American pet owners will spend an estimated $18 billion on veterinary expenses—everything from routine wellness visits and vaccines to costly medical and surgical interventions. This figure highlights our commitment to providing our pets with happy, healthy lives—but when a beloved pet is sick or injured, the expenses of veterinary care can quickly become overwhelming.
Since famous television dog Lassie became insured in 1982, pet insurance has been made available to pet parents in the US. And though a pet healthcare plan can help reduce the financial burden of veterinary costs, only 2% of pets in the US are insured.
If you are considering coverage for your dog or cat, here’s a quick look at how pet insurance works.
What is Pet Insurance?
Science has yielded some dramatic advances in the medical care of our beloved animal companions. New drugs, diagnostic procedures, and surgical tools and techniques have allowed our pets to live longer, healthier lives. But for the pet owner, these treatments can be costly. Pet insurance companies offer various plans from which to choose—each with plans, copays/deductibles, and a menu of covered conditions. You choose the plan that’s best for your pet, and pay a low monthly premium. Then if your pet is unexpectedly sick or injured, you file a claim. If your pet is covered, you receive a reimbursement for some or all of the covered veterinary costs.
What You Need to Know about Pet Insurance
Many pet illnesses and injuries occur when you are financially unprepared for the costs of veterinary care. Pet insurance is designed to help you cope with the costs of the most severe and unexpected of these conditions. Provided the policy terms are met, any one of these scenarios may be covered:
- Your puppy swallows a foreign object and requires emergency care
- Your cat is struck by a car
- Your pet is diagnosed with hip dysplasia or cancer
Generally, pet insurance does not cover well-pet visits because these visits rarely result in the kind of expense that could over-stress the family budget. Pre-existing health conditions are typically also not covered by pet insurance; however, not all pre-existing conditions are deemed chronic, and some insurers have a timeframe after which a curable condition may again be covered. So, it pays to do a little research before choosing a pet insurance provider.
How to Research Pet Insurance
Pet insurance plans vary in coverage options, deductibles, copays, and claim-filing options. Fortunately, comparing pet insurance plans online is relatively easy. When researching pet insurance options, you may want to begin by writing down some basic questions.
Here’s a list of pet insurance questions to get you started:
- What would my monthly premiums be for a dog/cat?
- Will my premium increase each year?
- Are pet wellness or dental procedures covered? Is there an extra fee?
- Can I file a claim using my smartphone?
- How are pre-existing conditions defined?
- What is/isn’t covered?
- Are there waiting periods? If so, what are they?
- Do you offer plan discounts (ex. discount for insuring multiple pets)?
That way, when you contact individual insurers or review their websites, you can have a direct comparison of responses to help refine your choices.
Note: Some employers offer pet insurance to workers as an extension of their benefits package! Be sure to check with your HR department.
Few of us are financially prepared for the sudden expense of a serious illness or injury affecting out pets. Pet insurance is an important buffer against the unforeseen.
When reviewing pet insurance options, it’s important to remember a few basics:
- Pet insurance is designed to help you bear the cost of the most sudden, unexpected, costly care expenses.
- Pet insurance may cover up to 100% of a procedure or treatment!
- Pet insurance lets you make care-based, rather than cost-based, choices about your pet’s health care.
- Pet insurance providers vary—so do your homework and find the most appropriate provider and policy.
We hope these tips will help simplify the process of choosing the best insurance for both your pet and your budget.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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