After replacing two ACLs on our previous dog, we consider pet insurance a necessary expense that just comes with owning a dog. When we adopted our two current pups, we immediately got them covered. We recently decided it was time to re-evaluate their policies. After doing a quick search online, I realized that this wasn’t going to be a quick process. Not only are there lots of providers but the terms of the policies can vary widely.
The good news is that pet insurance has improved dramatically over the last few years. Coverage used to be extremely expensive and didn’t cover much, but now more low-cost plans with good coverage are available. It is just important to fully understand your needs, expectations, and financial desires and find a policy that matches those needs.
I sifted through the information and narrowed down our choices by considering some key factors. Here are the main criteria I used to make a decision:
Exclusions – Be aware, it is common for pet insurance policies to exclude coverage on any pre-existing condition (a condition you knew about before you got the policy). It is also common for routine care appointments like vaccinations or teeth cleaning to not be covered. So it’s important to read the fine print on exclusions and understand exactly what is, and is not covered. Because we have two young, active dogs, a policy with adequate accident coverage was very important to us. We also know firsthand that no dog is immune to sickness so it was also important for us to have a comprehensive plan that included illness coverage.
Deductible – Pet insurance deductibles work just like they do for our own health insurance. You must pay the deductible before coverage kicks in. The most common deductible amounts for pet insurance seems to be in the $250-$500 range. The deductible you choose can very much affect the premium you will pay. This is when you need to evaluate your financials and choose a deductible that you will always be able to cover.
Reimbursement – The reimbursement percentage is the amount that will be covered in the case of an accident/illness after the deductible has been reached. Reimbursement levels will vary, but generally they will fall between 70%-80% for pet insurance. The reimbursement amount also will greatly affect your premiums. So again, this will depend on your financials and what you are comfortable paying out of pocket.
Lifetime/Annual/Incident Max – I found it surprising that many policies have not only an annual spending cap, but also may have lifetime and incident caps. This is when you really have to evaluate the risks of your specific breed/type of pet. We all know how one somewhat small accident can turn into a huge bill. So just make you understand the caps before signing on with a policy.
Waiting Period – If you are starting with a brand new plan, a waiting period may not be very important. But it’s important to acknowledge that there are generally waiting periods for both accident and illness coverage. I found waiting periods for a major illness diagnosis to be about a year and waiting periods for accidents to be 15 – 30 days. We are believers that if our dogs have a week of being uncovered, that is when they will have an accident. So we signed up for a new policy before canceling the old one.
Premium – The premium is what you will actually pay each month. The prices can vary greatly, depending on the coverage options you have chosen. I found plans anywhere from $15 to well over$70 a month. Also, make sure to inquire about potential discounts. Some policies will offer discounts if you volunteer your time to help animals or if you are members of certain clubs, like AAA.
Recommendations – Nothing goes further than reading what others have had to say about certain policies. Keep in mind that people are more likely to write a review if they have a bad experience than if they have a good one, but getting an overall feel for people’s perception of the coverage is invaluable.
Although these are the major factors that guided us in making our decision, there are many other factors that may influence the decision. Some additional influencing factors include; how the reimbursement is given, the process for submitting a claim, customer service available, and the age and location of your pet.
If you’d like to learn more about Pet Insurance, please check out the following:
[list_item icon=”fa-paw” color=”696868″]How To Shop For Pet Insurance – The 5 Main Criteria.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-paw” color=”696868″]Review of the Top 7 Pet Insurance Providers.