Pets hold a special place in our hearts, becoming cherished members of our families. Just as we prioritize our own health care, ensuring our pets' well-being is essential. Pet health insurance has emerged as a valuable resource, offering numerous benefits that promote both financial stability and optimal care for our furry companions.
There are many options out there, but just like health care for humans, pet insurance can be challenging to sort out. Is pet insurance worth it for you? What types of insurance exist, what do they cost, and what is covered?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Most pet insurance policies provide a safety net for pet parents if their pet is injured, gets sick, or needs laboratory tests, surgeries, medications, hospitalization, or treatment for conditions that have been present since birth. Some policies will cover more routine preventive care like wellness visits, dental work, behavioral therapy, and even acupuncture or chiropractic adjustments.
Usually, pet parents are responsible for paying bills upfront, and then they submit a claim to the insurance company. Pet owners are responsible for keeping all the paperwork: receipts, invoices, and medical records. If you have a good relationship with your clinic, sometimes the staff will help with the process, making sure you have the right documentation.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you are comparing plans.
Deductibles. The deductible is the amount you need to pay before the insurance kicks in. Just like for people, lower premiums usually mean higher deductibles.
Waiting periods. Many policies have a waiting period before your pet is covered after you start paying the premiums.
Reimbursement rate. Once you meet your deductible, you'll want to know how much will be reimbursed to you. This is usually between 60% and 100% of eligible expenses. That is, if the eligible expense is $100, then you could expect to be reimbursed from $60 to $100.
Payout limits. Some policies offer unlimited payouts (that sounds amazing), but others will have a limit per condition or per year.
Coverage exclusions. It’s important to understand what is and isn’t covered. You can’t buy pet insurance to cover past bills or, in most cases, to cover preexisting health conditions, which are health problems that your animal had before they were insured.
Do You Need Pet Insurance? It Depends
Whether you need pet insurance or not really depends on factors like your pet’s age, health history, breed or mix, and location.
Of course, cost is going to be a factor for most pet parents. When doing an insurance comparison, the variables to look at are the premiums, the deductibles, and the copayments. You’ll also need to find out if there is an annual or lifetime limit or a discount for having multiple pets or having a membership affiliation.
For example, you’ll want to find an insurance company with good customer service that clearly explains what is and isn’t covered. What do you do if your pet has an emergency? Does it cover dental or travel?
If you are looking at a policy, be sure to look for any wording about preexisting conditions. If you are buying insurance because your pet has a specific need, you want your insurance to cover it. Some insurance companies won’t cover pets that are considered “high risk” like pit bulls, rottweilers, great Danes, and wolf hybrids.
Benefits of Pet Health Insurance
There are many benefits to having pet health insurance. For some pet parents, pet insurance provides a safety blanket in case your pet is seriously injured or sick. Things happen, and it can be very stressful to face thousands of dollars in veterinary bills. These are the four key benefits of pet health insurance.
Financial protection. Pet health emergencies can lead to significant financial burdens, often requiring expensive treatments, surgeries, or long-term care. Pet insurance provides a safety net by covering a portion of these costs, relieving pet owners of financial stress, and allowing them to make decisions based on their pet's health needs, rather than their ability to pay.
Comprehensive coverage. Most pet insurance plans offer coverage for a wide range of medical services, including accidents, illnesses, diagnostic tests, surgeries, and medications. Some plans even cover preventive care, such as vaccinations and wellness exams. This comprehensive coverage ensures that pets receive the necessary treatments and preventive measures to maintain their health and well-being.
Choice of veterinary care. With pet insurance, owners have the freedom to choose the veterinary clinic or specialist that best suits their pet's needs. This flexibility empowers pet owners to seek out the highest quality of care, ensuring that their pets receive treatment from trusted professionals.
Peace of mind. Having pet insurance grants peace of mind, knowing that financial limitations will not stand in the way of providing necessary medical care for pets. In times of emergencies or sudden illnesses, pet owners can focus on their pet's recovery without worrying about the financial implications.
Ask for Help
Some organizations and nonprofits, like the Veterinary Care Vouchers provided by One Health Organization, which helps eligible pet parents pay up to $250 in veterinary care expenses, offer financial assistance programs for low-income pet owners. These programs can provide partial or full coverage for veterinary expenses or offer discounts on pet insurance premiums. Exploring these resources can help alleviate the financial burden associated with pet health insurance.
If you are looking into insurance for your pet, AAHA recommends Pawlicy Advisor (we do, too). This is an online pet insurance marketplace that helps pet owners compare and choose the right insurance plans for their dogs and cats. You can easily compare different policies from various insurance providers. By entering your pet's information and your preferences, Pawlicy generates personalized quotes and allows you to review and compare the available options.
Pet health insurance offers undeniable benefits, providing financial protection, comprehensive coverage, and peace of mind. However, before you purchase any pet insurance plans, make sure that your veterinarian accepts that kind of pet insurance.