Finding the right pet insurance for your furry family members can be a challenge. In recent years, new pet insurance companies have shaken up the market with innovative ways to insure our best friends. If you haven’t purchased pet insurance before or are interested in looking for new coverage options, check out these useful tips to avoid pet insurance regret and expensive surprises when it’s time to bring Fido to the vet.
1. Don't Wait
Many pet parents don’t think much about pet insurance until their dog develops a serious medical condition or faces an emergency vet visit. But, the best time to buy coverage is early in a pet’s life, before the onset of any health problems. You never know when an illness, accident or health condition may occur. So, insuring your pet early can save you money down the road and reduce your risk of having to pay an astronomical vet bill. So, tip #1 is to get your pet covered ASAP!
2. Consider Your Pet’s Age
Whether you care for a playful puppy or a senior snuggler, finding a pet insurance plan tailored to your pet’s needs is easier than ever. Parents of energetic young pups may want to look for policies offering generous accident insurance benefits, such as Figo. If you have a senior dog, consider a company like Spot that features policies with no upper age limit. No matter the age of your pet, always look for providers that will guarantee coverage as your pet gets older. For example, Nationwide promises that it won’t drop a pet who enrolls before age 10, as long as you don’t allow coverage to lapse or expire.
3. Breed Matters
From Pugs to Poodles and everything in between, different breeds have different medical needs. Pet insurance companies know this and craft plans accordingly. Often, this means charging higher premiums for certain breeds. In some cases, certain genetic conditions may be excluded from coverage altogether. So, if you have a purebred animal, pay close attention to the medical conditions and procedures that a particular policy will and won’t cover. For example, Embrace offers an accident-only plan that provides coverage for bloat, a life-threatening illness that can be common in certain large-breed dogs like Great Danes.
4. Get Multiple Quotes
Similar to health and auto insurance companies for humans, pet insurance carriers offer a wide range of policies, premiums and coverage options for your four-legged family members. No two pet insurance companies provide the exact same coverage for your 8-year old Yorkiepoo, so you should definitely shop around to compare options. Check out our directory of pet insurance companies to get started.
5. Price Isn’t the Only Factor
Once you’ve obtained quotes from multiple pet insurance carriers, it’s time to really dig into the fine print to determine what a particular policy covers related to your pet’s routine care, accidents, and other major medical events. The monthly premium is certainly important, but keep in mind other costs like out-of-pocket expenses you’ll be responsible for, as well as expensive veterinary procedures that may not be covered by a particular plan. Pay close attention to policy exclusions for pre-existing conditions. If you are unfamiliar with pet insurance lingo, check out our Pet Insurance 101 guide.
6. Start a Pet Emergency Fund
Even if you have pet insurance, the majority of policies require pet owners to pay medical fees upfront and then file a claim for reimbursement afterward. The industry average reimbursement time is 5-9 days, which can be a long time to wait for money taken directly from your weekly budget. So, it’s a good idea to set up a pet emergency fund that you can tap into to cover unexpected veterinary expenses. This fund can also be used to cover the portion of the bill that you are responsible for: deductibles and copays. If you want to avoid out-of-pocket worries and deductibles altogether, Pawp gives its members access to a $3,000 annual emergency fund in the event of a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate vet care.
7. Know How Reimbursement Works
Reimbursement is the percentage of veterinary bills an insurer will return after a file is claimed, usually between 70-90% of medical costs. The rest of the bill is left for you to pay. One of the few companies to offer 100% reimbursement for new injuries and illnesses is Figo. If you don’t want to wait to be reimbursed, Trupanion works with select vets to offer direct payment, which means you get a decision on your claim in seconds and don’t have to deal with the reimbursement process. Pets Best can also pay your vet bill directly through an optional claims reimbursement feature called Vet Direct Pay.
8. Understand Premiums vs. Deductibles
Each month, pet insurance policyholders pay a premium, which varies depending on how extensive a policy is and how high the deductible is set (the amount of money that needs to be met before pet insurance kicks in). High deductibles can pay off when your pooch is young and his cost of healthcare is likely to be less than the cost of a high premium every month. Lower deductibles can be beneficial for people who prefer to know when money is leaving their bank account, rather than being hit with a large vet bill at an unspecified time. Pets Best is one of the few companies that offers customizable plans that allow members to select their own deductible. To reward its policy users, Embrace automatically lowers deductibles by $50 every year you don't make a claim.
9. Be Prepared For the Bill
Like most insurers, every pet insurance company will charge a monthly membership fee that varies according to your dog, his coverage, and the deductible. Fortunately, many policies can be catered for specific budgetary needs. Pet insurance ranges from as little as $10 to over $100 per month, but according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, the average annual cost is just under $50 per month for accident and illness coverage. Lemonade Pet Insurance starts at just $10 per month for a basic plan that includes certain diagnostics and procedures. For an affordable flat fee and no worries about copays and deductibles, Pawp offers one of the cheapest insurance alternatives at $24 per month for up to six pets in a household.
10. Don’t Let Coverage Lapse
Insurance needs for your pet and budget may change over time. But, before switching providers, consider the impact that changing insurers may have on coverage for your pet’s pre-existing conditions. And, once you do have coverage in place, be sure to make those premium payments on time each month to avoid any lapse in coverage.