How to Choose the Right Pet Insurance Plan

When it comes to taking care of our furry (or not-so-furry) friends, most owners will spare no expense. We buy healthy pet foods, take them for their checkups and vaccinations, and even pamper them with grooming, special treats, and doggie daycare. But when our pets suffer a serious injury or a life-threatening illness, the cost of owning a pet can skyrocket, and owners can find themselves wondering how they can afford costly medical treatment.

One of the best ways to help avoid this kind of expense is to buy pet insurance for your pet. Like the medical coverage you’d buy for yourself, these plans can help you cover both major and minor expenses without having to decide if you can afford the treatment. Pet insurance is available for all types of pets, including small mammals, birds, and even reptiles!

There are many different types of pet insurance available. Answer these questions to help you choose the best plan for you and your pet.

What do you want to have covered?

Some health insurance plans cover preventative visits, while others cover only accidents and illnesses. Accidents usually include things like torn ligaments, broken bones, or other serious health issues. Illnesses include things like cancer, allergies, and more. Many plans will allow you to add preventative coverage for an additional premium each month. 

However, according to the ASPCA, preventative veterinary care for pets can range from $160 to $235 per year, though this can vary based on where you live. You can call your veterinarian to get an idea of what preventative visits cost, and do the math to see if adding that type of insurance makes financial sense. 

What deductible are you comfortable with?

Much like choosing health insurance for yourself, many pet insurance plans require you to meet a deductible before paying for expenses. Some deductibles start as low as $100, but they could be as high as $1,000 or more. A higher deductible will most likely mean a lower monthly premium cost for you, but make sure that you are prepared to pay the deductible should the need arise.

Additionally, watch out for a “per claim” deductible versus an annual deductible. A per claim deductible will need to be met every time you visit the vet.

What are the plan’s maximums?

Some plans have limits on the amounts that they will pay. There could be a per-incident limit, a per-year limit, or a lifetime limit. Keep in mind the typical costs for major illnesses – treating cancer could cost up to $7000 or more, a broken leg could cost up to $3,000, and surgery to remove an intestinal blockage could cost $4,000 or more. These are worst-case scenarios, but keep them in mind when you select your pet insurance coverage to ensure you have enough coverage.

What about pre-existing conditions?

Most, if not all, pet insurance carriers will not cover pre-existing conditions. If your pet has already been diagnosed with a major illness, you will not be reimbursed by the pet insurance company for any further treatment of that illness. However, even if your pet has had a major illness in the past, getting pet insurance could still be a wise choice to cover other needs that may arise. Just keep in mind that any further treatment for the previously diagnosed illness will be on your dime.

The best way to get around the pre-existing limitations is to buy pet insurance when your pet is still young. Even puppies and kittens can have accidents requiring veterinary care. Getting them covered before they are old enough to have serious illnesses will help you get the most from your pet insurance.

How does payment work?

Most pet health insurance will reimburse you for the cost of veterinary care. In other words, you pay the bill, and the pet insurance company will pay you back. There are a few things to note here. You’ll still be responsible for any deductible, and most companies will not pay you the full amount. They will reimburse you for a percentage of the cost. For example, if you have a $1,000 vet bill, your deductible is $500, and the pet insurance company reimburses you for 80% of the cost, you’ll receive $400, and your deductible will be met for the year.

Some companies pay claims faster than others, so looking at their claims payment timeline may be another factor when considering which company to choose for your pet insurance needs.

Paying for pet insurance can ensure that you never have to decide if you can afford your pet’s veterinary treatment. It’s easier to budget for a monthly premium payment than a large unexpected vet bill. But before you choose a policy, be sure you’ve read all the fine print and know exactly what is covered and what you can expect from the insurance company.