Home, auto, health, life and now PET insurance! Although it has been around for some time, pet insurance is now becoming more common in the US marketplace. This years poisoned food scare has really shown how vulnerable our pets are to illness and disease. With all the advances in veterinary medicine and resulting expense the health care of a loved pet can be as expensive as a child these days. With a comprehensive pet insurance plan in place you can base life changing treatment decisions on your pet’s health rather than the costs.
Insurance for pets is available from a wide variety of sources with many available coverage options and plans. Just like your health insurance you can purchase coverage for almost any level of protection you choose. There are plans for basic sickness or injury expenses, deluxe plans to cover nearly every type illness, accident or injury and even routine care and examination plans. The market has become so popular and competitive that some plans even cover dental work, chiropractic care and acupuncture treatments.
The variety of pets covered can be as wide as today’s pet market. Dog and cat insurance coverage remain the basis of most companies plans, with many companies now offering Bird and Exotic Pet plans as well. So if you want to insure that parrot, iguana or potbellied pig you should be able to find a plan and insurance company to suit your needs.
Pet insurance has many similarities to our health insurance. There are coverage limits, conditions, exceptions for pre-existing conditions, deductibles, co-pays and lifetime amount limits. One important and beneficial difference is choice of care provider. With pet insurance you can usually use any veterinarian you want or have available. You do not have to choose from ‘provider network’. also you do not need to get anything pre-approved; you are free to take the action needed for your pet’s health protection then present your claim.
Another and not so beneficial difference is out of pocket expense. Generally pet insurance plans pay you after the claim is made; you may have to pay the veterinarian or caretaker bill prior to receiving reimbursement.
The policies typically have deductibles, co-pays and lifetime limits. The deductible will usually apply to each occurrence which can be an accident, injury or illness. Subsequent treatments for the same condition will not require another deductible. Typical deductibles range from $50 to $250. Most policies also have a co-pay percentage, this is the amount of the final covered expense the insurance company will pay. Co-pays are generally 80% or 90%.
One important thing to watch out for is benefit schedules. You want to avoid companies that have fixed benefit schedules. This means they have set a price for certain procedures/treatments and will only allow that much regardless of the actual charge. This can make a low deductible plan with high co-pay actually cost you much more in the long run than a high deductible with a lower co-pay percentage.
Where to get pet insurance? An easy first step is to ask your current veterinarian, they may have a plan they recommend or work with. But, don’t stop there, research the market on the internet. The difference in plans can be dramatic when it comes time to make a claim. Be sure to review the companies’ policy, exclusions and benefits as well as their history, reputation and financial standing.
Things to look for in pet insurance policies;
- No network of required providers
- No fixed benefit schedule
- Coverage for:
- Diagnostic testing; MRI, Cat-scans, X-rays
- Specialists, Hospitalization, Cancer treatments, Prescriptions
- After hours/ emergency treatments
- Multi-pet discount
- Claim processing time
- History & reputation of company
Insuring your pet is a great idea and the many plans and options available make it easy and affordable to do. You can take comfort in having a valuable family member covered for injuries, illness, disease and even poisoned food that can happen at any age. After all animals are living creatures and susceptible to having health problems and accidents just as we do.
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