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Pet Insurance 101: What to Look for in a Provider

by Ryan on February 14, 2014

in Pet Health, Pets

An article from Petplan:

Pet insurance is designed to safeguard you against a major financial loss if your pet ever has an accident or becomes ill. It’s a sound investment for your furry family, but it is important to fully understand the product before you buy.

To get the best value from a pet insurance policy, pick a comprehensive plan that includes both accident and illness coverage. The point of pet insurance is to protect you against the unexpected; having to guess whether your pet is more likely to suffer an accident or an illness is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure all hereditary diseases are covered as standard in the policy; you should not have to purchase additional coverage for things like hip dysplasia or congenital heart disease. If there are options for add-ons and riders, buyer beware. While picking coverage a la carte can sometimes mean a nominally lower premium, the risk that you could be left vulnerable to big bills just isn’t worth it.

Avoid insurance providers who reimburse based on a benefit schedule; you could find yourself maxing out per-illness and per-incident caps pretty quickly – especially if your pet’s condition becomes chronic. These caps also do not take into account the complications that can (and often do) arise during treatment, and they don’t take into consideration the many complementary therapies that can be used in tandem with traditional modalities to treat a pet’s condition holistically (like acupuncture or hydrotherapy). Pick a provider that offers flat-rate reimbursement of your actual vet fees, and you’ll be free to follow whatever treatment plan your vet recommends without worrying about cost.

One of the biggest issues pet parents need to understand when buying insurance is pre-existing conditions. Though they feel like part of the family, pets are legally considered property, and pet health insurance is really property and casualty insurance. This means that much like your homeowner’s or car insurance can’t pay for losses that happened before you took out a policy, pet insurance – no matter who your provider – cannot pay claims related to illnesses or injuries that occurred before you bought the policy (or during the policy waiting periods).

Pets with pre-existing conditions are still insurable, it simply means that the insurance cannot pay claims related to those conditions. So if you have a dog who already suffers from allergies when you sign up, your insurance cannot reimburse you for allergy treatments. But when he needs emergency surgery after snacking on socks, or tears his CCL chasing the neighbor’s cat, or develops cancer – that’s when your policy will pay.

When it comes to pre-existing conditions, a good insurance provider will make a distinction between curable and incurable conditions when making exclusions. A chronic pre-existing condition like diabetes cannot be covered, but things like respiratory infections, urinary tract infections or vomiting can usually be covered after an exclusionary period. In other words, provided your pet’s medical history shows no further incidences after the initial episode, coverage for the condition may be restored after a period of time with no relapse.

If you’ve been back and forth to the vet with your pet in the past, find out which conditions are considered curable by a particular company, and when in doubt, request an underwriting review. Be sure to read and understand the Terms and Conditions of any policy you are considering purchasing. This document clearly lays out what is and is not covered, explains any waiting or exclusionary periods, and defines your responsibilities as a pet parent to keep the policy in good standing.

Finally, consider each prospective pet insurance company as a whole. Does the provider earn high marks on independent review sites like PetInsuranceReview.com? Do they go beyond just collecting premiums and actually give you practical information for keeping your pet healthy? Visit a provider’s website, Facebook page, twitter feed, Pinterest account and anything else you can find to get a sense of the company culture. Chances are if they are a company of pet people, and they share useful pet health information to help you take the best care of your pet, they’re going to be a good partner in your pet’s health when you need them most.

When purchasing pet insurance, seek out a provider that offers comprehensive standard plans, flat-rate reimbursement and whose reputation inspires confidence in their customer service, and you’ll be well on your way to keeping your pet happy and healthy for life.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lori February 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Thanks, PetsitUSA, for providing this great article!!!

PetPlan has been highly recommended to me by veterinarians… and I suggest PetPlan to my pet parents when seeking my advice on health insurance for their furry babies.

Sharing this on my Facebook and Twitter pages for others to read… thanks again! Lori

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