Ask a Vet About Navigating the Emerging World of Pet Insurance: How to Pay for the Pets Without Breaking the Bank

I must admit, pet insurance is not something that myself or Dr. Laci have ever purchased for any of our kiddos, but with two veterinarians in the family, we felt we could afford vet costs with relative ease…

We were wrong.

Ask a Vet | do not break the piggy bankIn today’s world with pets having fully proven themselves as family members, more and more people are willing to seek out specialists when their pet needs advanced care, and that kind of care often comes with a heavy price tag.

There are lots of choices out there:  there are many providers, plans, coverage options, and all with varying costs and benefits.  So how do you go about deciding if your pet needs insurance and what sort of research should you carry out?

Pet insurance in not a new concept; it has been around for over 30 years in Europe.  While the percentage of US pets that are insured remains in the single digits, fifty percent of pet owners in Sweden are subscribers. Seems like the trend will only continue here in the States, and it certainly is worth researching, even if you don’t take the plunge.

What to do:

  1. Ask your veterinarian if they have interfaced with the provider in the past.  Ask the vet for suggestions.  However, many veterinarians are only or most familiar with Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) because that is the oldest and largest insurance company that is licensed in all 50 states.
  2. Do ask about their coverage area and their reimbursement procedures.  If you may be moving or traveling you may be out of network and not covered.  Furthermore, some providers require preauthorization and do limit the options for veterinarian choice.
  3. Determine what isn’t covered under the policy such as preexisting or hereditary conditions.  For example, one plan may consider arthritis in certain breeds due to hip dysplasia to be a hereditary condition and others may not.  Do ask for a list of hereditary, congenital, and preexisting conditions prior to the purchase of a policy.  If you don’t understand the conditions, ask a vet to look at the list and see if any of your pet’s conditions fall under the non-coverage list.
  4. Compare coverage for non-anticipated treatments.  For example, will your plan cover acupuncture, massage therapy, or therapy for chronic/long-term conditions.  Also, is there a maximum annual benefit and what is it?
  5. Do ask the provider what their rating is with their underwriter.  An A+ or A++ rating indicates that the company has financial strength.  If your provider goes out of business during your pet’s lifetime and you need to switch providers, your pet may have preexisting conditions that would not be covered by the next provider.  You also want to be sure that conditions that were covered by your policy will continue to be covered by the policy when it renews.
  6. Do consider pet wellness plan coverage that includes preventative care such as vaccines, dental cleanings, fecal examinations, physical exams, and annual bloodwork.  Be sure to find out how much preventative care is included, how many office visits, and what services are covered.
  7. Do check out Pet Insurance Review.This site has tons of reviews and comparison charts and this site will decrease the time you will need to spend on researching individual companies.  This site also provides user ratings from past and present customers that can be invaluable when researching a specific company and provides direct links for getting a quote from each provider.

Remember, there is no single “best” company to go with.  You should ask your vet about their experience and you must consider your budget and your pet’s life stage and health conditions when choosing a provider.

Happy reseraching!


Dr. Jed

Dr. Jed Schaible Signature

Dr. Jed Schaible VMD


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14 Comments

betty nash
September 29, 2010 at 02:21
 

THANKS FOR THIS INFORMATION. I AM CONSIDERING INSURANCE FOR A COUPLE OF HORSES AND THIS HAS HELPED CLEAR UP A FEW THINGS.

JedSchaible
October 6, 2010 at 23:37
 

Thanks. Good luck with your Horses Betty!

Tae
May 15, 2012 at 22:29
 

I have never in 10 years heard a complaint about the innarusce we recommend VPI. Of course, you’ll need to read the policy you decide to purchase. None will cover pre-existing conditions. All of them have roughly the same exclusions.All pet innarusce companies reimburse you, rather than paying the vet directly. To my knowledge, none will allow you to walk out of the vet’s office without paying.When looking for a pet innarusce company, make sure to select one that has been around for a long time. Or a name you trust, such as PurinaCare.There is another group called Care Credit, that allows you to swipe a card and leave the vet’s office. You would need to pay the group back within 6 months to avoid heavy charges, but the first 6 months is interest-free.vet tech

Erich Riesenberg
October 20, 2010 at 17:56
 

I would recommend against wellness care and for petinsurancereview.com

Wellness coverage is likely to simply be prepaid expenses, no insurer should be paying out excess benefits on routine, annual items, the insurer would be agreeing to lose money.

