With more available technologies to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer and chronic pain, as well as the emergency veterinary specialty and critical care centers, pet owners have a multitude of choices for care when their pet becomes ill. Though cost should be the last thing on the mind of a concerned pet parent, owners often face a difficult decision when an animal companion becomes ill or injured – go into debt to pay for the care the pet needs or euthanize.
This painful scenario can be avoided by purchasing pet insurance, a practice that many veterinarians recommend as a way for owners to be able to consider treatment options for their pets that they otherwise couldn’t afford. In other words, owners can base health care decisions on their pets’ needs and the veterinarians’ recommendations, rather than on the cost of treatment.
What is Pet Insurance?
Unlike human health insurance, which involves a contractual relationship between the insurance company, the physician, and the patient, pet insurance is a contract between the pet owner and the insurance company only.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
It operates in the same manner as car insurance, with the insurance companies compensating pet owners for the costs associated with the treatment of illness or injury and sometimes routine care.
Thus, if a pet requires veterinary care, the owner pays for the services out of pocket, completes the necessary paperwork, and submits it to his or her insurance company. The company then reimburses the owner based on the plan that the owner selected.
For some owners this is a pro, as care is not limited to in-network providers and they can pay the up-front expenses with the promise of full to partial reimbursement. Other pet owners don’t have the funds accessible to pay for immediate treatment and must discuss payment plans with their veterinarian.
Important Factors When Selecting Pet Insurance
The task of determining the pet insurance company and plan that works best for you and your pet may seem daunting. Factors to consider include:
- Customer Service
- Coverage of Congenital or Pre-Existing Conditions
- Speed of Repayment
- Monthly Expense
Deciding Against Pet Insurance
This may lead some owners to forgo insurance for their dog, and instead establish a monthly pet savings account. Though still responsible for any out-of-pocket medical expenses, having a cushion in the bank for a medical catastrophe can help ease the financial pain of treating your pet. No doubt about it, even routine care can run into the thousands of dollars annually as vaccinations, parasite preventatives, good nutrition, and dental care are all critical to maintaining your pet’s health.
Choosing the Best Pet Insurance for Your Furry Friends
When assessing insurance companies, it’s important to consider whether veterinarians are employed by the company in arbitrating claims, the company is approved by the state insurance regulatory agency where policies are sold, and there is transparency in communicating policy limits, pricing structures, co-pays, deductibles, limits, and optional coverage or exclusions specific to your pet (i.e. coverage for annual wellness visits).
Points to Consider
- If your pet has a chronic condition such as seasonal allergies, will examinations be covered along with prescription medications?
- Several breeds have higher deductibles; retrievers are notorious for ingesting socks and other foreign objects that require surgical removal and the insurance companies know it!
- More recently, some employers have made it simple for pet-owning employees to choose their insurance company by including pet insurance as an employment benefit.
- Veterans can opt for Embrace Pet Insurance through USAA and receive a discount, making that plan most appealing.
Here’s an example of two (Embrace and Nationwide) of the top 12 pet insurance companies and how they compare…
|What types of pets may be covered?||Dogs and cats only||Dogs, cats, birds, and exotic pets|
|Does the pet have to be a certain age to be covered?||An owner may enroll a pet at 6 weeks of age and older, with no upper age limit though pets over 14 are eligible for accident only policy||Enrollment begins at 6 weeks and capped at 10 years unless an existing customer|
|What types of plans are available?||One plan with flexible co-pay, reimbursement and deductible||3 types of plans for routine care, major medical, or whole pet coverage|
|Money Back Guarantee||30 days||10 days|
|Cruciate ligament waiting period||6 months with optional waiver process||12 months|
|Do the plans limit the amount of money an owner may be reimbursed?||Variable annual maximum with no lifetime maximum||Injury only plan: $14000 annually|
|Is there a schedule of benefits?||No reimbursement is 80-90% of expenses depending on coverage you select.||Yes, for the major medical plan|
|Waiting Period||14 days for illness, 2 days for accidents||Whole Pet and Major Medical Plans 14 days. Wellness coverage 24 hours|
|Do pets have to visit a particular veterinarian to be covered?||Pets may visit any licensed veterinarian.||Pets may visit any licensed veterinarian.|
*Pet Butler is not affiliated with Embrace or Nationwide Pet Insurance
Whichever company and plan you choose, pet insurance will allow you to reduce veterinary bills but still provide the best possible care for your ill or injured pets. It’s certainly something pet owners should think about.