Pet insurance is in some ways quite similar to a regular health insurance. To avoid spending astronomical amounts of money if trouble finds your pet, then pay a certain amount of monthly premium instead to have those unexpected costs covered. Depending on the situation your pet is in, a medical emergency can cost anywhere between $500-$10,000. There are also conditions that last for a lifetime such as diabetes, heart disease, or epilepsy, and the constant supervision that is needed on top of medication and treatment could result in costs of thousands of dollars on a yearly basis. That would hurt anyone’s wallet. But how does pet insurance actually work? Is it expensive? What does it cover, and how do you choose a provider?
Pet Insurance Basics
Enrollment at most pet insurance companies can easily be done online. Some companies will require a detailed medical history before your first claim, however, so be prepared to provide it. You will need it sooner or later anyway.
Pet insurance will never cover any preexisting conditions. If your pet is already in poor health, then it is better to opt for a provider that offers an independent accident plan since full coverage would be a waste of money. It is important to note that with most plans there is usually a waiting period during which claiming on the insurance is not yet possible. Make sure to check for condition-specific waiting periods as well.
After a visit with the vet, double check your coverage before filing a claim. Some companies require a specific form to be completed, while others just need a picture of the invoice before processing it. Once the claim is sent, it is then either denied or approved by company experts. If you disagree with the decision, then you will be able to contest it as long as you follow the company’s guidelines. Also, remember that it’s usually you that pays the vet, not the insurance company. While some do offer direct payment, in most cases you will be required to initially pick up the bill yourself and you will only be reimbursed once your claim has been approved.
When applicable, it’s best to file a claim regardless of the cost, since every little amount will chip away at your deductible, which is the amount of money needed to pay out of your own pocket before the insurance will kick in. The best policies have annual deductibles, meaning this amount is refreshed on a yearly basis rather than a per-treatment basis. Also, plans can usually be personalized, which means that customers can often choose the amount of deductible, the payout rate, and the payout limit that suits them best.
The cost of an insurance policy depends on many factors and these can differ from company to company. However, there are a few general aspects that most companies fall in line with. For one, the species, breed, and size of the pet is usually a basis for the calculation. Insuring a cat will cost less than a dog, while a mixed breed’s policy will be cheaper than a purebred. In a similar vein, small animals will cost less than large ones. Age can factor into the price, too: an older animal will be more expensive to insure than a younger one since they are at a higher risk of developing an illness.
Insurance rates can further differ based on your location in the U.S. with the costs in some states being significantly lower than in others. Depending on the type of insurance plan you choose – such as a comprehensive package or an accident-only plan – as well as the deductible amount, payout limits, and the reimbursement rate, the actual prices can range from about $7 to $70 or $80 per month.
Keep in mind that these monthly premiums will likely increase as time goes on. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as the pet’s age, the increasing cost of treatments, or even because of the amount of claims a company received the previous year. An unlucky year for the provider will very likely mean an unlucky year for you as well. However, once you have chosen a company, try to stick with them. All of them increase premiums and no matter how unfair it may seem, it is usually necessary. Just make sure to choose a trustworthy provider and do some thorough research before making a decision.
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