Pets are a part of the American family, with 67% of households having at least one. With approximately 85 million households in the United States having a pet, caring for these nonhuman family members has become a $99 billion a year industry, more than doubling since 2010. This statistic not only testifies to their popularity, but also to the level of financial sacrifice some pet parents make to keep their pets healthy and happy.
If our furry friend is hurt or develops a life-threatening condition, vet bills can quickly build up. If you are a first-time pet parent that is an extra worry, and as you want what’s best for your new family member, that’s where pet insurance can come in handy.
The cost of veterinary care in the US alone is expected to reach $30.2 billion this year. As veterinary care continues to incorporate many of the advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques that are commonplace in human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care will likely continue to rise. And with many pet parents facing economic strain due to the pandemic, a sudden pet health emergency, even if not grave, could have them facing the possibility of “economic euthanasia;” having to put their pets down because they lack the funds to cover unexpected vet bills.
What is Pet Insurance?
An increasingly popular option to prevent this type of situation is a pet insurance policy.
Pet insurance typically costs between $38 to $70 in the US and £30 to £85 in the UK each month, and can cover up to 90% of a pet’s vet bills under some plans. Unlike human health insurance, which usually pays out directly to the medical provider, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis.
You must first pay the veterinarian for the procedure needed and then request reimbursement from the pet insurance company. The reinstatement amount is never 100% of the cost, although some of the more complete plans cover up to 90% of vet bills. The reimbursement process is usually simple, requiring only the vet’s invoice (and sometimes some treatment records) along with a completed claim form.
The Big Takeaways
- Comprehensive: This is a broad coverage for a whole range of situations, from accidents like broken bones to illnesses like cancer and diabetes.
- Accidents Only: This is a more economical insurance plan that covers accidents like getting poisoned or bitten, but not illnesses or diseases.
- Wellness Coverage: This is essentially preventative care for things like vet visits and regular vaccines. It means, however, that unexpected emergencies aren’t covered.
Limits on Benefits of Coverage
- Unlimited Lifetime: As the name suggests, after the deductible is paid, there’s no maximum or cap; the company will pay your pet’s vet bills.
- Annual Maximum: There’s a yearly maximum to how much the company will cover your pet’s medical bills. If you reach that cap, your pet won’t be covered until the following year.
- Annual Per Incident: These are caps on how much a company will pay for specific treatments for specific illnesses each year.
- Lifetime Maximum: The least recommended of the options, this caps the amount of coverage your pet gets over its entire lifetime. If that limit is reached, your animal companion won’t be covered anymore.
Deductibles and Reimbursements
There are a lot of different types of deductibles (what you pay) and ways in which companies pay you back on a claim (reimburse you). It’s a good idea to read a pet insurance policy carefully to make sure the coverage and what you pay fits with your and your pet’s needs.
Additional Factors to Think About
- Claims and Services: Few companies deal directly with the veterinary center itself in order to cover the medical bills. Most pet insurers reimburse you after a claim has been filed.
- Enrollment: Different insurance companies have different requirements or limits on when and how pets can be insured, from a maximum and minimum enrollment age to waiting periods when claims cannot be filed.
In conclusion, access to medical care can be just as important for our furry family members as it is for our human ones. And like other types of insurance, pet insurance is essentially a package of many different types of coverage. Some packages cover only the bare essentials, while others are more comprehensive and include preventive care and rehabilitation. Dental coverage for pets is rare, but a few insurers are now offering it as an option in their pricier policies.
However, nearly all pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and specific conditions such as hip dysplasia. They also can include payout caps on particular procedures, on the yearly payout, or even on the total the policy will pay. Most pet insurers will reimburse you for care rendered by any licensed vet, but some limit policyholders to certain veterinary clinics and networks.
All pet insurance plans have a deductible of one type or another. Most insurers give their customers a choice of deductibles; policies with lower deductibles cost more. Being able to adjust the deductible allows customers to pick a policy with a monthly payment that fits their budget.
If you think pet insurance is right for you, make sure to shop around carefully! If you are looking for more information on pet insurance check out Money.com’s Best Pet Insurance for 2020.
Featured image by New Africa