What To Know About Pet Insurance?
If your pet was injured or hospitalized tomorrow, would you be able to afford the bill? so that’s the reason we need to have proper knowledge about Pet Insurance.
California has the highest average veterinary costs for dogs and cats in the nation. According to Petplan’s “List of States with the Highest Unexpected Veterinary Costs,” the average bill for unexpected veterinarian care in California is $1,521.18.
Some of the most common conditions that require vet treatment can be quite pricey: cancer care averages $2,033, treating a dog’s cruciate joint injury can set you back $3,480, and you can expect to pay about $1,755 to treat foreign body ingestion.
With all that in mind, you may want to consider pet insurance to be prepared for the unexpected.
Shopping for pet insurance can be confusing and overwhelming, just like shopping for your insurance. There are plenty of options to choose from, and most insurers typically offer multiple tiers of coverage, ranging from basic and accident-only coverage, comprehensive and premier options.
Before we go too far, let’s start with a refresher on some insurance terminology:
Caps — The maximum amount the insurer will pay in a pet’s lifetime, a set time, or per-incident.
Congenital condition — Condition present at birth that might not show until later on, such as heart, liver, or ocular disease.
Co-pay — Amount the policy requires you to pay out-of-pocket for each claim.
Deductible — Amount the policy requires you to pay out-of-pocket during a given time, usually a year before insurance benefits cover the costs. There are usually two types of deductibles, per incident and annual. In general, the higher your deductible, the lower your annual premium will be.
Hereditary condition — Condition passed down from a pet’s parents. Purebred dogs are especially susceptible. Examples include hip and elbow dysplasia and epilepsy.
Payout — Amount, the insurance company, reimburses you. Generally, the higher your payout-reimbursement percentage, the more you’ll pay in monthly premiums.
Pre-existing condition — An illness or injury that your pet had before coverage started or that came to be during the waiting period before the policy became effective.
Premium — Amount you pay every month or annually to keep the policy active.
Waiting period — Amount of time before coverage begins. Waiting periods can range from one to 14 days for accidents, 14 to 30 days for an illness, and 14 days for up to one year for orthopedic issues and certain medical conditions.
Now that we have become reacquainted with some general terms let’s get down to what determines insurance premiums and what may or may not be covered.
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Pet insurance monthly premiums can vary widely based on an animal’s age, breed, weight, gender, location, and level of coverage chosen. In general, the premiums are higher for larger dogs than older pets, just as insurance rates are higher for older humans who tend to have more health conditions.
It is important to note that insurance premiums do not cover pre-existing conditions — generally, conditions that cannot be cured. However, each company’s definition of a pre-existing condition varies, so you’ll need to ask a company representative for the list of conditions.
Additionally, pet insurance usually doesn’t cover wellness and preventive care, such as routine office visits, vaccines, annual blood work, spay/neuter, dental cleanings, and heartworm medications. Some insurance providers do offer separate wellness plans.
So then, what is covered? As mentioned before, plans vary widely, but here are some examples of what may be covered, keeping in mind that each plan may cover these in different tiers or not at all.
Accidents, illness, and injuries
X-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds
What might be considered an add-on or specialty service for one insurer may be classified as an essential service for another provider, such as hereditary and congenital conditions, cancer, dental care, alternative care, or loss due to theft or straying.
A notable difference between individual health insurance and pet insurance is that you must pay the veterinarian bill first and then submit a claim to be reimbursed. Reimbursement generally takes anywhere between five and ten working days and can come in the form of a check in the mail, direct deposit to your bank account, or through a mobile app.
When deciding on an insurance carrier, be sure to get at least three quotes, and ask friends and family for their recommendations. I’ve listed a few things to consider when doing your research.
Is there a cap to coverage? Or is there an unlimited coverage option?
What are the insurance policy’s exclusions?
What is considered a pre-existing condition?
Is congenital and hereditary coverage available?
What is the reimbursement process and timeline to receive a check? Is direct deposit an option?
Are there age limits to the policy?
Can you still see the same veterinarian under the insurance plan you choose?
Does the policy cover experimental, investigative, or alternative procedures?
How much do annual premiums increase over the life of the pet?
If you are insuring more than one pet, is a multi-pet discount offered?
What is other optional extra coverage available?
Are prescriptions covered?
If this feels like a lot to digest, don’t worry. In the next column, we will examine the average cost of premiums and examples of common veterinary emergencies and their costs and determine reimbursement rates. With a little know-how, you can decide how best to prepare for your pet’s future and any unexpected vet costs.
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