10 Questions to Ask When Buying Pet Insurance

Cat and dog looking up to their pet parent, wondering if they are covered by pet insurance
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Pet insurance is a way to help you pay for certain veterinary costs and is coverage that many insurance companies offer. It covers health care costs for pets just like health insurance covers medical costs for people. If you are looking for pet insurance, it can be hard to figure out which plan is best for you and your pet.

Here are the top 10 questions you should ask when buying pet insurance.

10 Questions to Ask Before Buying Pet Insurance

Am I Looking for a Pet Health Discount Plan or a Comprehensive Insurance Plan?

In a discount fee plan, you pay an annual fee. When you take your pet in for care, you get covered services for less. For instance, a checkup might cost $100, but you would only pay $80.

A pet health insurance plan might cover your pet in the way your plan covers you. You pay a monthly premium for the insurance. The insurance covers specific conditions or types of visits. When you take your pet to the vet, you pay a deductible (or co-payment), and the insurance pays for the rest.

Will I Get to Choose My Vet?

Whether you can choose your vet or not depends on the provider and type of coverage you choose. For instance, Pet Assure offers discount plans. The company created a network of over 5,600 veterinarians in 50 states. If you choose this plan, you'll need to go to one of the participating vets to get your discounts.

Pumpkin Pet Insurance lets you go to the vet of your choice. You need to pay for the care upfront and then file a claim. The company will reimburse you for the amount covered by the policy you have.

What Are the Waiting Periods?

It is important to know when your coverage starts so that you don't take your pet in for treatment when they aren't covered. Like all insurance, there may be a waiting period for the policy to take effect.

Each provider will have waiting periods that differ by condition. Most commonly, and depending on the condition, you'll need to wait anywhere between a few days and one month for:

  • Illnesses: Typically 14 days
  • Accidents: Typically a few days
  • Specific conditions: Varies between 14 days and several months, depending on the condition.

Pet insurance plan costs can increase with your pet's age, so it's best to enroll them when they are young and healthy.

What Doesn't the Plan Cover?

Plans will vary in the conditions they cover. Like our health care plans, your pet's plan might not cover pre-existing conditions or hereditary problems. But, you might be able to pay extra to cover a condition. Talk to the plan provider and find out if there are special cases or extras that you can pay for.

Does the Plan Cover Routine Wellness Care?

If you are looking for a comprehensive policy, ask if it covers routine visits such as immunizations, dental care, and heartworm testing. These are often considered to be wellness care services, and you might be able to add them to your policy with an additional monthly fee.

Is Neutering or Spaying Covered?

Spaying and neutering coverage is great to have since most pet owners use this service. This is not included in basic illness and accident pet insurance programs but is available in some wellness and preventative care pet insurance plans.

Does It Include Prescription Coverage?

Pet medications are just as expensive as ours are. Some policies will cover prescriptions, while others offer it as an add-on. For instance, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance and Trupanion both cover prescriptions. PetsBest covers prescriptions in its Accident Only plan. To get prescription coverage for illnesses with PetBest, you'd need to buy the Accident and Illness plan and add prescription coverage.

Do I Have to Pay a Deductible?

The deductible is what you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in. Just like human health care plans, deductibles vary by plan and how much you choose to pay. This means you'll want to find a plan that carries a deductible you can afford. Keep in mind that smaller deductibles come with higher premiums. If you take a higher deductible, you can lower the monthly costs of the plan.

Most pet insurance plans reimburse you rather than paying the rest after you pay your deductible. If you have a pet insurance plan, you take your pet in for care and pay for the services upfront. You then submit a claim to your provider, with the records if required, and they reimburse you for the amount they are responsible for.

Make sure you save up enough to pay for your pet's care before needing it, and talk to your provider before any procedures.

If your pet is aging, or you often bring them to the vet, it might make sense to choose the lower deductible and higher monthly payments. This can reduce your overall costs if your pet needs more care.

Are There Any Illness or Incident Caps?

A cap is a limit on how much a provider will pay over a period. Most pet insurance has a cap on annual or lifetime amounts, but they typically don't have caps on specific treatments or illnesses. For instance, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance has annual limits that depend on the plan you get. You can choose plans with limits between $5,000 and $20,000 in $5,000 increments. In comparison, Trupanion has no limit on how much its policies payout.

Is the Company Reputable and Giving Me All the Answers?

You should check on the Better Business Bureau website for the provider to make sure you know about any formal complaints that have been filed. You could also look for reviews from pet owners and the pet plans they use around the internet because they can be informative.

When reading reviews, one of the key things to look for are conditions that policyholders thought were covered but weren't. Take note of the conditions and ask the provider about them when you talk to them.