Aren’t pets the greatest?
Dogs didn’t earn the name “man’s best friend” for nothing, and to most people, pets are like members of the family.
Our pets give us comfort when we’re down and make us laugh when we need it most and expect it least; in return, we provide them with a home, food, and lots of snuggles.
But what happens when your furry friend gets sick or injured?
Just like human medical bills, vet bills can accumulate very fast.
And no pet owner should ever be faced with the prospect of being unable to afford to care for their beloved family member.
That’s why pet insurance can be one of the best investments you make for your four-legged companion!
But it’s important to get the right insurance for your pet (and from the right company) to ensure you have the best coverage at the best price.
Read on for everything you need to know about purchasing pet insurance.
Quick Guide To The Best Pet Insurance In 2019
What Does Pet Insurance Cover?
Before deciding on any pet insurance plan for your canine or feline family member, you need to understand the types of coverage available and the conditions and treatments these plans provide for.
With pet insurance, there are basically three types of coverage:
- Comprehensive Care
- Accidents Only
- Wellness Coverage (or Preventative Care)
While you might assume they offer the same benefits, it’s important to know the differences between plans to ensure you pick the right coverage.
You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with benefit limits to avoid getting stuck with hefty vet bills when they (potentially, inevitably) start piling up.
Let’s take a look.
if you can afford it, I recommend choosing Comprehensive Care.
These are plans offered by most providers that include both accidents and illnesses.
(It’s important to note that providers all have different names for this top tier policy, i.e. Comprehensive, Accident & Illness, Premium, Ultimate, etc.)
These types of plans enable pet owners to prepare for unexpected emergencies and pay for continuous care due to diseases or long-term ailments.
Obviously, conditions and treatments included in the plans depend on the coverage offered by the pet insurance company, but these are some of the most common and expected coverage options:
- Accidents and illnesses
- Hereditary, congenital, and/or chronic conditions
- Diagnostic testing
- Prescription medication
- Emergency care
Remember, the above is by no means an exhaustive list of covered treatments and conditions.
However, these are the more frequently confronted concerns that should be included in any Comprehensive Care package.
Many pet insurance providers may include other options, or the ability to purchase additional coverage for things like dental care, specialty care, behavioral therapy, alternative care, and others.
Do your research!
Generally, Accidents Only plans are more affordable than the Comprehensive Care packages.
Because they are not as far-reaching as the previously described type of coverage.
Accidents Only is just that, coverage for emergencies and unexpected situations.
Maybe your dog ingested a piece of chocolate or one of your prescription pills or got stung by a hornet while on a walk.
These things happen, and Accidents Only plans take care of such situations.
Just note they don’t account for allergies, cancer, or parasites.
Wellness Coverage (Preventative Care)
First things first, Wellness Care is ordinarily not a cost-effective coverage option.
With wellness coverage, you pay into a plan (usually monthly), for your pet’s vaccines and regular checkups.
But most preventative care, like vaccines and regular checkups, are better handled out of pocket considering you might pay more for the coverage than for the treatments themselves.
Now that you have an idea of the main types of coverage, let’s take a look at some limits to their benefits.
Benefit limits fall under two main categories: unlimited and capped.
- Unlimited Lifetime means your pet insurance provider will cover the vet bills after you cover the deductible, period. This is the preferred option, as you don’t have to worry about ascending care costs if health issues persist with your furry friends.
- Capped plans cover your expenses up to a certain point, and are further subdivided into 3 categories:
- Annual maximum: Annual maximum plans put a cap on the yearly amount the company reimburses you in general. If you reach that cap, you pay any amount over it. And it resets after every year.
- Annual per incident: Annual per incident works in the same way, but it’s made for particular conditions, procedures, or illnesses. The company may have a cap on hospitalization costs, meaning you to pay any amount over the set limit.
- Lifetime maximum: Lifetime maximum plans (general or per incident) set a specific amount the company will pay over the lifetime of your pet. If your beloved pup or kitty has any lingering ailments and requires constant medical attention, this type of option is severely lacking.
Of course, choosing the right coverage and limit option will depend on your budget and other factors.
Nobody knows your pet better than you, including their traits and predispositions.
