Reviewed by Dr. Scott Spaulding
Pet insurance has been around for awhile now. However, while most pet owners know that pet insurance is a thing, less than 1% of pets are insured in the U.S. and Canada.
What holds pet owners back from investing in pet insurance? Most people don’t understand how it works. While many providers have simplified their plans to make pet insurance less confusing, we know there are still lots of questions about it.
Here are answers to some of the common questions surrounding pet insurance.
How does pet insurance work?
Like human health insurance, pet insurance helps reduce the costs of veterinary care for your pet. And just like human health insurance, plans come with different levels of coverage and a variety of deductibles, co-pays, and premiums.
One major difference between pet insurance and human insurance is that pet insurance is more of a reimbursement program.
- You pay your vet bill.
- You submit a claim to your pet insurance company.
- Your pet insurance company pays you back directly.
Unlike human health insurance, you must pay your vet bill up front and then file a claim for reimbursement. The good news is that some insurance providers have a quick turnaround time on processing claims, and you receive your reimbursement fast.
What does pet insurance cover?
Pet insurance plans can cover accidents, or accidents and illness. Accident coverage is for injuries related to an accident, like broken bones, bite wounds, and swallowed objects. Illness coverage is for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, ear infections, upset stomach, and urinary issues.
Some providers now offer wellness coverage that will reimburse for preventative health services such as annual wellness exams, vaccinations, and dental cleanings. Wellness or preventative coverage is an add-on.
Some policies exclude hereditary conditions and those genetically linked to certain breeds (ex. hip dysplasia in a giant breed). However, some plans will cover hereditary conditions or can with an add-on for an additional cost.
No pet insurance policies cover pre-existing conditions, which are defined as conditions that occur before coverage begins or during a waiting period. However, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance no longer considers a condition to be pre-existing if it’s cured and free of treatment and symptoms for 180 days.
How much does pet insurance cost?
The cost of pet insurance is based on several factors, including a pet’s breed, age, health, and location. Cost also varies based on the coverage you choose. A healthy puppy or kitten is generally the least expensive pet to insure … and they are also pets who can get into costly trouble. Older pets are more expensive to insure, so it may not make as much financial sense to insure a senior pet.
The average cost of pet insurance is about $22 a month for dogs and about $16 a month for cats, according to Consumer Reports.
In addition to your annual premium, many plans have a deductible -- the amount you must pay out of pocket for services before coverage kicks in. Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Just pay attention to whether a deductible is annual, per incident, or per visit. Your best option is an annual deductible -- once you reach the limit, you are set for the year.
As for reimbursement amounts, some plans offer payout tiers after the deductible is met, for instance, 80%, 90%, or 100% payout. The higher the payout percentage, the higher the annual premium.
Like other forms of insurance (car, home, etc.), pet insurance won’t necessarily “save” you money. However, there’s no way to predict future illnesses or injuries. Pet insurance can be a valuable investment and safety net.
How do you choose the right insurance policy for your pet?
If you’re considering pet insurance, do your homework. All plans are different. Get free quotes, review terms and conditions, and check out provider websites. A few things to watch for include:
- Breed exclusions or higher premiums for certain breeds
- Age limits
- Multi-pet discounts
- Genetic or hereditary condition exclusions
- Optional extra coverage (i.e. wellness)
Check out Pet Insurance Review to compare rates and coverage from leading pet insurers: www.PetInsuranceReview.com.
Pet insurance helps protect you from large unexpected and emergency vet bills. It can provide the peace of mind knowing that money doesn’t have to be a factor in major medical decisions. But knowing that pet insurance does come with its own cost, you can take other positive steps to save money and improve your pet’s health:
- Keep up with your pet’s annual wellness exams and preventative care (which you could get reimbursed for with wellness coverage).
- Take advantage of rebates on preventatives or other savings through sources like our Online Pharmacy.
- Get your pet spayed or neutered. It helps reduce pet overpopulation and reduces the risk of some cancers.
Pet insurance can be confusing, we know. If you have questions about pet insurance, please ask us at your pet’s next appointment. We’d be happy to chat!