How To Choose The Right Pet Insurance Policy

How To Choose The Right Pet Insurance Policy

Pet insurance is growing rapidly in popularity in the US and Canada, and it is also increasingly diversifying to meet the diverse needs of today’s pet owners. Thus, you have to think beyond the question, “Should I get pet insurance?” and consider the question, “Which type of pet insurance would be best for me and my pet(s)?”

There are several different basic types of pet policies out there these days, and there are numerous specific elements you can include or not include in your particular policy.

Here are the main options to consider when building a pet policy that’s right for you:

1. Choose a policy friendly to your species and breed.

Many people think that pet insurance is just for dogs, but that’s not true. There are many good pet policies for cats and other animals these days as well. But it may make a big difference which insurer you choose.

Also, some companies won’t cover specific breeds or will put heavy limitations, restrictions, and exclusions on certain ones. Some breeds are almost universally restricted due to a higher risk, but other times, shopping around could land you an impressively better deal.

2. Find out how an insurer covers a pet based on its age.

Another thing to consider is the age of your pet. First of all, there may be a minimum age at which coverage can begin  – say two months old. Occasionally, you can start as early as six weeks old.

On the other end of the spectrum, there may be limits to how old a pet can be and still qualify for a plan. Even if an older pet can’t get regular coverage, however, it may be able to get a basic accident insurance policy or make do with a scaled-down plan (at a lower cost).

3. Find out about preexisting or breed-related conditions.

Virtually every pet insurance policy in existence excludes pre-existing conditions – totally different from how “human” health insurance works. But there is more to consider, nonetheless, under this heading.

There may be a wait period after signing up for coverage before certain types of conditions would be covered, with the assumption they would likely be preexisting but undetected (or undisclosed) conditions should they occur that fast after coverage begins. Waiting periods vary from a day to a month or more and based on which condition is at issue.

Also, there are certain conditions that are congenital or breed-related that often are not covered even if they were not preexisting.

4. Which basic type of pet insurance plan are you looking for?

Once you find an insurer who will cover your particular pet at a reasonable rate with a quality policy, you need to think about the basic purpose of your desired pet plan.

For example, do you just want a policy to cover your pet against catastrophic accidents and diseases that would cost many thousands of dollars? Or maybe you want at least some coverage for any major vet bill? Or you might even want ordinary vet visits and basic “pet maintenance care” to be covered?

A comprehensive policy, a standard policy, or a pet accident insurance would answer each of these basic goals in getting pet insurance.

5. Are you willing to submit your pet for a veterinary exam to secure coverage?

A medical exam is required for many health insurance plans for people, and the same can be said of pet insurance. 

It’s possible to get a policy without a preliminary examination, but that won’t usually help – here’s why. The pet insurer must rely on the first post-coverage pet wellness exam in that case. That means you would get that exam later, and the more time goes by, the greater the chances your pet’s condition could change for the worse.

The exact nature and extent of pre-coverage pet exams will vary. Each pet insurance company will have its own standards.

6. Find out about spaying and neutering.

Even if you don’t yet plan to have your pet spayed or neutered, you may do so sometime in the future. This is one of the major costs of owning a pet that is frequently predictable (many pet owners want it done), and many but not all pet insurers will cover it.

Note that some pet insurers only cover spaying/neutering IF it is done before the animal’s first birthday – or at some other cut-off date.

7. Examine the details of what is covered.

You will want to dig into the details of what the potential pet policy includes or excludes.

Surgeries, pet ER visits, diagnostic tests like CAT scans (not only for cats!), rehab work and physical therapy, knee conditions, worms treatment, pet acupuncture, pet cancer treatment, prescription medications, and dental care are all areas to look into.

8. Find out about annual and lifetime caps.

Many pet policies have maximum limits on how much the policy will pay out. This could be based on per visit, per incident or condition, per year, or for the life of the policy.

9. Look for a good premium-coverage balance.

It’s not enough to just look at which policy costs more or less. Obviously, it’s a matter of how much coverage you are getting for your dollar. Take the time to comparison shop and run some scenarios based on likely annual pet healthcare costs. It can save you a lot of money if you find the policy that’s the best value.

10. Consider out of pocket costs.

Finally, you need to note the deductibles involved and the co-insurance rate. Coinsurance often ranges from 30% to nothing, depending on the policy. And there may be per-visit copays as well to take into account.

Remember that all pet insurance (and all insurance in general) has some out of pocket costs – it’s a matter of lowering them, while balancing them against premiums, to decide if the policy strikes the right balance for you and your pet.

To learn more about how pet insurance works, to customize a policy with an experienced agent, or to get a free quote, contact Flagler County Insurance Agency today!