If you’ve ever faced a pet health emergency or unexpected illness and struggled to pay for treatment, you aren’t alone. And, the experience may have prompted you to investigate pet health insurance. But, similar to human medical insurance, pet insurance can be confusing and overwhelming. Check out our list of questions to consider before choosing a medical insurance plan for your furry friend.
- Is the provider licensed to sell insurance in your state? And, will it protect your pet if you travel across state lines? Not all insurance providers are licensed for every state. Be sure the company you’re considering is licensed in your state and any state you may be thinking of moving to. If you end up having to switch companies or plans, any medical conditions covered by your previous provider may be considered pre-existing and won’t be covered by a new company and policy. If moving or traveling is in your future, choose a plan that will move with you.
- What are other customers saying about the quality of care they receive? Check out customer reviews to get a good feel about coverage options, reimbursement rates, and customer service.
- How much is the premium, and how will that change over time? Companies may base your monthly cost on your pet’s age and breed, various lifestyle factors, and where you live. Naturally, older pets are costlier to insure and may be uninsurable if they have pre-existing health conditions. Certain breeds are at increased risk of developing various health conditions, which may bump up the cost of your premium.
- How much is the deductible? Some companies allow you to choose your deductible, which will impact your monthly premium. Also, find out if the deductible applies annually or to each emergency or illness.
- What is the reimbursement rate? Reimbursement rates can vary from 25 to 90 percent once your deductible is met.
- How does the company handle payouts? Most companies require you to pay your veterinary bill in full at the time of service, file a claim, and wait for reimbursement. Sometimes, it can take a month or longer to receive the funds, which can put you into a tight spot financially. At TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Bethel, we recommend Trupanion, which pays us directly at the time of service, requiring you to only pay 10 percent out-of-pocket once your deductible has been met. If you are worried about having a large chunk of cash available in case of an emergency, direct vet payments are the way to go.
- What does the policy cover? Can you purchase any additional coverage options? Just like with human health insurance, there are levels, or tiers, of coverage offered. Some cover accidents only, while others include wellness care and vaccines. Not all plans include dental insurance, which is an important part of pet health care, since almost all pets have some form of dental disease by the age of three. Investigate additional coverage options, and add what you think your pet may need. Choose from:
- Wellness care, such as annual vaccinations, heartworm, flea, and tick prevention, and wellness visits
- Dental coverage, including cleanings, X-rays, and extractions
- Holistic care, covering acupuncture or chiropractor treatments
- Specialist referrals
- Are there any pre-existing conditions excluding your pet from coverage? If you adopt an older pet and choose to purchase health insurance, some medical issues may not be covered. When choosing a policy, don’t delay; begin coverage as soon as possible to limit pre-existing conditions. Discuss what conditions are considered pre-existing with your provider of choice before choosing a policy.
- Can you choose your veterinarian, or must you pick from a network? Building a bond with your veterinarian from kitten or puppyhood and then being told she is not included in your insurance provider’s network will throw your chosen plan out the window. Before reaching an agreement with a provider, ensure that your veterinary team is part of the covered network to avoid out-of-pocket fees.
Struggling to find an insurance policy that suits your pet’s needs? Call us with your questions. We’re here to help protect your best friend!