Is pet insurance worth it?
Vets now have more options than ever before to treat illness and injury in our furry friends. But with no Medicare in place for pets, dog and cat owners may find themselves unable to afford the cost of expensive vet bills — pet insurance can cover those costs.
Most vets recommend that owners take out pet insurance as they’ve witnessed first-hand when treatable animals have to be put down because their owners can’t afford the vet bills.
What pet insurance options do I have?
- Comprehensive. This helps pay veterinary, pharmaceutical and other costs related to accidents or illness.
- Accidental Injury. This covers veterinary expenses related to accidental injuries, such as broken bones.
- Wellness coverage. This covers the cost of routine pet care expenses, such as annual exams, spaying and neutering, heartworm prevention, vaccines, teeth cleaning and more.
You can choose policies that combine these three types of coverage:
This type of insurance covers routine preventive care. Think dental cleanings, wellness screenings, meds, vaccines and anything else that is going to keep you pet’s health in tip-top shape.
This type of insurance covers injuries caused by an accident — broken bones from car accidents, scratches from fighting with other animals or burns.
However, this policy does not pay out for all types of accidents. Tick and flea bites are often excluded. Injuries due to a pre-existing condition are also often excluded.
Comprehensive cover protects your four-legged friend from accidents, as well as sickness or disease. Your pet will be covered for conditions such as cancer, infectious diseases, hereditary illness, and skin conditions. Wellness coverage is an extra that can be applied on top of a comprehensive policy.
Is pet insurance right for me?
- Can help offset expensive vet bills.
- Fatal pet diseases can be covered.
- You can save money by obtaining several quotes.
- Custom coverage.
- You can get discounts if you insure more than one pet.
- Preexisting conditions may not covered — each insurer interprets preexisting conditions differently .
- Most policies will not cover older pets, and if they do, the level or coverage is reduced.
- There may be limits or caps per accident or per year.
- Some specific breed conditions will not be covered.
- Most providers don’t offer no-claims reimbursements, so what you spend on premium payments is gone.
Can’t I just put money into a savings account?
With the rising costs of vet care and the unpredictability of accidents, your pet might be in need of serious medical treatment before you have saved up enough money to cover the bill. Should your pet develop an ongoing, chronic illness, looking for an affordable insurance policy at that point would be very difficult. Pet insurance is beneficial for those high-cost ailments.
What extra coverage should I consider?
Like other insurance, pet insurance policies will often let you choose your own extras. Consider each carefully and look for the ones you’ll use most frequently that will benefit your pet the most.
The following are options to consider:
- Routine care. Routine care can be added onto most policies. This covers the cost of everyday care – from vaccinations to teeth cleaning.
- Overseas pet travel insurance. Extends your policy overseas. If you only travel with your pet occasionally, or always get separate travel insurance for your pet when you do, then it might be worth specifically avoiding this option.
- Dental illness. This covers conditions such as gingivitis, abscesses, and the removal of teeth.
- Essential euthanasia. Under this option, if euthanasia is deemed humane and essential course of action for your pet by your veterinarian, your insurance provider will cover the expenses involved in this process.
- Emergency boarding. Some pet insurance policies can cover the cost of boarding for your pet until you’re able to get home again.
What should I compare when shopping for pet insurance?
- Your annual benefit limit. Most pet insurance policies have a limit on the amount they’ll pay out annually. Since most people never reach their annual limit, it’s important to be aware of how much you can claim if the need arises.
- Vet bill costs. Ensure you’re aware of what percentage of eligible vet bills are payable. Some insurance policies can cover up to 90% of your veterinary bills.
- Deductible. Ensure you understand how much you will be paying in the event of a claim. Typically if you have a lower deductible you will have a higher premium.
- Age limits. Unfortunately, finding insurance for your pet after they hit their 13th birthday is difficult.
- Pre-existing conditions. Some insurers will automatically limit the level of coverage available if your pet has a pre-existing condition.
- Guaranteed renewability. Having a policy that is renewable is especially important for older pets. Check that your insurer offers this or your pet could be uninsured as it enters its senior years.
- Waiting periods. Be aware of what waiting periods apply. This will help you understand how long your pet could potentially be without insurance.
What exclusions should I be aware of?
- A malicious act, deliberate injury or gross negligence by you or even someone living with you.
- Treatment for diseases for which there is a known vaccine. This includes conditions like kennel cough and parvovirus.
- Some policies enforce a waiting period between six months to a year before covering cruciate ligament knee injuries.
- Vet costs for elective treatments. This can include things like orthodontic work or spaying and neutering.
- Routine vet care is also sometimes not covered, though you may be able to purchase additional coverage for this.
- If you fail to take all the reasonable steps to care for your pet, including not following the instructions of your vet, you won’t be able to make a claim.
- Behavioral problems or any conditions caused by behavioral problems.
- Breeding or obstetrics, or any conditions resulting from these.
- Genetic testing.
- Grooming, including shampoos, baths, dips or any cosmetic surgeries.
- Transport or boarding expenses.
- Not all after hour vet care is covered.
- Training, socialization and any alternative therapies.
- Any pet food or supplements, no matter whether they’ve been recommended by your vet or not.
- Ambulance fees and non-essential hospitalization.
- Medication not approved or listed by the FDA.
- Organ transplant surgery, artificial limbs or prosthetics.
- Limitations on tick paralysis treatment.
My pet has pre-existing conditions. What should I know?
Pre-existing conditions are those which were present in some form prior to taking out a policy or during the waiting period immediately afterwards. Typically, the following are considered pre-existing conditions:
- Any conditions previously diagnosed
- Any conditions that showed symptoms before you took out a policy
- Any conditions previously treated or in remission
Getting pet insurance early means you’re more likely to be able to claim costs for conditions that develop early in the pet’s life. However, insurers are within their rights to adjust the cost or terms of your policy afterwards to reflect the increased cost.
To ensure continuity of insurance in these circumstances, you can look for a lifetime pet insurance policy, or one that comes with guaranteed insurability.
Pet insurance traps to avoid
Pet insurance policies generally provide a good value, but you need to pay attention to some details:
- Don’t underestimate limits. Limits, combined with deductibles, can considerably reduce the reimbursement percentage of pet insurance. For example, if you claim $2000, your compensation consists of 80% of the medical bills and you have a deductible of $500, you will be reimbursed $1100.
- Paying premiums following pet’s death. Premium payments should end in the event of the pet’s death. Some policies reportedly continued to charge premiums for a full year following the pet’s death.
- Confusing policy information. Make sure you know exactly what you will and won’t be covered for. Also, understand when a claim will and won’t be paid before signing up for insurance.
- Chronic care. You will need to check whether your pet’s chronic and recurring care is covered during older years.
Some common questions about pet insurance
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