Pet insurance is a complicated issue. It can be a great help if one of your pets needs major surgery or chemotherapy, but there are also pitfalls with it. Just like human health insurance, it doesn’t always cover pre-existing conditions.
There are two excellent web sites devoted to helping pet owners understand the ins and outs of pet insurance. The first and most comprehensive is the Pet Insurance University. This site takes an in-depth look at pet insurance, offers comparison charts between the plans and lists alternatives.
The second site, the Pet Insurance Fact Sheet, is a one page primer on pet health insurance including this advice on how to select a plan:
How to Select a Pet Insurance Plan
Selecting a pet insurance plan is an individual choice because each person has different needs depending on the pet’s breed, owner’s geographical location and the owner’s budget. First determine if you need pet insurance.
If you can cover the “worst case scenario costs” for your geographic location out of your own pocket, then you may not need pet insurance.
If you determine that you need pet insurance, make sure the pet insurance company you choose has the following attributes:
1) Has good medical coverage .To get the most comprehensive coverage, you want to purchase a plan that covers accidents/injuries AND illnesses. The illness part of the coverage must include (these are common ailments in veterinary medicine):
a) Coverage for cancer
b) Coverage for chronic disease Chronic diseases are illnesses that have long duration and generally slow progression. Examples include: cancer, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and chronic liver disease.
c) Continual coverage for chronic disease If you do not get this coverage, the chronic disease will only be covered in the policy year it was diagnosed, after that, you will have to pay for any continuing medications or diagnostic monitoring yourself. Treatment for most chronic diseases will last beyond the first year of diagnosis.
d) Coverage for Hereditary & Congenital Diseases
e) Coverage for Diseases that are Common to your Pet’s Breed
2) Has a good reputation: Research a pet insurance company’s reputation using:
- Pet Insurance Review
- Better Business Bureau
- Your state’s Department of Insurance
3) Has a strong underwriter The underwriter is the company that is financially responsible for paying your claim. Use AM Best’s website to research the strength of the underwriter.
4) Has a maximum payout limit that will cover the “worst case scenario costs” for your geographic location. The maximum payout limit is the maximum amount of money the insurance company will reimburse you. This payout limit can be annually, lifetime, per incident, per body system or based on a predetermined benefit schedule. You want to pick a maximum payout structure that will cover the “worst case scenario costs” that could happen for you.
5) Has an affordable premium
6) Pays claims in a timely fashion
7) Does not have unreasonable exclusions and requirements.