Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

Proper pet care is not cheap, but most loving pet parents agree that their pets are a member of the family. Basic veterinarian care is expensive; immunizations, well-pet checks, flea/tick control, and heartworm prevention can quickly eat a sizeable chunk out of your wallet, not to mention the extras that come up with a special needs, sick, or injured pet. The idea of not being able to provide the proper care to an ailing pet is inconceivable to most pet parents, but surgeries, medications, and equipment can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. 

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These are a few of the reasons why over 1.4 million pets are insured throughout North America. Pet insurance can help you alleviate the burden of rising vet costs and in certain situations it can save you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket veterinary expenses. However, if you don’t use the coverage, the monthly payments can take a significant bite out of your bank account.  

Here are answers to the most common questions about pet insurance:

How does pet insurance work?

Pet insurance works much like medical insurance for people, except pre-approval is not required for procedures as long as it is covered in your plan. The customer chooses a coverage plan and pays a monthly premium. You pay the veterinarian at the time of service, then submit the invoice with the insurance claim form to the company for reimbursement. Plans, fees, and deductibles vary by company. Some also require a vet exam prior to issuing coverage.

Do all veterinarians accept pet insurance?   

Pet insurance plans allow you to take your pet to any licensed veterinarian or animal hospital. But unlike human insurance, pet insurance requires you to foot the entire bill upfront and wait for reimbursement later. As soon as the claim form and invoice are submitted, the claim process is started and reimbursements can range from a few days to over a month, depending on the provider.

What kind of coverage is offered?

Most companies have customizable plans and packages. Basic plans often feature coverage for the unexpected injury, such as broken bones, vehicle accidents, and cuts, so if your pet accidentally swallows something they shouldn’t have, you’re covered. More inclusive packages offer coverage for illnesses, geriatric pets, training, well-pet checks, preventive care, medications, immunizations, hereditary conditions, chronic illnesses, and boarding. Never enroll in a plan before you fully understand the benefits and exclusions. If you are unsure about reimbursement amounts, policy limits, copays or any aspect of the coverage a simple Google search will reveal several consumer websites offering comparison charts to review side-by-side differences between plans. 

What about deductibles and allowance limits?

You choose the deductible, and in most cases, you can choose the maximum amount the company will reimburse annually or per incident. The deductible and allowance limit you choose will gauge the monthly premium (e.g., the lower the deductible, the higher the premium). Depending on your budget, coverage can be as little as $14 or close to $100 per month.  

What about multi-pet families?

Some pet insurance companies offer multi-pet plans so a pet owner can have more than one pet on a single plan without having to purchase a plan for each pet, which will reduce the monthly premium. However, the maximum number of pets allowed per plan may be different with each company. 

Are there age limits?

While many companies will not insure pets under 8 weeks or over 14 years old, others have specific packages created for kittens and puppies, or senior pets of any age. The pet’s age is also used to determine your monthly premium.

What if my pet isn’t a cat or a dog?

Even if your pet doesn’t meow or bark, there is insurance coverage created just for you. Pet insurance is available for exotic birds, lizards, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, potbellied pigs, turtles, and more. Since the addition of exotic pets is relatively new, fewer companies offer this type of coverage. 

Are there waiting periods or age limits?

There usually is a 10- to 14-day waiting period prior to the insurance being granted, but in some cases as much as 30 days. This means, after enrollment, your pet’s coverage won’t begin until the day after the waiting period ends. If an incident or illness occurs during that time, it is considered pre-existing and will not be covered.

Is pet life insurance the same as pet insurance?

Pet insurance and pet life insurance (animal mortality insurance) are not the same. Pet life insurance is available for show animals, service animals, and livestock, which covers end-of-life costs associated with vet care required as a result of an accident or illness, as well as euthanasia, burial, cremation, and the animal’s worth.  
Is pet insurance worth it? Maybe, it depends on your situation… As The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states “there’s no magic formula that will tell you if it’s right for you and your pet.” But you can make a smarter decision if you’re equipped with accurate information and up-to-date facts. So shop around, compare quotes, read reviews, speak to your veterinarian and talk to other pet owners to make a decision that’s right for you.

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