September is National Pet Insurance Month—an annual celebration that’s all about spreading the word on why pet insurance is an important and crucial need for your furry friends! Honored by veterinarians, shelters and rescues, and insurance companies, this observance represents a great opportunity to introduce the concept of pet insurance and the benefits it provides to those who may be unfamiliar with it. Regardless of whether you have a dog or a cat, investing in pet insurance can be a game-changer for the way you care for your beloved companion!
Pet insurance is a concept that has often been overlooked by pet owners. While some individuals lack awareness about it, others hold misconceptions surrounding its coverage, consider it too costly for their financial situation, or believe that their pets, being young and healthy, are less likely to have health issues that necessitate it. However, as we’re well aware, accidents can happen at any time!
National Pet Insurance Month encourages pet owners to embark on a journey of care and financial preparedness! By delving into the world of pet insurance, you’ll be able to ensure the health and safety of your pet, while safeguarding your wallet from unforeseen veterinary expenses!
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is similar to that of human insurance in that it provides financial coverage for medical expenses—but in this case, it’s tailored exclusively for your beloved furry friends! In the same way we rely on health insurance to cover doctor visits and hospital bills, pet insurance steps in to help pet owners cover veterinary visits, treatments, surgeries, and other healthcare-related costs if their pet falls sick or is injured.
Why Do You Need It?
As the world of veterinary care continues to evolve, the inevitable outcome is a surge in associated costs. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, veterinary expenses have skyrocketed by nearly 11% from July 2022 to July 2023. Inflation, advancements in technology, the ever-increasing demand for top-notch pet care, and a rise in pet adoption all play a role in the spike of vet care costs!
Now, you might be wondering: “How can I handle these soaring expenses?” Well, the answer lies in giving pet insurance a serious thought!
Pet insurance is important because you never know when an emergency regarding your fur baby will occur. Of course, this is a scenario that no loving pet parent would like to think about, nonetheless be in. However, the reality is that pet emergencies can happen at any given moment, even in times when you are not prepared to handle the expenses. This could potentially lead to you having to forgo necessary treatment or tests due to financial constraints. Routine pet care is already costly and having to budget for unforeseen costs can add an even greater financial burden.
Lucky for you, pet insurance acts as a financial safety net, making your furry friend’s healthcare more affordable and easily manageable!
Types of Pet Insurance
Generally speaking, there are several types of pet insurance policies available. However, it is typically divided into three main types of plans that pet owners are able to make a selection from: accident-only, accident and illness, and routine wellness or preventative care. The extent of coverage for each type varies considerably depending on the provider and the specific plan that you opt for, therefore it’s in your best interest to choose one that meets your needs and aligns perfectly with your requirements. Not only will doing so ensure that you’ll have sufficient coverage for your furry best friend, but it can also give you peace of mind for any unexpected veterinary expenses you may possibly encounter!
The latest data findings from the State of the Industry Report 2023 Highlights—compiled by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA)—shows that more than 4.8 million pets in the United States had their tails covered by one of these pet insurance plans, at the year-end 2022! Among these insured pets, our canine companions accounted for the majority at 80.1%, while our feline friends constituted 19.9%. What’s even more astounding is that the United States is reported to hold a share of 90.5% in the North American pet insurance marketplace. These statistics highlight the ongoing recognition by pet parents of the significance of pet insurance, which not only contributes to the health and well-being of their fur baby, but assists in alleviating financial burdens!
Let’s dive into the three primary categories of pet insurance plans!
Accident & Illness (Comprehensive)
This insurance policy plan is also known as comprehensive pet insurance. It offers a broader range of coverage and provides financial protection for any of your pet’s medical expenses resulting from both accidents and illnesses.
Comprehensive plans will typically provide reimbursements for incidents such as the following:
- Chronic Conditions: such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, allergies, kidney disease, etc.
- Dental Care: such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, root canals, etc.
- Breed-specific conditions: such as hip dysplasia
- Illnesses: such as ear infections, skin infections, urinary tract infections, etc.
- Prescription Medications
- Diagnostic Testing: bloodwork, X-rays, MRI scans, etc.
Accident and illness insurance plans for pets are one of the most prevalent choices for pet parents due their extensive customization and widespread availability. However, they do tend to come with a higher price tag compared to other policies.
If you intend on considering this option, it is crucial to review the terms and conditions of the policy—especially regarding any exclusions and limitations. Carefully selecting the right level of coverage ensures that you have adequate financial protection for your pet’s overall health.
Accident-only pet insurance is a type of policy that covers your pet for any injuries resulting from accidents. This type of coverage is more limited and doesn’t cover veterinary costs related to broader ranges of medical conditions and illnesses, such as cancer, infections, etc.
It provides coverage and will reimburse for veterinary expenses related to accidents such as cuts or lacerations, bee stings, broken bones, torn ligaments, swallowing foreign objects, getting bit by another animal, poisoning, car accidents, and more. Accident-only plans tend to be more affordable, especially for those who maybe can’t afford an accident and illness policy. Therefore, it makes for a budget-friendly option for pet owners who still want some level of protection for their pets in emergency situations, but are able to handle routine and preventative care on their own.
