More and more pet owners nowadays are turning to pet insurance as a way to help manage medical costs. However, many people are unaware of this option, or do not fully understand how it works. We at Deepwood think that pet insurance is a terrific idea, and we want to help you learn more about it. We’ve provided you with a primer below; if you have any questions, we’d be happy to help!
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is health insurance for your pet. As with other types of insurance, you sign up for a plan and pay a monthly premium. If your pet is injured or becomes ill, the insurance pays out to help cover the costs of veterinary care. Pet insurance is primarily used for cats and dogs, although individual providers may offer policies to cover other species.
Different insurance companies offer different types of plans. Some plans cover only illness and injury, and do not cover routine wellness exams, vaccines, or flea/tick/parasite preventatives. Other plans do cover preventative care. In this day and age, there are insurance plans to fit most budgets and lifestyles.
How Do Payment and Reimbursement Work?
With human health insurance, your doctor submits a bill or claim to the insurance company, and the insurance company pays the physician directly. Most pet insurances does not operate this way, as it is technically considered a form of property insurance. With most pet insurance companies, you pay your veterinary bill out-of-pocket as you normally would. Once you have paid your bill, you submit a claim, a copy of your receipt with proof of payment, and a copy of your pet’s records to the insurance company. A reimbursement check is then mailed directly to you.
What Does Insurance Cover?
The type of coverage depends a great deal upon the company you choose. However, most plans will cover the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, as well as physical injuries. Congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia may or may not be covered, depending upon your policy. Certain plans will cover complimentary medicine such as acupuncture or physical therapy. Medications may or may not be covered, depending upon the plan. The one consistent rule with pet insurance is that pre-existing conditions are not covered. This is true regardless of the age, breed or species of the pet. If your pet has a particular medical condition before you obtain insurance, you will not be reimbursed for treatment of that condition. Any other problems that crop up, however, will likely qualify for coverage.
Why Should I Get Pet Insurance?
One in three pets will need unexpected medical treatment each year*. The tendency may be to associate increasing costs with increasing age, but even younger pets often require trips to the vet. According to 2010 claims data from insurance company Petplan, dogs under a year of age are actually 2.5 times more likely than older dogs to need an impromptu visit to the vet. Nowadays, there are more lifesaving diagnostics and treatments available to our pets than ever – options like surgery, MRI, or chemotherapy. However, these options do come with a price tag attached, and not everyone’s finances are equal. The point of having pet insurance is to allow you to make an educated decision about what is best for your family and for your pet without having to worry over costs. Pet insurance can help provide you with peace of mind – you can relax knowing that if (heaven forbid) your pet should get sick or injured, your costs can be substantially reduced.
Does Insurance Have Any Effect on My Veterinarian?
No! Since reimbursement is paid from the insurance company directly to you, your vet’s office is unaffected. Unlike human medicine, pet insurance companies have no influence upon the number of patients veterinarians must see in a day, the length of appointments, or the costs of services. Plus, no matter what insurance you have, you can use it to see any veterinarian. There is no such thing as “out-of-network” in veterinary medicine. So whether your pet is coming to see us, headed to the orthopedic specialist for knee surgery, or visiting the internist for endoscopy, you’re covered!
What Questions Should I Ask When Researching Insurance Companies?
- Does this policy cover hereditary and/or chronic conditions?
Some medical or orthopedic conditions may require lifelong treatment, and 40% of all pet insurance claims are for chronic conditions which last longer than a year**. Not all insurance plans continue to provide coverage long-term, but better plans will. You should also check to see whether coverage for chronic conditions may cause an increase in your rate premium
- Are there per-condition or yearly limits?
Many plans limit how much can be be paid out per medical condition. Others have an annual limit instead, but no condition-specific payout limits.
- How well-established is this company?
Make sure to chose a company with a solid track record of coverage and payment, one well-established with a rated underwriter.
- Is the policy customizable?
Family budgets are not “one size fits all” – insurance shouldn’t be either. Look for a plan with more than one option for premium, copay, and total yearly or per-condition limits, so that you can find an option that suits you best. If you’re not sure what the options are, don’t be afraid to call the company and ask.
When choosing a pet insurance company, be sure to do careful, thorough research, and read the fine print. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Pet Insurance Review is a good place to familiarize yourself with the most of the insurance companies on the market. We’d also be happy to talk to you about insurance the next time you’re in with your pet – just ask!