Pet Insurance

Dog at the vet

Pet insurance is growing in popularity. Even though we are living through tough economic times, more and more people are climbing on the pet insurance bandwagon. That is a pretty strong statement about how much we love our pets! This can be attributed to more pet owners wanting to protect themselves from high costs of accidents or unexpected illnesses with their pets.

The following brought to you by Trupanion:

There are many different aspects you should research when considering purchasing pet insurance.
The following are a few of the important things:

Pet insurance key points:

  • Pet insurance is indemnity insurance which means you pay the bill first and then become reimbursed by the company (though a few companies will work with your vet to pay directly in some cases). This type of insurance allows you to go to any veterinarian and not be limited to a pre-approved list as with human medical insurance.
  • No company will cover pre-existing conditions. If they did, everyone with a sick pet would sign up and bankrupt the companies.
  • You typically have a deductible option with your plan and these may be per-incident or per-year. They range from $0 to $1000 depending on the company and your choice.

How much is covered for each incident?

  • Per-incident caps: Some companies have per-claim limits, in that they will only pay out $X for each claim. So if your pet insurance provider only reimburses $1,500 maximum for each claim, and you get a $6,000 bill for cancer, you are responsible to pay the difference. Another example is that the company will allow you $3,000 for every different type of illness. So if your first cancer bill is $2,000, then the company will reimburse you up to $1,000 on your next bill related to cancer, but nothing over that.
  • Benefits schedules: Some companies have a customary list of fees of exactly how much money they will reimburse you for each and every type of veterinary procedure. So if their list says that the standard allotment for cancer treatment costs is $3,000, they will not reimburse anything above that, even if your vet charges you more. It may work in the favor of those who live in areas where veterinary costs are low, but in some cases, these fee schedules are outdated and the amounts are much lower than what veterinarians charge everywhere.
  • Other limits: The types of limitations are per-claim limits, per-incident limits, annual payout limits, and lifetime limits. Some companies use a combination of these types of limits in their policy whereas others may not have any limits (Trupanion, for example).

Policy renewals:

  • Some companies have a rolling policy in which your coverage never expires until you cancel it.
  • Other companies expect you to renew coverage on an annual basis and in some cases, this may affect your coverage. For example, a condition that was covered the first year of your policy may be considered pre-existing, thus not covered, in the following year. In other cases, if a condition lasts longer than the first policy year, then coverage will be limited the following year.

Coverage limitations:

  • Some policy types only cover accidents, others cover accidents and a certain set of illnesses, while others cover more than that.
  • It’s important to research the extent to which your policy will cover certain conditions. Some policies cover cancer, others require you to add on the optional cancer coverage.
  • Also be sure to inquire as to whether or not your provider covers hereditary and congenital conditions.
  • Some companies cover or offer optional coverage for routine care which includes regular vet examinations, vaccinations, and preventives. (Trupanion does not offer routine coverage as we feel that you are essentially paying the same amount through the insurance company that you would be paying to the vet anyway. It raises the rates of your premiums without adding extra value to the policy)
  • Other things to watch out for are breed exclusions, age limits (if you have an older pet, you may not be able to get a policy from some companies), and rate increases (some have standard age brackets at which your premiums are automatically increased).

I urge you to do a lot of research and ask lots of questions before purchasing a plan. What might be right for your neighbor/best friend/family member’s pet may not be right for your pet. Customer service reps from each company are happy to answer all of your questions, so be thorough!

A great place to begin your research on pet insurance is a third-party site called PetInsuranceReview.com.

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