Make sure to read and understand the policy terms and exclusions to ensure that it meets your pet’s specific needs! It’s possible that you may want coverage for accidents and illnesses, which in that case, you would apply for a comprehensive plan.
Routine Wellness or Preventative Care
This is a type of coverage that focuses on keeping your beloved furry companions healthy through routine care and preventative measures. Therefore, it’s not designed to cover any unexpected illnesses or accidents. It is usually sold as an optional add-on to the two policies above or as a separate plan by some insurance companies.
Routine wellness and preventative care plans may offer reimbursements for things such as:
- Early Screening Detections
- Annual check-ups and Wellness Exams
- Spaying & Neutering
- Parasite Control
- Dental Cleaning
- Flea Treatments
Not all wellness expenses may be covered, so always be sure to review policy details!
What Does Pet Insurance Not Cover?
Pet insurance policies often come with exclusions and limitations that specify what a policy will not cover. These exclusions typically differ among insurance companies and the particular policy in question, therefore, always be sure to review your pet insurance policy carefully to know what is and isn’t covered.
Below are some common things that pet insurance might exclude from coverage!
Other things that pet insurance may not cover are experimental treatments—treatments that are considered investigational, experimental, or not within standard care accepted by veterinary medical boards in your state, cosmetic procedures—examples being ear cropping, declawing, and tail docking, and injuries sustained from intentional harm—abuse, neglect, illegal activities such as dog fighting, etc.
Not all insurance plans are created equal. Before any decisions are made, always read the fine print!
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
The first step when it comes to pet insurance involves the selection of a provider and the decision-making process regarding a policy. Choosing the right insurance for your cat or dog can be overwhelming as there are various companies that offer different types of plans with varying coverage options, premiums, and deductibles. Therefore it is crucial to conduct extensive research on various companies and thoroughly examine each policy so that you are well equipped at choosing one most suitable for your pet’s specific needs and your budget.
After selecting a provider, finalizing your policy, and enrolling your pet, the next step entails paying regular premium payments. Pet insurance requires regular premium payments—the amount of money that you pay to the insurance company in return for coverage. Premiums can be billed monthly, quarterly, or annually and are determined by the extent of coverage they provide. It’s imperative that you keep up with your payments to ensure the continuity of your coverage!
A critical aspect of pet insurance is that it works mainly on a reimbursement-basis—the process by which pet parents can be compensated for eligible veterinary expenses covered by their insurance policy. When your pet receives medical care or treatment after becoming sick or injured, you will need to pay the full veterinary bill upfront at the time of service. After paying, you can then submit a claim to your pet insurance provider, consisting of documentation like the invoice, medical records, and any other requested information. Your provider will then review your claim and reimburse you for eligible expenses if they fall within the coverage of your policy. Depending on your insurance provider and plan, reimbursement is usually a percentage of the total cost—while some policies offer 80% coverage, others may cover 90% or more of the eligible expenses!
Beware of deductibles, policy limits, and waiting periods.
Deductibles refer to the amount of money you must pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company starts covering any expenses, usually set at a dollar amount or percentage rate.
Many insurance companies also have policy limits, which may include annual or lifetime maximums. This refers to the maximum dollar amount that an insurance company will reimburse you for covered expenses during a policy year or over the lifetime of your pet. Once these limits are reached, insurance companies will not cover any more expenses for your pet until the next year. As a result, you are responsible for any additional veterinary costs for the remainder of the policy year. If you’re dealing with a lifetime maximum, insurance providers will cease coverage for your pets medical expenses—regardless if you renew the policy annually.
Some insurance policies have a waiting period before coverage begins. During this time, which typically ranges from a couple days to a few weeks, the insurance will not cover any accidents or illnesses. Waiting periods are a way to prevent new policyholders from filing claims that are actually the result of a pre-existing condition. It also helps insurers prevent fraud by ensuring that pet owners cannot purchase insurance after their pet is already sick or injured to claim immediate benefits.
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost?
In addition to the type of plan you select, along with paying a monthly or annual premium, the cost of pet insurance depends on various other factors as well. Common factors that determine how much an insurance policy costs include:
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Pet insurance can be a valuable investment that helps pet parents to manage unexpected costs and provide their fur baby with the best care. Not to mention, it can be a real lifesaver—for both you and your pet! Unexpected vet bills and the costs associated with them can be a source of stress for pet owners, making pet insurance a great option for alleviating such concerns.
Pet insurance empowers you to make the best decisions for your pet’s health and wellbeing by not only providing financial support, but giving you the freedom to choose the most appropriate and effective medical care that caters to their unique needs.
So if pet insurance is something that you are interested in, remember:
- Always conduct thorough research
- Carefully compare your options
- Make an informed decision that best suits your furry best friend and your peace of mind!