From the moment they enter our lives, our pets burrow into our heart of hearts. They can be as tiny as toy puppies, or as tall as an Irish Wolfhound, but somehow, they nestle into our lives forever.
We want the best for them - they’re furry extensions of our families. But try as we might to make life easier for our pets, there will likely be unexpected accidents and illnesses out of our control. We hear about emergencies or medical problems our beloved pets face that can drain our rainy day funds (particularly in this economy).
This is where pet insurance can help. Pet insurance largely follows health insurance for people with co-payment rates and deductibles. It offers pet parents a financial investment towards your pet child’s health, and a priceless peace of mind that their medical troubles will be seen to.
Pet health insurance comes in many structures, sizes, and sums. This is why it is critical to compare different pet insurers’ plan offerings to make sure you’re paying the right price for the best and most sensible coverage. Your first step should be to conduct a site like ValuePenguin.com. Input some specs about your dog, survey the quotes for plans whose premiums fall within your budget, then review the plan coverage and exclusions to see what suits your pet best. To guide you through the complexity of pet insurance, I’ve shared below five tips:
Five Tips on Pet Insurance
- Core Coverage: Accident and Illness: Consider getting core coverage for accidents and illnesses. Accident-only plans are the cheapest option, and if you have a generally healthy mixed breed, this might be a good option for your family. It’s likely that at some point, your pet is going to have at least one accident and illness. Generally speaking, this base coverage can range on average from $20 - $40 a month (note that these estimates vary with features and your location). Plans offer options for wellness riders; you know the routine care your pet requires - does the additional premium each month adequately cover your pet’s preventive or routine needs?
- Learn your plan’s deductibles and limits: Insurers can structure benefit payments very differently, which is why it is extremely important to compare pet plan policies. Most plans ask you to pay a minimum amount before reimbursements for veterinary expenses start kicking in: this is the deductible. The tricky part is whether there is a true plan-wide deductible, or different deductibles for different categories. You have to ask this question - some insurance plans profess to a plan-wide deductible, but in finer print, will note a different deductible for carved-out illnesses. Next is policy limits: these can be thought of as ceilings, or the maximum that insurers will pay out. Is there an annual, incident, or lifetime limit? If a pet has cancer, which can require multiple rounds of treatment and therapy, is the insurance only covering up to $1,000 per year or $2,500 for the lifetime limit? These types of illnesses can cost upwards of thousands.
- Know your pet’s breed history: See if there are any genetic conditions or illnesses he or she is predisposed to, and check that the insurer covers that medical event for your dog’s breed. Keep in mind there can be age limits; some plans will only cover hereditary or congenital diseases if your pet is enrolled prior to his or her second birthday. This is more common with certain purebreds.
- Read the fine print, especially on what gets covered. I found insurers who excluded different items from their claims reimbursements. Do companies cover the vet office visit fee, the diagnosis and treatment fees, and prescription medications? Compare policies from different pet insurers to arm yourself with information.
- Insure your pet sooner rather than later: Insurance providers start phasing older dogs out of general medical coverage, and this can begin as early as six years of age. They also universally don’t cover pre-existing conditions, so by the time Fido or Kitty develops something, it will likely be too late to get a plan that will pay for their diagnosis and treatment.
Ting Pen is a co-founder of ValuePenguin.com, a website that helps consumers make spending decisions based on research and data-driven tools. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to far-off destinations and eating out at new restaurants.