, the lower your monthly premium. Most insurers offer reimbursement percentages of 70%, 80%, or 90%.
- Annual maximum: Your annual maximum is the cap on how much your pet insurer will reimburse you for the year. The higher your annual maximum, the lower your monthly bill. This can range from $3,000 to unlimited.
Your pet insurance cost will depend on several factors. Your deductible, reimbursement level, and annual limit will determine your monthly premium. You may qualify for discounts, like a multipet discount when you insure more than one pet. Some companies also offer discounts for being in the military or having your pet spayed or neutered.
It’s generally best to get pet medical insurance when your pet is young. Insurance policies are typically cheaper for more youthful pets since they have a lower risk of developing expensive conditions. Plus, most insurance plans don’t cover preexisting conditions, so getting insurance before your pet gets sick is key.
Most pet insurers accept bills from any licensed veterinarian. The vet’s office is usually not involved in the insurance process, aside from providing you with a receipt. Since pet insurance is reimbursement-based, you’ll pay out of pocket for care. Then, you just attach the vet bill, regardless of which clinic it’s from, to your claim for reimbursement.
Even the best-rated pet insurance companies have limits on what they cover. Pet insurance policies don’t cover cosmetic procedures, breeding costs, boarding costs, or pre-existing conditions. They won’t reimburse you for any bills that you received prior to getting the insurance policy. Since each policy is different, it’s important to thoroughly read the terms so you know what to expect.