owners care deeply about their furry family members, sometimes going to great
lengths to ensure Fido or Fluffy's health and wellness. Even with excellent
care, however, a pet can still get sick or injured, and the cost of
care can quickly add up. According to the American Pet Products Association
(APPA), Americans spent $16.62 billion on veterinary care in 2017.
technology has advanced, and today's pets receive such complex medical
treatment as chemotherapy, physical therapy and heart surgery. While these
services can help extend or even save a pet's life, they often come at a steep
price. As such, many families are faced with making life-or-death decisions
based on how much care they can afford.
help ease the financial burden of caring for a sick or injured fur baby, some
families invest in pet insurance.
National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has these tips to help
you get smart about whether pet insurance is right for you.
Just like health insurance for
you or a family member, there are several types of pet insurance policies:
- A pet health insurance policy reimburses
the pet owner for specified veterinary care. As with your health insurance
policy, these policies typically itemize covered treatments, deductibles
(the amount you're responsible to pay) and lifetime or per illness
maximums. The cost of the policy may vary based on the amount and type of
coverage as well as the breed or species.
- A pet life insurance policy covers
end-of-life costs for your animal. This can include burial or cremation
expenses and even bereavement counseling for you and your family.
injury coverage may be part of your auto
insurance policy. It covers the treatment of a pet injured in a car
accident up to a set limit. Check with your insurance agent or company to
determine if your auto policy includes coverage for a pet traveling in
What to Compare When
Reviewing Your Options
Covered conditions: Some pet health insurance policies
may reimburse covered medical expenses for accidents, illnesses, surgeries,
X-rays, prescriptions, hospitalizations, emergencies or cancer treatments.
Other plans may only cover accident and illness after a waiting period.
Pre-existing Conditions: Hereditary conditions and certain
medical conditions are considered pre-existing. Look to see if the conditions
are considered curable (stable or controlled pre-existing conditions) or
incurable (terminal pre-existing conditions). For pre-existing conditions
considered curable, the company may choose to enforce a waiting period before
coverage can begin. Conditions considered incurable such as diabetes or cancer
may be excluded or may be covered on a limited basis. A veterinarian may need
to conduct an examination to certify your pet's health.
Renewable Benefits: If your pet is treated for a
covered condition during the policy term, some companies may consider the
condition to be pre-existing and will exclude coverage for the condition when
the policy is renewed.
Exclusions: Treatments not covered by pet
insurance can vary by type of pet or breed. Not all pet insurance plans cover
preventative care, dental care not associated with an accident or injury,
treatment of behavioral problems, breed-specific hereditary conditions or
elective procedures. Treatment of congenital conditions (a condition your pet
is born with) or hereditary conditions may have a limited benefit.
Reimbursement: What the insurance company will
pay per treatment is explained in a benefits schedule. This list outlines how
much - by percentage of cost or dollar amount - the company will pay for
treatments. You may be responsible for copays or deductibles. Some companies
will pay the vet for services, but often you'll be responsible for the full
amount at the time of treatment, and then be reimbursed by the insurer for
Veterinarian Networks: Some pet health insurance policies
will require you to use a specific network of veterinarians. Check to see which
ones are in your network.
What Questions to Ask
Consider whether you need pet
health insurance. Estimate the health costs for your animal's expected life.
Take into consideration how much you could afford for emergency treatment or a
Shop around. Compare policy
benefits, deductibles, limits and exclusions.
If you choose to purchase pet insurance,
read the terms and conditions. Double-check the amount of coverage shown in
your insurance policy.
Checklist of questions to ask
your insurance agent or company:
- Can I choose
- What is the
deductible and copay?
- Does the
policy cover annual wellness exams?
- Is there a
dollar limit for office fees?
prescription drugs covered?
- What about
spaying or neutering charges?
- Does the
policy have renewable benefits?
- Is there a
waiting period before coverage becomes effective?
- Does my pet
need a health exam to qualify for the policy?
- If my pet
has a pre-existing condition or chronic condition, how is it covered or
- How long do
you take to pay claims?
- Does this
plan cover advertising costs and rewards if my pet is lost or stolen?
- Does this
plan have end-of-life benefits?
Wellness Programs: In addition to pet insurance, some
veterinary offices offer their own wellness plans for items traditionally not
covered by pet insurance, such as vaccinations and examinations.
Discount Plans: Some national discount programs offer
veterinary service discounts for a monthly fee. Typically veterinarians who are
part of a network must be used to receive the discount.
Pet Pharmacies: Many pharmacies, like those at
discount stores, carry pet prescriptions.
Homeowners Insurance: Homeowners and renter's policies
can sometimes assist with covering pet-related expenses on your property. If
pets are harmed at home when owners are following the laws of their
jurisdiction (such as leash laws), offending parties may be liable for your
pets' medical bills. Additionally, arrangements such as boarding may be covered
for pets when a homeowner incurs additional living expenses while the home is
being repaired for a covered loss. However, homeowners need to know whether
their animal is excluded by their insurance carrier due to the animal
breed or aggressive history. There may be an option for additional or specific
liability coverage to cover these risks.