Skip to main content

Pet Insurance policies are underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company.

Decoding Pet Insurance Reimbursement and Tips to Avoid Debt

Understanding the ins and outs of pet insurance reimbursement: we break down the reasons behind this common payment model and offer strategies to manage costs while awaiting your claim payout

elderly couple sitting with dog and cat on bench

Have you ever found yourself scratching your head, wondering why pet insurance operates on a reimbursement basis instead of just paying your vet directly? I mean, it would be so much easier, right?

Don't worry, you're not alone. Today, we're diving deep into why this system exists and, most importantly, how we can navigate it without dipping into our savings.

The What and Why of Reimbursement

Pet insurance companies operate on a reimbursement model - kind of like going out to dinner with a friend who says, "You pick up the bill, and I'll pay you back."

Essentially, you pay the vet bill upfront, submit a claim, and then the insurance company reimburses you a percentage of the cost based on your plan. You might ask, "But why can't they just pay my vet directly?"

Well, pet insurance is modeled after human health insurance models worldwide, many of which also work on a reimbursement basis. The idea is to give the policyholder flexibility to choose their vet, specialist, or emergency clinic without restrictions.

Unlike human health insurance with network restrictions, your pet’s insurance offers the freedom to get your soulful sidekick treated anywhere in the world by any licensed vet. This allows for more flexibility and freedom, which is super important when our pets are involved.

Still not convinced? Here are some more reasons pet insurance functions on a reimbursement model.

Operating on a Global Scale

A major reason that pet insurance companies don't pay your vet directly relates to the sheer scale of operations.

There are tens of thousands of veterinary practices across the United States alone, and even more globally. Each one of these practices has its own pricing structures, protocols, and billing methods.

Trying to establish direct payment relationships with each of these vets would be an enormous logistical task for insurance companies.

It would require significant resources and administrative oversight, which could in turn increase the costs of the insurance plans themselves.

Reducing Fraud Risk

Another key reason is the reduction of fraud risk. Having pet parents pay upfront and submit a claim allows insurance companies to thoroughly review the claim to ensure it's valid before reimbursement.

They can check the services provided against what's covered in the policy and cross-reference that with the vet's records if necessary.

This process ensures that only legitimate claims are paid, helping to keep premium costs down for everyone.

International Healthcare Models

Additionally, as mentioned before, pet insurance models are often based on international healthcare models, particularly in Europe, where reimbursement systems are common.

These systems were designed to offer more freedom of choice for policyholders in terms of where they can seek medical services.

This model has been carried over to pet insurance, allowing pet owners to take their pets to any vet of their choosing, regardless of whether the vet has a relationship with their insurance company. It ensures that there's no such thing as an 'out of network' provider for your pet.

Streamlining Processes

It's also a more streamlined process for the vet clinics. They don't need to worry about billing multiple insurance companies, each with its own system and requirements.

Instead, they bill the pet owner directly as they would in any situation. It simplifies their administrative processes, which can also help to keep costs down.

Keeping Out of the Red

Now, the big question – how do we manage these costs before getting reimbursed without pulling out the credit card or dipping into our dog treat or catnip fund?

  1. Savings Fund: The first and most straightforward approach is to have a dedicated savings fund for your pet. This isn't always possible (especially when an unexpected expense hits), but it can really save your wallet when you're waiting for that reimbursement check and every little bit can help.

  2. Payment Plans: Some veterinarians offer payment plans, especially for more expensive procedures. It never hurts to ask, right? This can spread the cost out over time, giving you a chance to get that reimbursement before you’ve paid all the costs.

  3. Credit Options: CareCredit is a credit card designed for health, beauty, and wellness needs, which includes veterinary care. It offers short-term financing options of 6, 12, 18, or 24 months with no interest on purchases of $200 or more when you make the minimum monthly payments and pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period. But be aware, interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date if the promotional purchase is not paid in full within the promotional period.

  4. Fundraising & Grants: Non-profits like The Pet Fund, Brown Dog Foundation, and RedRover can sometimes assist with vet bills. Every organization has its rules and requirements, so you'll need to do some research.

  5. Preventive Care: It may sound cliché, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular check-ups and preventive care can keep your pet healthy and avoid significant expenses. You may want to look into a wellness plan or add-on to make this more affordable as well.

Remember, every pet, pet parent, and situation is unique. The key is to understand your options, plan ahead, and choose what works best for you and your pet.

While the reimbursement model might seem like a hassle, it does offer the flexibility we need to ensure our pets get the best care possible. As always, do your research, ask questions, and make sure you're getting the most out of your pet insurance plan.

Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Pattern Blue

by you

Design your pet’s plan in less than 60 seconds!

medium sized cat illustration
medium sized cat illustration
Cat illustration
Cat illustration
Cat illustration
Your Pet's Type
Chat with an Expert