With so much negativity surrounding the human health insurance industry, you may be a bit leery of pet health insurance, too. Fortunately, policies for pets are somewhat easier to decipher than their human counterparts. But, you should still understand the limitations and benefits of the variety of insurance companies and plans so you can make the best choice for your furry friend.
When choosing a medical insurance policy for your pet, consider these tips:
Create a comparison chart. Before diving into the sea of pet insurance providers, create a chart to compare your most important criteria. Consider comparing:
- In-network veterinarians
- Policy coverage (wellness care, emergencies, dental, cancer)
- Pre-existing condition coverage
- Additional coverage options
- Premium and deductible costs
- Claim processing
- Reimbursement rates
- Multi-pet discounts
- Waiting periods
- Customer service reputation
- Exclusions for care
Check out reviews. Read reviews with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that unhappy customers are much more likely to leave a review than satisfied clients, but if you’re noticing an unsatisfactory trend, take note. Leafing through reviews regarding customer service, claim processing, and reimbursement rates will provide an excellent overview of the insurance provider you’re investigating.
Choose the coverage your pet needs. Decide the level of coverage your pet may require. Are you looking to cover the costs of standard wellness care? Or, are you planning for the worst and would like a comprehensive insurance policy? Depending on the policy and additional features, your pet will be protected in case of:
- Illness — Vomiting, diarrhea, infection, etc.
- Injury — Hit by car, torn cruciate ligament, etc.
- Annual wellness visits
- Dental care
- Chronic medical conditions — Allergies, diabetes, etc.
- Specialist visits
- Prescription diets or medications
Pick the type of reimbursement that works for you. Some insurance providers now pay the veterinary clinic directly, which saves you from paying up-front and waiting to be reimbursed. But, that is the exception: Most providers still require you to pay the hospital up-front, and then get reimbursed once they receive and process the claim.
Balance cost and value. Plans that only cover wellness might not be the best option if you’re looking to save money. The cost of your premium for a wellness policy may be almost equal to the amount of a standard wellness visit. Instead, create a separate savings account strictly for pet care, and use those funds for annual vaccinations, heartworm and flea prevention, and routine wellness care. To get the most bang for your buck, purchase a more comprehensive policy that covers emergency care.
Read the fine print. Many plans require a waiting period before beginning coverage. If your pet comes down with an illness before the policy kicks in, it will be considered a pre-existing condition and won’t be covered. This helps prevent insurance fraud and keep premiums at a lower rate, but, unfortunately, it won’t protect your pet if she is suddenly hit by a car or contracts an illness during the waiting period.
Chat with customer service. A company is only as good as its customer service department. If you can’t reach a representative, or if they are unable to answer your questions, you’d probably be better off searching out a new provider. Customer service representatives should be able to help you choose the policy that is the best fit for your needs and discuss all the benefits and limitations of their available policies.
Enroll in a plan at a young age. The most important factor regarding pet insurance is age. Do not delay in choosing a plan. The younger your pet is, the better value your policy will be. If your puppy is seen for vomiting and diarrhea after an instance of dietary indiscretion, that may be considered a pre-existing condition, and the entire gastrointestinal tract won’t be covered. Adopting an older pet may limit insurance coverage, but an insurance policy can still protect against future illness and disease. If you think pet insurance may be the right choice for you and your pet, choose a plan sooner rather than later to enjoy the maximum protective benefits.
If you purchase pet insurance and never use it, consider yourself and your beloved companion fortunate. But, with pets living longer than ever, the chances that you’ll use your policy are high. For help choosing the best policy for your pet, give us a call.
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