When the moment comes to choose a plan, knowing the available options gives you the upper paw in the process.
Don’t just assume when it comes to taking care of your bewhiskered darling the more coverage the better.
That’s not always the case.
Here’s an example:
Wellness coverage, also called preventative care, seems like a great idea (why wouldn’t you pay more for the unavoidable and necessary trips to the vet?), but in reality there’s a good chance you’ll wind up paying more in premiums than for the actual routine care.
Taking your pet for a regular checkup or getting their scheduled vaccines are somewhat inexpensive procedures that can be planned for.
Their costs are expected and you can fit them neatly into your budget.
By including wellness coverage as part of your pet insurance plan, you are automatically hiking your monthly premiums.
When it’s all said and done and you tally up your premium costs versus what you would have spent just paying out-of-pocket, you realize the money already gone would have been better spent getting all-new squeaky toys and treats.
Verify if your pet insurance company restricts visits to providers in their specific network.
A plan that allows visits to any licensed veterinary facility across the United States is undoubtedly the way to go.
Deductibles and Maximums
Coverage isn’t the only factor we have to consider.
Pet parent, allow me to introduce you to deductible and reimbursement models.
Companies usually offer a variety of customizable options when it comes to choosing your:
- Premium: the amount you wish to pay monthly
- Deductible: the amount you have to pay before coverage begins
- Reimbursement: the amount of money, as a percentage, that the company will pay you back after coverage has been activated.
Let’s break down deductible types and what they mean, followed by the reimbursement models.
- The annual deductible is a fixed amount of dollars that includes any procedure or treatment given to your pet. When that fixed amount is met – when you have already paid the dollar amount for your buddy’s care – the insurance company will begin to cover whatever percentage of reimbursement you have chosen. Deductibles reset at the end of the year.
- Per condition type includes several deductibles for different ailments as defined by the company. Once a deductible for a specific condition is covered, the plan pays out the reimbursement chosen, either resetting after each year (annually) or for the pet’s life (lifetime).
The annual deductible type is the preferred choice, but per condition is a viable option depending on your dog’s (or cat’s) health history.
Understand that the lower deductible amount you choose, the higher the monthly premium will be.
After you meet the deductible amount, you will continue to pay for a portion of your pet’s care.
However, you are only responsible for the amount left over after the insurance company pays the percentage level you’ve chosen in your plan.
This amount will depend on the model and percentage of reimbursement previously chosen.
Similar to the deductible type, the higher the reimbursement percentage chosen, the higher the monthly premium will be.
Let’s say Rex’s veterinary bills run up to $1,000 for the year.
You have a $500 deductible, which you’ll pay directly out of pocket.
However, you have a 90% reimbursement plan, which means you only will end up paying $50 of the remaining $500 balance.
How to Save
We’ve knocked out the different coverage options and the distinctions in deductible and reimbursement types.
Now let’s get you on the path to savings!
First, keep in mind the price range for pet insurance will obviously vary depending on the type of coverage.
However, we can establish $20 and $100 as the two endpoints in this range.
You don’t want to pay too much for coverage you won’t use, but you also don’t want to pay less when there’s coverage you might need. So, a midpoint in the stated range is what we’re shooting for ($40-$70).
Ok, let’s discuss how we get there.
Tip 1: Customize wisely
As mentioned before, the higher the reimbursement percentage chosen, the higher the monthly premium will be.
The inverse applies to deductibles: the higher the deductible, the lower the premium will be.
Pet insurance companies will usually allow you to customize these options.
This way, you get to set a monthly premium you feel comfortable paying.
However, other factors can contribute to pricing issues.
Your current location, your pet’s breed, age, and pre-existing conditions can either raise or lower your costs.
Tip 2: Prioritize your finances
I know you want to give your pet all the care in the world, but at the same time, you have to consider all your finances when you make a decision.
Weigh your pet’s specific health needs, the benefits of the plans, and their costs.
Tip 3: Make a budget
How, you might ask, do you prioritize your finances?
With a budget!
Like I said earlier, the money for routine checkups and vaccinations can be adequately allocated, eliminating the need to purchase the (eventually) costlier Wellness coverage.
Now you’re saving.
