To avoid a difficult, possibly heartbreaking decision between finances and your pet’s care, pet health insurance is a must. In times of a serious accident, life-threatening illness, or chronic medical condition, having the financial capabilities to say, “Do whatever it takes to save my pet,” is a blessing for many pet owners because of pet insurance. In addition, pet insurance can help you cover some of the preventive care costs for your dog or cat. However, before purchasing a policy with the first insurance provider you find, do your research, to find the right fit for you and your pet. Ask yourself the following questions about each insurance provider before making your final decision.
Question: What reputation does the insurance provider have?
Answer: Consider customer service, reliability, and transparency when choosing an insurance provider. A friendly, open, customer service agent will answer all your questions about policies, claims, and reimbursements with ease, and contacting one should not be a hassle. Also, check the AM Best and Better Business Bureau ratings, to determine the provider’s reliability, trustworthiness, and financial stability. If a provider has a less-than-stellar financial reputation, they may be a risk for reimbursements.
Q: What requirements must be met for my pet to qualify for an insurance policy?
A: In most cases, your pet must have a recent physical exam performed by their veterinarian to qualify for coverage. Some insurers have restrictions or exclusions based on age and breed, particularly for senior pets prone to age-related conditions. In all cases, insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions, although this clause can have some leeway. For example, if your puppy had kennel cough that was successfully treated, a future kennel cough diagnosis and treatment will likely be covered. If the condition is incurable, such as hip dysplasia, this pre-existing condition will not be covered. Lack of coverage for pre-existing conditions means you won’t be eligible to receive pet insurance benefits for treating a pet’s specific health condition that existed when you took out the insurance policy, although you may still qualify for other coverage.
Q: What coverage options are available?
A: Before investigating insurance options for your pet, determine how much coverage you want. Some providers offer more extensive coverage choices, and may be your best choice for out-of-the-box coverage. Common coverage options include:
- Accident and illness care — Great to have in an emergency, accident and illness coverage is ideal for unexpected situations, such as being hit by a car, that can create hefty bills, making this basic policy essential for your peace of mind.
- Wellness care — While many pet owners prefer to budget for wellness care, since this expense is relatively easy to plan, insurance providers typically offer wellness coverage for routine care, such as physical exams, vaccinations, and parasite prevention.
- Pre-existing conditions — Some insurance providers offer more wiggle room in their pre-existing conditions clause, while others refuse reimbursement if your pet has a treatable condition during enrollment. For example, if your cat has a urinary tract infection on enrollment, check if the provider will cover the condition’s recurrences.
- Genetic or hereditary conditions — Some breeds are prone to numerous genetic conditions, like allergies, heart defects, hip dysplasia, and ocular disorders. Bulldogs are one example—ensure the provider covers genetic or hereditary conditions that may appear later in life.
- Diagnostic testing — Blood work, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests can form the bulk of a bill for a sick pet, so ask the provider about their amount of coverage for diagnostic testing.
- Medications — Reimbursement for prescription and nonprescription products may be important to include in your pet’s insurance policy.
- Alternative therapies — Acupuncture, chiropractic, hydrotherapy, and other alternative treatments pair well with traditional therapies, but often need to be added to the main insurance policy.
- Specialist treatment — If your pet develops cancer or a complicated endocrine disease, a specialist’s treatment will likely be necessary. Ensure your policy includes coverage for such a possibility, since specialty care can be extensive and costly.
Q: How much can I afford for the premium and deductible?
A: A premium is the monthly payment you make to the insurance provider to cover your pet, while the deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket for your pet’s care. These two costs have an inverse relationship, meaning low premiums have high deductibles, and vice versa. Determine what best fits your budget.
Q: How does the claims process work?
A: Filing a claim and receiving reimbursement can be a confusing process, so discuss the steps with the provider. Ask about potential caps on annual or lifetime reimbursement for certain conditions. Also, ask whether the provider pays your veterinarian directly, so you don’t have to worry about paying the bill, and then waiting for reimbursement. Each provider’s claims process varies, so ensure you understand how your policy works.
No matter the reimbursement model for your pet insurance, we do require complete payment at the time of service. If you would like us to submit paid invoices for you, we need only a signed claim form on file. Our CSR team is well-versed in this process, so please ask if you have questions! We then leave any reimbursement follow-up or appeals in your hands.
Are you unsure which insurance provider offers the best options for your pet? Contact our 360 Pet Medical team to discuss health issues that are common in your pet’s breed, and the coverage that would best protect your four-legged friend.