There is a lot of bad pet insurance. I found my insurer there and it works a lot like human major medical insurance.

People have such a hard time understanding financial issues.

JedSchaible
October 20, 2010 at 19:59
 

I understand your point about prepaid expenses and the fact that routine preventative care could have just been paid out of your own pocket. What do you think of the value of catastrophic insurance though?

May 15, 2012 at 19:39
 

We are the first and only provider to offer pet inacusnre with no limits on payout, whatsoever. I go through reports regularly and once in a while, I will see a claim for nearly $20,000 for a single bill!Pet inacusnre is good for unexpected accidents and illnesses. They can get expensive quickly, so it’s nice to have inacusnre to cover the costs. Pet inacusnre does not cover pre-existing conditions, so if your pet is already sick or injured, it is unlikely that pet inacusnre will cover the costs to treat it.For other costs like regular exams and vaccines, it’s best to self-budget since these costs are expected. Some pet inacusnre companies offer coverage, but it is typically not cost-effective. (Imagine paying an extra $200 per year on your premiums for $200 worth of routine coverage )A few good questions to ask when researching pet inacusnre are:1. Does the policy cover everything? Hereditary and congenital issues?2. What are the payout limits? Will it be enough money for my worst case scenario?3. How much does it cover for each condition?4. What are the pricing and deductible options?5. Is it an ongoing policy? If my pet has an illness during my first policy year, will it be covered the next policy year?Be sure to do thorough research Some plans don’t pay based on your actual bill, but have lists of predetermined dollar amounts that they will pay for each condition which can be shockingly low in many cases. I would recommend getting an actual inacusnre plan that covers based on your bill so that you are never faced with a difficult and expensive situation when you *thought* you were covered.We cover 90% of the actual bill for diagnostic testing, treatments, surgeries and medications including emergency and specialist visits. Trupanion is also the only provider to offer a $0 deductible option.Feel free to give customer service a call and get a no-obligation quote to ask all the necessary questions and find out what’s best for you.

May 18, 2012 at 01:48
 

I have checked into the pet iansrnuces. Because, well, right now I only have 7 animals. What I have found out for sure AND talked vet about is that ALL iansrnuces STOP after usually 7 years. Sometimes older. Normally, their health is going to go down when they are geriatrics. Just like in humans. That is when you really need it. Of course, your pet may become ill earlier (hopefully not). Also, I don’t think it helps with maintence. You know, like shots, etc. You will have to make this decision, but I would discuss this with your vet. He/she should tell you good advice.

October 22, 2010 at 01:09
 

Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

Big Dogs Rescue
October 22, 2010 at 07:05
 

Okay, this is another great blog. As a rescue, we have often entertained the idea of insurance. Also, just wanted you to know we have posted your link to a network of nearly 100 rescuers and rescue organizations in California. Thank you for what you do and making it possible for more rescuers and pet owners alike to get much needed assessment and direction for health care for the beloved pets.

JedSchaible
October 22, 2010 at 19:32
 

Thanks Big Dogs!

December 14, 2010 at 08:40
 

Because this really is a pre-existing condition there is a great chance that none of them will probably be willing to cover it.

December 24, 2010 at 05:38
 

pet insurance is it a waste of money

January 25, 2011 at 22:12
 

I don’t have a dog but I do have a cat and he is my mate. He is feisty, independent, cheeky, cuddly and more. He is my reason for getting out of bed each day. He does not have a nasty bone in his body yet he and I are vilified by others where I live. I am so protective of him it seems he is the child I never had.He and I actually have short conversations and I swear he knows what I am saying. he is a delight to come home to.

February 5, 2011 at 22:26
 

On top of that, Doctors, Lawyers and Engineers require insurance in case they make a bad decision or give poor advice. This kind of insurance is expensive, especially in areas like the medical field where professionals are making judgment calls many times a day.