Owning a pet can be one of life’s greatest joys. Our furry friends provide us with unconditional love, emotional support, and constant companionship. However, pet ownership also comes with serious financial responsibility. Just like human family members, our pets can face unexpected illnesses, injuries, and other health issues that require veterinary treatment.
According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, pet owners in the United States spent over $34 billion on veterinary care and products last year alone. With the cost of veterinary services continuing to rise across the country, more and more pet parents are looking into pet insurance as an affordable way to protect their budgets.
So what exactly is pet insurance and how does it work? Whether you already share your home with dogs, cats, or other pets or you’re considering getting your first fur baby, this guide will provide you with a helpful overview of pet insurance fundamentals.
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet owners often find themselves pondering the question, How Does Pet Insurance Work? It’s akin to the workings of health insurance for humans. By paying a monthly premium, pet owners secure a safety net for a portion of their veterinary expenses. This encompasses a range of situations, from accidents and illnesses to surgeries, hospitalizations, prescriptions, specialist treatments, lab tests, x-rays, and more.
Similar to human health insurance, there’s an annual deductible that needs to be met before coverage kicks in. Alongside this, pet owners typically bear a percentage of each claim out-of-pocket, known as coinsurance. An interesting facet is that most pet insurance companies prefer reimbursing policyholders for vet bills rather than directly settling with veterinary clinics. Understanding “How Does Pet Insurance Work?” becomes essential for pet owners, ensuring the well-being of their beloved companions in a way that feels natural and seamless.
The Details: Types of Pet Insurance Plans
Pet insurance providers offer a variety of different policy options at varying price points. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common pet insurance plans:
● Accident-Only Coverage: As the name suggests, this bare bones option only covers vet fees related to unexpected injuries, such as broken bones, bite wounds, swallowed foreign objects, and other medical issues stemming from accidents or trauma. Illnesses are not included.
● Basic/Essential Coverage: This mid-range choice handles both injuries and common illnesses like ear infections, rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and bladder infections. However, pre-existing conditions and hereditary/congenital diseases are usually excluded.
● Comprehensive/Superior Coverage: As the closest equivalent to a top-tier human health plan, comprehensive pet policies provide robust protection against accidents, basic illnesses, emergency care, cancer treatments, chronic conditions, genetic disorders, diagnostic tests, specialty appointments, and more.
Some pet insurance companies also offer wellness plans and routine care riders for an additional monthly fee. This helps cover preventative veterinary treatment like annual exams, flea/tick/heartworm medication, blood tests, vaccines, and teeth cleanings.
Are Pre-Existing Conditions Covered by Pet Insurance?
One key point pet parents should understand about pet insurance is that pre-existing medical conditions are almost never covered. This includes any illness, injury, or related symptoms noticed before your policy takes effect or within the waiting period after signing up for a plan.
Pet insurance providers can easily obtain your pet’s veterinary medical history to check for pre-existing conditions once you submit your first claim. Be prepared to pay all treatment costs for these issues out-of-pocket. The same goes for hereditary and congenital conditions in most cases.
Typical Exclusions to Be Aware Of
Beyond pre-existing conditions, most leading pet insurers also impose other standard exclusions. Common exclusions include:
● Alternative therapies like hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, etc.
● Behavioral problems
● Breeding and pregnancy-related vet fees
● Cosmetic procedures
● Dental health issues in basic/accident-only policies
● Experimental treatments and therapies
● Pet foods, vitamins, supplements
● Regular grooming, bathing, and boarding
● Routine wellness care (unless rider purchased)
As you shop different providers, carefully review all fine print related to exclusions. These limitations can greatly impact potential reimbursements.
Top 5 Factors To Compare Between Pet Insurers
If you determine pet insurance could provide value for your furry companion, reputable companies like Pumpkin, Embrace, ASPCA, Figo, and more all offer decent options. However, plans, prices, reimbursement rates, discounts, customer service, and claims processes can vary significantly from one insurer to the next.
As you evaluate the best pet insurance for your needs, here are the top five factors requiring careful comparison:
● Monthly premiums: Consider your budget when viewing base plan pricing. Most insurers offer customizable annual limit options that adjust premium costs.
● Annual limits: What maximum claim limit is right for your finances? Common options range from $5,000 to unlimited.
● Reimbursement percentages: Plans often pay 70% to 90% of covered expenses after the deductible is met. Shoot for 80% or higher.
● Deductible options: Expect choices like $100, $250, $500, or $1,000. Pick the deductible amount you could afford per unexpected incident.
● Customer satisfaction: Read independent review sites and the Better Business Bureau for unbiased insight on things like claims handling, reimbursement consistency, and overall value delivered to pet parents.
Important Pet Insurance Tips
To ensure you select and use the optimal pet insurance policy for your situation, keep these additional handy tips in mind:
● Enroll pets early: Sign puppies and kittens up as soon as they come home or soon after initial vet exams. This prevents pre-existing condition problems in the future.
● Understand waiting periods: It can take 2 weeks to 30 days from your plan activation date before coverage kicks in. Emergency accident claims are sometimes exempt.
● Compare provider networks: Certain companies restrict policies to working with specific vet clinics. Factor this into your decision if you want location flexibility.
● Get quotes online: Pet insurance costs vary greatly based on factors like species, breed, age, home location, policy limits, health history, etc. Use your date of birth to get the most accurate premium estimate.
● File claims ASAP: Submit forms and itemized invoices as soon as possible after visiting the veterinarian. This speeds up processing and reimbursement deposit into your bank account.
The Bottom Line
While pet insurance should never replace having an emergency savings fund allocated for unexpected vet costs, it serves as an extremely useful supplement to financially protect pet parents. The right policy provides peace of mind that no matter what life throws your way, your furry best friend will get the absolute best care possible when they need it most.