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The Nuts And Bolts Of Pet Insurance Policies

Guest Author Laura Bennett FSA CFA offers some tips for evaluating policies

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Nuts and Bolts / DHDesign on Flickr

Nuts and Bolts

DHDesign on Flickr
Guest Author Laura Bennett FSA CFA offers her insight into evaluating pet insurance policies and shopping tips to find the best policy for your pet(s).

From Laura:
Pet insurance does not have to be complicated, but just like any other type of insurance that’s new to you, there are a number of points that are worth understanding. Understanding leads to enlightenment which leads to good choices when it comes to your pet’s health.

Here’s a quick rundown of how pet insurance works:

  • You can go to any vet you choose (your vet doesn’t even have to know you have pet insurance).
  • You pay the vet first and then get reimbursed by your pet insurance company afterwards.
  • You can sign up a pet that already has health issues, just that your policy will only cover new conditions unrelated to the pre-existing ones. Don’t think though that having pet insurance isn’t worth it if your pet already has a condition – new things come up all the time.
  • Buy your policy when your pet is healthy – don’t wait until something has happened because that’s too late for that condition!
  • If you are unsure about whether or not something is covered by your policy, you can ask your insurer to find out. Get the answer in writing of course.
  • Most policies have a money-back guarantee so you can always cancel your policy without penalty if you have second thoughts.
  • You can buy pet insurance for a pet of any age but most companies have limits on the age they will issue an illness policy. Once they are insured with illness coverage, they stay covered with illness coverage even as they age.
A pet health insurance policy generally has the following features:
  • Most policies have a deductible (the amount you pay first before the insurance kicks in), a copayment percentage (a percentage of the bill above the deductible you pay) and a maximum of some kind (the most an insurer will pay).
  • All policies cover accidents, most cover illnesses too, and some have optional wellness care, either embedded in your policy (with the deductible, copay, and max applying) or as an add-on health spending account.
  • No insurance policy covers pre-existing conditions although in some cases, some may cover them if they are cured for a period of time.
  • Common exclusions include breeding issues, experimental treatments, and cosmetic surgery like declawing and tail docking.
The main differences between products are:
  • Whether or not hereditary conditions are covered.
  • Whether or not chronic conditions are covered.
  • How the payout is calculated – from vet bill, benefit schedule, or UCR.
  • How the premium increases over time.

Premiums depend on the policy coverage and features, what kind of pet you have and where you live, but on average, you can expect to pay around $30 a month for a dog and about $24 a month for a cat. You might also get a discount if your pet has been spayed/neutered or microchipped or if you work in the military, pay up front, or buy online.

Disclosure: Laura Bennett FSA CFA is the co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance company.

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