The following tips and information have been provided by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI). Objective questions such as these are what consumers should be asking when shopping for any insurance policy. Your veterinarian may also be able to offer information or recommendations specific to your pet's health care needs.
1) Company Stability
Pet health insurance has been available in the United States for more than 25 years and over the last decade has grown to become a strong, viable industry - but very few companies have longevity in the market. When researching a pet insurance company, it is important to know how long it has been in business, and if it is financially stable. What is the rating of the company's underwriter, and how long has it been with that underwriter? Ensure that the statements the company is making regarding strength and longevity apply to its business in the United States. Some companies are franchise operations from Europe and other parts of the world, and thus, have far less actual experience doing business in the United States.
2) Certified and Trained Professionals
Does the company have in-depth veterinary knowledge? A quality pet health insurance provider should have thorough knowledge of the veterinary and insurance industries, and it should have trained veterinary professionals on staff.
3) Veterinary Recognition
Is your veterinarian familiar with the pet health insurance company he/she recommends, and does your veterinary office staff recommend it? Inquire if the person making the recommendation is receiving financial incentives for suggesting a particular company.
4) No Provider Networks
Policies should allow pet owners to visit any licensed veterinarian and not require them to visit a specific network of hospitals or practitioners.
5) Immediate Coverage on Effective Date
All policy coverage should be available on the effective date of the policy. Some companies delay coverage of illnesses and wellness procedures for an additional amount of time beyond the effective date.
6) Wellness Coverage
Preventive care is critical to the long-term health of a pet. In order to encourage and remind pet owners to take their pet to the veterinarian on a regular basis, the company should offer coverage for common preventive treatments and procedures: wellness exams, vaccinations, heartworm protection, spay/neuter, teeth cleaning, prescription flea control, etc.
7) Broad Coverage for Illnesses
Policies should include coverage for prescription drugs, dental illness and chronic conditions such as allergies and diabetes.
8) Continued Coverage for Chronic Conditions
Does the company consider conditions treated during your pet's policy term to be "pre-existing" upon renewal? Do benefit allowances renew with each new incident throughout the lifetime of your pet's policy? Is there a lifetime maximum benefit? Companies should continue to cover conditions as long as the policy remains continuously current, without charging you additional premium.
9) Coverage Away from Home
If your pet is injured while straying away from your home, or is treated by a veterinarian while you are traveling, is this covered? A pet insurance policy should be effective whether your pet is in your home, at the neighbor's house or accidentally lost. Also, as previously noted, you should be able to visit any licensed veterinarian anywhere while traveling.
10) Full Transparency Regarding Reimbursements
Does the company use a schedule of payments, such as a benefit schedule, or does it use a usual and customary fee list? It should be clearly communicated to policyholders which of the two payment programs is being used, what is covered, what benefits are available and how the list is developed.
11) Transparency in Coverage
If the company claims to cover hereditary and congenital conditions, are the benefit limits for these conditions enough to cover treatment? For example, a company may claim to cover hereditary conditions, but then only offer a $200 lifetime maximum benefit.
12) Physical Exams
How often does the company require physical exams? Some companies, for example, require a physical exam every year in order to maintain coverage.
13) Preauthorization for Treatment
If a condition or treatment is covered under the policy terms, no preauthorization for treatment should be required.
14) Claims Submission
Companies should allow policyholders to fax or mail claims, and there should be a reasonable time limit on submitting claims. If a claim is denied, there should be a review process in place available to the policyholder.
15) Premium Increases
Premium increases should be based on your pet's age and not on the amount or number of claims filed.
16) Policy Cancellation Penalties
There should be no penalty for canceling your policy, whether because of choice or loss of the pet. Companies should reimburse the policyholder all unearned premium.
Submitted by Veterinary Pet Insurance- full use permission granted.
Share your thoughts about pet insurance:
Readers Respond - Pet Insurance
For more information about VPI:
Underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Brea, CA / National Casualty Company (Nat'l), Madison WI ©2008 Veterinary Pet Insurance Company