Tip 4: Weigh your options
Additionally, although we do recommend Comprehensive Care (with accident and illness coverage) because of its robust features, you might feel that an Accidents Only plan would be enough.
Just be aware of the pros and cons when choosing one over the other: while you might save monthly on your premiums, unexpected illnesses and lengthy maladies can throw your finances out of whack.
In this case, paying a bit more now can save you a ton later.
Likewise, with benefit limits I suggest going with the Unlimited Lifetime option.
Unfortunately, the cost of veterinary care, like everything else, is trending upward.
Any dollar you pay extra now in premiums is 10 dollars you pay less in the long run.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the best way to save on veterinary care is paying a bit more on pet insurance premiums for broader coverage and benefit limits.
Some companies do offer discounts for organizations or membership programs, so make sure to verify before making your choice; even a savings of 10% is very beneficial.
Tip 5: Mix and match
Compare different companies and the varying treatments and conditions they cover.
As we’ve said, nobody knows your pet’s proclivities better than you.
Choose what’s best for their health but be mindful of your expenses.
And don’t worry if you regret your choice of pet insurance plan; you can always change it to fit your needs.
How Much Do You Need?
Attending to your pet’s health, especially when they are sick, is an obligation.
You are that creature’s caretaker; they are part of your family.
Of course you want to do everything in your power to help them.
This sentiments grows truer as time goes by and your pet ages with you.
It’s a lifelong duty to provide them comfort and happiness in gratitude for the unconditional love they demonstrate every day.
How much care is enough?
One size fits all doesn’t apply to pet insurance (or any insurance, for that matter), so you need to sincerely look at your pet’s needs and their medical conditions to come to a conclusion.
Their age, their breed, their health history, are all factors that need to be taken into consideration when deciding on pet insurance.
Even though we might try to prevent them, accidents do happen.
Here’s a scenario to provide you some insight:
Imagine you protect Lucy your Labrador Retriever as best you can.
She visits the vet periodically; you groom and feed her well.
But one day a distracted driver doesn’t see her crossing the street.
Suddenly Lucy is hurt, your heart is broken, and you scramble to get her the quick attention she needs.
You have Accidents Only coverage; that’s fine.
She will receive treatment, maybe surgery, and you will be covered.
Lucy recovers well, and you’re glad you made the decision to purchase the insurance to take care of her.
Lucy is still your faithful companion years later, when you start to notice a faint limp in her gait.
Your Accidents Only insurance plan does not cover this type of illness; therefore, all medical costs to alleviate her condition are unprogrammed expenses which put a severe dent in your finances.
You want to change Lucy’s plan, and you can.
However, it’s getting difficult to find an affordable alternative because many insurers consider the hip dysplasia a pre-existing condition due to Lucy’s previous accident. S
he’s also getting up there in years, and the companies usually have an age limit when it comes to insuring dogs. Meanwhile, vet bills keep piling up.
Lucy will make it out alright.
But a bit of research beforehand could save you thousands in vet and procedure fees.
Not all plans cover hip dysplasia, so having a Comprehensive Care package would not have necessarily provided relief.
However, other plans do cover hereditary, congenital, or chronic diseases.
Knowing your pet is predisposed to this type of disorder can give you a leg up when the time comes to choose an insurance plan.
We want to give our dogs and cats the best possible life they can have; they deserve nothing less.
A simple purr or tail wag can fill our own lives with happiness.
As smart shoppers, we want to examine all available alternatives and consider various possible outcomes before deciding on a product.
Pet insurance is no different.
Fortunately, the options on the market are accessible and affordable if you know where to look.
Important Tips & Additional Help
If you still have some unanswered questions, hang in there! As you compare rates and decide what coverage option is best for you, you can also take advantage of data from the North American Pet Health Association. At the end of each year, NAPHIA releases a State of the Industry Report with unique data sets you can download for free. The 2018 report and the info below can help you decide on the best company for coverage in 2019.
There are still a few details to expand on, particularly in reference to what is and isn’t covered in most plans.
Routine Versus Comprehensive
The following are considered routine and standard procedures every pet needs:
- Scheduled vet visits
- Spaying or neutering
- Shots and vaccinations
- Dental (regular checkups)
- Flea and tick examinations
Pet insurance generally does not cover these forms of veterinary intervention, except Wellness packages (of which we have already discussed their benefits, or lack thereof).
