Pet Insurance 101
Bringing a furry friend into your home means you are taking on new responsibilities, including taking care of their medical needs. Pet insurance, a product designed to help cover some of the costs of veterinary care for your pets, is very similar to health insurance for humans. It often carries coinsurance and deductible costs, has a monthly premium that must be paid, and sometimes has exclusions to what is and is not covered. Pet insurance can help you pay for healthcare for the newest member of your family, but it isn’t necessarily the right choice for everyone.
What is covered by pet insurance?
Most pet insurance plans limit coverage for your animals to emergency medical care or serious illness, but almost every company that offers pet insurance allows you to purchase a rider or add-on coverage for wellness visits and other medical needs. There are two main types of pet insurance, including:
- Comprehensive coverage: Comprehensive pet insurance offers the most robust coverage, including coverage for accidents, injuries, chronic illness, infections, some hereditary issues, emergency services, and diagnostic care.
- Accident-only coverage: Accident-only pet insurance coverage is designed for emergency care only, including things like accidents, injuries, bites/stings, swallowed objects, and accidental poisoning. It covers significantly less than a comprehensive plan, but the cost is typically lower as well.
What does pet insurance not cover?
Pet insurance is often riddled with exclusions, which means there are lots of things that aren’t covered under your benefits. Wellness visits, pre-existing or genetic conditions, pregnancy, death, preventative diseases such as kennel cough or parvovirus, breed specific issues, and age specific issues are all common exclusions, depending on the plan. It is important to review the plan benefits with a Goosehead Insurance expert before purchasing a policy.
Does pet insurance cover regular veterinary costs like vaccinations and spaying or neutering?
Most pet insurance plans do not cover wellness visits. This means annual checkups, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering aren’t covered, though some plans offer you the ability to purchase a rider for this coverage.
What are the factors that determine the cost of pet insurance?
There are many factors that can impact your insurance costs, including:
- Species: Insurance rates between dogs and cats can be remarkably different. Beyond that, there are some plans that cover other common pets such as gerbils and snakes. Exotic pets are almost impossible to insure for a number of reasons, including specialized health care needs and the fact that many exotic pets are illegal to own.
- Breed: Some common breeds of both dogs and cats are prone to certain health issues. For example, people with German Shepherds may find hip dysplasia excluded from their policy, while English Bulldog owners may find that respiratory issues and eczema are excluded from their coverage.
- Age: Almost every pet insurance plan sees a sharp increase in premium as your pet ages, with many companies refusing to insure an animal that is 14 or older. If you choose to insure an older animal, you may find that age related issues are excluded from the policy.
- Annual maximum benefit: Many pet insurance policies come with an annual maximum benefit, which caps the total dollar amount available for your pet’s care in a given year. The higher your plan’s annual maximum benefit, the more you can expect to pay each month.
- Reimbursement percentage: Pet insurance plans tend to only pay a certain percentage of your pet’s health care costs. Check your benefits to see how much your plan will pay towards total vet bills. A plan that reimburses 60% of your costs will likely be cheaper than a plan that reimburses 80% of your costs.
What should I look for when choosing pet insurance?
There are several factors to consider before purchasing a pet insurance policy, including:
- Plan options: Each pet insurance company offers a variety of plan types, so it is important to review coverage levels, exclusions, and other factors before purchasing a plan to make sure it meets your needs.
- Reimbursement: Pet insurance works in one of two ways. Some plans ask you to pay the costs up front and reimburse you after you submit a claim to the insurance company. These plans often reimburse you a specific percentage of the cost of any covered services (usually somewhere between 60% and 90%.) Other plans offer a benefit schedule, which means they arrange a discounted rate through the vet. You would pay the discounted rate to the veterinarian and they would then bill the insurance company for any additional costs. Most insurance companies only offer one type of reimbursement, so make sure you know what payment system you are signing up for when you purchase a policy.
- Discounts: Some pet insurance plans are offered through major insurance carriers, allowing you to bundle your pet insurance with your home and auto coverage. Other pet insurance companies offer discounts for insuring more than one animal or discounts for pets who receive regular wellness care.
- Reviews: Check with your vet to see if they have any companies they recommend, check online reviews to see if there are any companies or policies you should steer clear of while shopping, and work with an insurance expert through Goosehead insurance to make sure you are getting a policy that meets your needs.
Is pet insurance worth it?
67% of American households have at least one pet, but do you need pet insurance?
Before purchasing a pet insurance policy, start with an estimate of your pet’s veterinary expenses. Did you spend more last year on vet bills than you would have on insurance premiums? Given that pet insurance doesn’t cover 100% of your vet bills, will a pet insurance policy cover enough of your pet’s medical costs to make it worth the cost of coverage? Does the policy you are considering increase in price as your pet ages? Working with an insurance expert to answer these questions can help you determine whether or not pet insurance is worth it for you.
Fun Fact: Goosehead Insurance was created in 2003 by Robyn Jones and Mark Jones.
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