Pet insurance has been available for several years, but only 1% of pet owners carry it. Having pet insurance for an emergency may be the answer you need to budget concerns. Although most pet insurance companies do not cover regular care such as vaccinations, routine physicals, or elective surgery, they do handle emergencies if your pet breaks a leg and needs surgery or treatment for other conditions.
Some pet-insurance plans include prescription medication and laboratory tests. Other policies cover annual visits but hereditary diseases or visits to specialists. Generally, you choose your vet, pay the bill, and then send in your claim for reimbursement.
In theory, pet insurance sounds like a great idea. Just like with human beings, health insurance for pets allows you to prepay some of the future veterinary costs that your pet is likely to incur. However, theory and practice aren't always identical. For example, one major pet health insurer covers the cost of spaying and neutering but not the cost of anesthesia required for either procedure. Before making a decision whether or not to purchase pet insurance, read all fine print and call the representative to discuss what is covered and what isn't. Request a complete list of what's covered, especially exclusions of genetic conditions that can occur in your pet. There's nothing worse than assuming the bill will be paid, only to discover when funds are short that it was not covered.
Ten Questions To Ask Every Provider
Before choosing a pet insurance or membership plan, be sure to get straightforward answers to all your questions. If it makes you more comfortable, get the answers in writing.
- Does your policy follow free/benefits schedule? If so, please send me your detailed coverage limits. In the meantime, please give me examples of coverage limits for three common canine procedures so I can compare them to my current veterinary charges.
- Does your policy cover basic wellness care, or does it cover only accidents and illnesses? Do you offer wellness care endorsement that I can purchase on top of my basic plan for an additional fee? What other endorsements do you offer, and how much do they cost?
- Under your policy rules, can I continue taking my dog to his current veterinarian, or do I need to switch to another veterinarian?
- Does your policy cover hereditary conditions, congenital conditions, or pre-existing conditions? Please explain each coverage or exclusion as it pertains specifically to my dog. Is there is feature where pre-existing conditions will be covered if my dog's pre-existing condition requires no treatment after a specific period? What is that period?
- What happens to my premium and to my dog's policy if your company goes out of business? What guarantees do I have that I won't be throwing my money away?
- How quickly do you pay claims?
- What is your policy deductible? Does the deductible apply per incident or annually? How does the deductible differ per plan?
- Does the policy have payment limits over a year's period or during my pet's lifetime? How do the payment limits differ per plan?
- What is the A.M. Best Co. rating of your insurance underwriter, and what does that rating mean?
- Is there a cancellation period after I receive my policy or membership? How long do I have to review all my materials once I receive them, and what is the cancellation procedure?
You might consider one of several different pet-insurance plans such as an HMO or preventive program that includes vaccinations and teeth cleaning for example. Expect to pay a deductible before you receive any coverage. The amount of the deductible varies depending upon the plan you select. An insurance policy for your pet can cost from $10 to $70 a month, but some companies also offer discounts for multiple pets. The bottom line is that different plans have different benefits.
The one disadvantage to pet insurance is that coverage is limited. You may never need to use your policy or it may save you hundreds of dollars, but with pet insurance, you may be better able to choose the level of care your dog or cat receives.
How To Make An Insurance Claim
It is your responsibility as a policyholder to make the best use of your insurance plan. Take these steps to get the most
for your money:
- Designate a file for pet insurance forms
- Always take a claim form with you to the veterinarian's office. Many companies require a veterinarian's signature.
- Make copies of receipts. A receipt must accompany every claim form. Some companies require only copies; others require originals. Keep a copy for your record.
- Make copies of completed forms. If a question or payment issue arises, a copy to review on your end of the phone line will be reassuring.
- Note an acceptable payment period on your calendar. Reimbursement may slip your mind, and it may be delayed in cases where a problem is encountered and you forget to inquire about the payment's status.
- Mark claims paid and date received. Leave a paper trail that's easy to understand. Looking back a year later, you'll be glad for the notation.
Are There Any OTher Options?
There is another option that can help you with your veterinary bills. With this option, you pay a monthly fee, but do not pay for specific routine veterinary visits. Your dog will receive general care, such as vaccinations, checkups, yearly fecal exams, and even nail trimming, all covered under plan.
Some plans even include office visits when your pet is sick and certain diagnostic tests. These plans allow you to budget
payments monthly, instead of contending with a big expense at your dog's annual visit or when your dog is sick, and can end up providing significant savings. Many plans also offer discounts on other products and services available at the hospital, such as prescriptions and grooming. Also investigate savings plans.