Every pet parent hopes that their pet’s path to a healthy life will be smooth, but the reality is, you can’t always see the bumps in the road. In fact, one in three pets will require unexpected veterinary care each year, and every six seconds, a pet parent is faced with a vet bill for more than $1,000. Pet insurance can help keep your budget intact when you’re faced with big bills - but how do you choose the right plan for your furry family? The following advice can help your family find the perfect pet insurance fit.
When looking for a pet health insurance provider, the most important question to answer is, “What’s covered?” Look for a plan that covers all hereditary and chronic conditions. Also, check to make sure the coverage is standard, meaning it doesn’t require an additional premium, and there are no age, breed or condition-specific coverage limits. Be sure that your plan covers all diagnostic treatments, even if a final diagnosis for a condition is never reached, as is sometimes the case. Be sure the exam fee for the visit is also covered, as some insurers will exclude that from coverage.
According to claims data, 40% of all claims received are for chronic conditions that last beyond 12 months. Many are common health issues associated with a pet’s advancing age, such as arthritis or metabolic diseases such as diabetes or kidney failure (especially in cats). Some providers will only cover a chronic condition for the first year; when the policy renews, the condition becomes pre-existing. Be sure the pet insurance you select covers chronic conditions for the life of your pet as standard, so that both you and your pet can enjoy many years of comfortable companionship.
Most pet insurance providers operate on a reimbursement basis, meaning you pay your veterinarian directly, and the pet insurer pays you back. However, based on the provider you select, there may be differences in how much you will be reimbursed. Look for a pet insurance provider who reimburses what your veterinarian charges you, minus your chosen deductible and copay. Avoid any who use a benefit schedule or ‘usual and customary’ tables to determine reimbursement, which can leave you bearing the brunt of the bill if costs exceed the predetermined condition limit.
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few choices of provider, check to see what other pet parents think before you buy. Research online and compare customer reviews to help you find the best pet insurance provider available, and one that is a good fit for you.
The Terms and Conditions are your user’s guide to your pet insurance policy. They clearly lay out what is and is not covered by your policy, explain any waiting periods or money-back guarantees, and define certain terms such as “pre-existing condition.” Some pet insurance providers offer complimentary underwriting during the first 30 days of the policy, helping customers know exactly what will and will not be covered under the policy at the point of claim.
The number one reason people cite for not purchasing a pet insurance policy is that they didn’t get around to it. Oftentimes, pet parents will wait until their pet is already injured or ailing before looking into pet insurance. The truth is, the best time to protect your pet is now. Insuring your pet when she is young and healthy, before any problems arise, ensures that any accidents, illnesses, and injuries will be covered, with no concern about pre-existing conditions. Not to mention, young pets are 2.5 times more likely to have an unexpected visit to the vet.
Some pet parents believe that purebred pets, or pets that come from a breeder, are healthier than other kinds of pets - especially shelter or rescued pets, which tend to be mixed-breed dogs and cats. But good parentage doesn’t necessarily mean a clean bill of health. Many purebred dogs and cats, even those who come from the most reputable breeders, are more prone to inherited diseases that are genetically linked to their breed. For instance, most people know a Labrador who has battled hip dysplasia at some stage of their life. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, who, because of their breed, are genetically predisposed to Mitral Valve Disease. So, whether your pet is a fourth-generation champion or a mix-up-muttigree, pet insurance can help prepare you for anything.
Pet insurance allows you to take your veterinarian’s advice in pursuing the best possible course of treatment available to your pet. Many veterinarians today look to both Western and complementary therapies to treat a condition or disease. Make sure the provider you choose covers fees for specialist and referral veterinary treatment, including cardiology, dermatology, orthopedics, and oncology (cancer treatments), to name a few, as well as acupuncture, hydrotherapy or chiropractic treatment. Be careful to select a pet insurance provider who offers full coverage for these treatments as standard, rather than requiring an additional premium or limiting coverage for these treatments.
While some plans may have a lower monthly premium than others, make sure that the coverage it affords you is as extensive as your pet may need. Will it cover chronic conditions for the life of your pet, or only for the first year? Will it cover any diagnostics or treatments your vet recommends, like MRIs, chemotherapy or hip replacement surgery? Lower premiums don’t necessarily mean better value – especially if it comes at the expense of coverage.
Wellness plans cover regular expenses that most pet parents typically budget for, including annual visits, vaccines and monthly preventatives. They generally don’t cover costlier conditions, including accidents and injuries, so if your pet needs an unexpected vet visit for eating (another) pair of socks, or over-indulging (without your permission) in a chocolate feast, you could be left facing a difficult decision for the wellbeing of your pet, due to cost.
For many of us, dogs and cats are not just pets – they’re members of the family. While every parent wants to provide their pets with the best care possible, sometimes the high costs can force you to ask your vet for less expensive alternatives. Pet insurance can help you say “yes” to the treatments your vet recommends to get your four-legged friend back on her paws. Doing your homework before purchasing a policy will help give you peace of mind that if an emergency arises, you won’t have to think twice about choosing a life-saving treatment, knowing your pet – and your budget – will survive.
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