The cost of veterinarian care just keeps rising year after year, making pet health insurance an increasingly attractive option for pet owners. Over the past five years alone, veterinary costs have increased by almost 70%. If you are thinking of buying a pet insurance policy for a family member, here are 10 things you need to know and keep in mind.
Your pooch's age will determine your coverage options – or if you can even get insurance. Pet policies typically cover a dog from the age of 6 weeks. On the other hand, many policies will not cover a pet over 8 years old. However, if your dog already has coverage, it will continue beyond this age.
Deductibles and co-pays
As with regular, human insurance, a deductible applies to your pet insurance coverage. The deductible is the dollar amount you must pay out of your own pocket before your pet health policy begins to pay. You have a choice of deductible, and the higher your deductible, the lower your premium will be. Pet policy premiums will also differ based on your pet's breed, age and any pre-existing conditions.
Insurance Plan Types
A comprehensive pet insurance plan covers a wide range of services, from preventive care such as vaccinations and annual check-ups, to spaying, neutering, medications and other veterinary services. On the other extreme, you may opt for a basic policy that only covers illness, injury and emergency services.
You have a choice between a discount plan and a comprehensive plan. Under a discount fee plan, you pay an annual fee and receive veterinarian services at a discount.
Most pet policies will cover certain basic vet services. These include: office visits, accidents & illnesses, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medication, X-Rays, MRIs and CAT scans. If you opt for a premium pet insurance plan, it will cover these basic benefits as well as physical exams, vaccinations, spaying and neutering, prescription flea control and heartworm protection.
Most pet policies have a specified limit on how much they will pay out for each illness or incident or service. You have to pay out-of-pocket for any costs beyond this limit. There is also an annual maximum benefit limit.
Choice of Vets
Different pet policies will place different restrictions on which vets you can use. Some pet insurers have contracts with a network of vets to provide you with discounted pet services, and they may limit your choice to doctors within this network. If you want to keep your current vet, be sure to find out if he/she is part of this network before you purchase your policy,
The discounts available on a pet policy will vary among different insurers. If you have more than one pet on the same policy, you can save upto 5-10% off your premium. Other discounts include: Micro-chip discount, Medical Service discount, Service Dog discount and a Veterinary Worker discount. Check with your insurer to see if any of these discounts are available to you.
Like human insurance, there is a waiting period before your pet coverage begins. This is usually 30 days. However, coverage for emergencies begins immediately.
There are certain services the your pet policy will not cover. These include: hereditary defects, pre-existing conditions, elective procedures, special diets, and grooming services. Some of these excluded services may be covered for additional premium. Particular breeds may also be excluded from coverage.
When you need to file a pet insurance claim, very important to contact your insurer as soon as possible, as there is usually a set time period within which you must make a claim. It is also important to save any invoices from your vet. Procedures for filing claims may vary from one insurance company to another, so be sure to check with your insurance company for specific information.