8 Tips for Insuring Your 4-Legged Family Member

Insurance, Tips & how-to

If you’ve ever taken your pet to the vet for a broken leg or mysterious lump, then you know the worry and expense of caring for an animal. Our pets are family and we want the best for them, but we can’t always afford the most expensive treatments. That’s why pet insurance can be a great way to ensure optimal care for your four-legged friend. Let’s look at the top 8 things to check when considering pet insurance.

  1. Coverage: You want to know if the plan covers comprehensive major medical treatment such as accidents, emergencies, illnesses, chronic diseases and cancer. If you prefer less coverage, look at economical plans, which may exclude some treatments or pay less per incident. Also check out injury plans, which are limited to emergencies and may not cover an ear infection or Lyme disease. If you have a health-conscious household, you may wish to include a wellness plan that offers preventative physical exams and vaccines.
  1. Monthly cost: As with all insurance quotes, shopping around may save you money. Many policies have monthly fees starting at $12-36 for cats, and $25-65 for dogs.
  1. Deductible and co-payments: Check to see how much the annual deductible will be if you seek treatment for your pet. Some plans have deductibles starting at $100 and may also have you pay 20% of all treatments as a co-payment.
  1. Reputation: The best plans pay out in a timely manner and are in the business for the long haul. While you can’t predict what will happen in the future, you should do an internet search for the insurance company plus the word “complaints,” and do a Yelp search to find out what people think about the service. Also check if the policy is affiliated with the North American Pet Health Association, and make sure the broker is licensed to sell insurance.
  1. Reimbursement: Before signing, make sure you understand how the insurance company pays for veterinary expenses as there are two common payouts: (i) based on a percentage of the actual vet bill for usual and customary treatments or (ii) based on a benefits price list created by the insurance provider. Note that the provider’s list might not cover the actual expenses, so it’s always a good idea to run the list past your animal attorney to understand the details before you sign up. A quick note on what pet insurance is not — it is not the equivalent of people health insurance. Instead, the insurance company thinks of your pet as property and the process operates like your homeowners insurance: you will be reimbursed after you have paid for a service.
  1. Coverage limits: See if there is a limit on how much the insurance plan will pay per incident, per year, or over the course of your pet’s lifetime.
  1. Pre-existing conditions: If your pet has a pre-existing condition, he may not be covered, so be sure to check the fine print. If you have questions, you can always get help from a lawyer. Of course, it’s wise to get that legal advice before you sign the contract for an insurance plan.
  1. Veterinarians: If you have a favorite veterinarian, check to see if she is listed as a covered provider. You may even want to contact your veterinary office for recommendations on preferred plans. They will tell you which ones pay out properly with good customer service, and which plans are temperamental.

Follow these tips and you’ll make the right choice for your pet.