When you bring a pet into your home, there are many decisions to make. You want to make sure that your pets have the proper food, a nice place to sleep and plenty of toys.
To keep your pets in the best possible health, you make sure they get their daily exercise and take them every year for their annual vet check-ups.
But, what happens if your dog or cat ends up getting sick and needs emergency vet care? You, of course, would want your pet to have the best care possible, but this could leave you with a very expensive medical bill.
This is the type of scenario when pet owners are very glad that they have pet insurance. To have the financial ability to pay for this or any unexpected medical bills.
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is a policy that will cover any illness, injury, or accident that might occur with your cat, dog, or any pet you have.
It is a policy, similar to our personal health insurance, that if your pet gets a sudden illness or even a simple paw injury, the pet insurance provider will pay a big portion of your medical bill.
If your pet gets seriously ill or hurt, pet insurance helps to pay for the best care possible for your pet without breaking the bank.
Most pet insurance plans will pay up to 90% of the vet bill, and this can be a huge financial relief since the cost of veterinary care is consistently rising. It really isn’t uncommon for a vet bill to be
$10,000, even for a minor incident.
Pet insurance will not only pay for the treatment but the lab work and testing that goes with it.
Pet insurance will not cover any pre-existing illness or condition, which is why it’s best to purchase pet insurance when your dog is a puppy or cat is a kitten, and before any condition develops.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
There is a lot to know before signing up for a pet health insurance plan. There are many factors that not only affect the coverage you have but can also affect the price of medical care.
The Different Types of Coverage
There are three different kinds of coverage:
Comprehensive Pet Insurance
Comprehensive pet insurance is the best, most all-inclusive of the plans and is always the one recommended.
Plans include coverage for all accidents, injuries, diabetes, cancer, chronic allergies, and almost all other incidents or illnesses or health conditions that your pet might encounter. However comprehensive plans generally do not cover exam fees.
Comprehensive pet insurance allows you to be covered for virtually every issue that might happen to your pet, which is why you enrolled in pet insurance in the first place.
If your dog or cat suddenly develops diabetes, a comprehensive plan will allow you to get treatment for your dog’s illness for the rest of his or her life. Comprehensive plans will also cover most chronic conditions such as allergies.
Comprehensive plans will also help you pay for the vet visits and the treatment necessary to maintain diabetes.
Some pets will not qualify for comprehensive plans if their breeds are prone to specific conditions.
Accident Only Pet Insurance
Accident only pet insurance, as the name implies, covers only accidents. It will also cover swallowed objects and anything accident-related. It will not cover any illness, which is why this type of insurance can be limiting.
Wellness Pet Insurance
Coverage for routine and preventative care visits and procedures.
Wellness plans will help with costs of dental care if that is of interest to you as well as other services such as flea and tick prevention, spaying and neutering as well as other more routine procedures.
Wellness plans are not stand-alone policies but can only be added to any comprehensive or accident plan for a nominal fee.
Now that you know the kind of coverage that is available, there are some other considerations when signing up for pet insurance:
Benefit limits are the amount that each pet insurance company will pay out in the policy calendar year. This can be very important because you want to know how much you can be reimbursed for any of your medical bills and don’t want to reach a cap.
Some pet insurance providers offer countless benefits, which is always the best and most comforting because you don’t have to worry about ever reaching a limit if your pet has a big vet bill.
The four types of Benefit limits are the following:
Unlimited Lifetime Benefits
Unlimited lifetime benefits are when there is no cap or limit that the pet insurance company pays you back throughout your pet’s life. You can see how this would be the most preferable, especially if your pet has a serious illness and needs treatment for the rest of his life.
Annual Maximum Benefits
Annual Maximum is when there is an annual cap each year that the pet insurance company will pay. It can range from $10,000 to $20,000 or more.
But, this cap can be limiting if your pet gets very sick or hurt.
Annual Per-Incident Benefits
Annual per incident means that the company will only pay a set amount each calendar year for an illness or condition.
If the limits are low, you can easily be paying out of pocket the balance.
Lifetime Maximum Benefits
The lifetime maximum benefit structure is the most the pet insurance will pay you for the rest of your pet’s life for a certain condition.
Again, if your pet is seriously ill, you can hit that limit quickly.
A deductible is an amount you first pay on each medical bill before the pet insurance company reimburses you.
There is usually a range of deductible options that you can choose from, and if you want a lower premium, a higher deductible is the better choice.
There are three types of deductibles:
The annual deductible is paid only one time per year on your first vet bill. Once you have reached your deductible (that can range from $100 to $1,000), you don’t have to pay it again that policy year.
The annual deductible is preferable because you know exactly what you are paying each year.
The deductible resets each year.
Per-Condition Lifetime Deductible
The pre-condition lifetime deductible lists the amount of deductible you need to pay for each different condition or illness for the lifetime of your pet.
Once the deductible is met, the pet insurance company will pay for the condition for the rest of your pets’ life.
This can be a good option if your pet has a serious illness; however, you still have to pay a deductible for each illness.
Per-Condition Annual Deductible
The pre-condition annual deductible will specify certain deductibles per each condition. This type of deductible will reset each policy year.
When signing up for a plan, you also need to choose what type of reimbursement type you would like.
There are typically 3 different reimbursement choices:
The actual cost reimbursements pay you back on your actual vet bill after you meet your deductible.
Most pet insurance plans allow you to choose from a 65% to 90% reimbursement rate and if you choose the lower range, you will be reimbursed less, and the higher end will reimburse more of the bill.
The benefit schedule reimbursement model is not as preferable because they spell out the maximum amount you can be reimbursed for each specific occurrence.
If your dog injures his paw two times in the same year, you will probably hit the limit quickly.
Usual and Customary (UCR)
Usual and customary, while not as common in most pet insurance plans, will only reimburse you the amount that the insurance company thinks is usually charged for that condition and geographic area. This is too random and arbitrary.
The Price of Pet Insurance
Now that you can see the different coverage options, the price of pet insurance depends on many different factors: the plan you choose, the type of pet you have, the city in which you live and the age of your pet.
If you live in the city, you can expect to pay more for your pet insurance than if you live in a more rural community.
The monthly premiums will usually average from $150 to $500 a month.
Dogs are more expensive than cats to insure.
When Is Pet Insurance Really Necessary?
Pet insurance is the insurance and assurance that you can cover your pet’s bills.
While some cats, dogs, or even birds might not need it, certain breeds are pre-disposed to specific hereditary conditions. And most of these conditions are expensive to treat.
For example, Labradors tend to have hip and elbow issues, and hip surgery can be very expensive.
This is when pet insurance can be very valuable and a necessity.
Your vet is always a good resource to find out what conditions or illness that might occur with your specific pet and breed.
Final Thoughts on Pet Insurance
Pet insurance is very valuable to have if your pet has a serious accident or injury.
There might be some years where your dog or cat is healthy all year long, and you are paying for something that you might not need.
However, with the monthly costs of most pet insurance policies being very reasonable, pet insurance can certainly be worth it.
You will know that you can always pay for whatever happens to your pet tomorrow or in the future.
Lisa Fimberg is a writer for Consumers Advocate.org, a site that provides information on the best of everything from RV insurance to pet insurance. The team at Consumers Advocate.org came up with a very detailed guide that not only details how pet insurance works but also the best companies to offer pet insurance.