Nonetheless, if your vet visit is due to an accident, your pet’s insurance would cover it.
Comprehensive Care provides coverage for extensive treatments, for illness and accidents like the following:
- Prescription medications
- Dental (if related to an emergency)
These are just some of the covered procedures.
Of course, it will all depend on the plans offered by the insurance companies and the exclusions contained in their policies.
Some include coverage for congenital and hereditary diseases, while others cover dental illnesses.
Surgeries might not be included if they are related to pre-existing conditions.
And providers sometimes impose specific age requirements for euthanasia.
As you’re hopefully starting to see, it’s imperative to look at all the coverage options from providers and the fine print, as the variety of plans might be more appropriate for different ages, breeds, and medical histories.
Other Covered Treatments
With ever-expanding medical and technological progress, the options for veterinary care are broader and more advanced than ever.
Most industry-leading companies now offer specialty care you wouldn’t normally think was covered, as well as non-traditional treatments and procedures such as:
- Specialty care: specialist vets including, but not limited to, oncologists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, and cardiologists.
- Alternative care: non-traditional therapies and holistic practices like acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, massage, and herb treatments.
- Behavioral therapy: provides pets and their caretakers with tools to manage conditions like anxiety or over-aggressive tendencies.
- Prosthetic and mobility aids: assist pets that have difficulties getting around. They could include wheelchairs, boots, socks, splints, and harnesses.
Now it’s time to look at the best plans on the market.
It might take some extra homework, but that time is oh-so worth it.
When it comes to choosing an insurance provider, be it for yourself, your pets, your house, or your car, it’s always wise to dig deeper!
This is not a comprehensive list, but here are some companies who consistently provide exceptional plans to protect your pets.
Washington state-based Healthy Paws is consistently ranked among the industry leaders because of their renowned customer service and competitive price plans.
- Claims can be filed quickly and completely online (or through their app), taking just a couple of days to be processed.
- Customer care is available 7 days a week with attentive representatives ready to assist you with any process.
- Available for dogs and cats, their policies cover illness and accidents, prescription medications, surgeries, hospitalizations, and alternative therapies.
- There are no restrictions for congenital or hereditary conditions. However, pre-existing conditions are not part of their coverage.
- Underwritten by the established Chubb insurance group, Healthy Paws has no limits or caps on their coverage. Even the in their standard option, they will cover anything over the deductible.
The company offers all this while still maintaining affordable monthly premiums, making it the biggest bang for your buck in the pet insurance marketplace today.
Established in 2003, Petplan offers comprehensive coverage with a flexible customization process.
- Although several negative reviews mention their pricing options as lacking, they offer a free quote feature through their website to give you an idea of plan costs and coverage before committing.
- Variety of deductible options (anywhere from $100 to $1,000), also letting you establish limits (from $2,500 to unlimited) to help you find the monthly premium that fits your budget.
- Petplan stands apart from other companies in that they do not automatically disqualify pre-existing conditions from their coverage. This is not to say that they will cover any pre-existing ailment, and there is an exclusionary period. But it’s nice to know you have options.
- The company is also transparent about their claim filing and payout process, stating that it will take a minimum of 30 days for its completion.
With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, Embrace Pet Insurance is highly esteemed.
- Embrace offers fast reimbursement payouts
- They cover non-traditional treatments (mainly behavioral therapy and prosthetic devices).
- There is an age limit to enroll in their plans (14 years old) and they do not offer unlimited coverage, capping annual benefits anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000.
Either way, their quick reimbursement process (which you can complete online or via fax) is their main strength, even offering direct deposit to speed up the payout.
As part of one of the largest insurance groups in the US, Nationwide Pet Insurance offers expanded coverage unlike most other providers.
- Not just specializing in dogs and cats, Nationwide also offers plans covering exotic animals and birds.
- Pricing for their plans is not as competitive as other providers. Their less expensive plans will include limits per condition or procedures, thereby restricting coverage for pets that require constant veterinary care.
- They do offer an unlimited plan, their Whole Pet with Wellness package. It has everything you might want for your furry (or feathered) pals. But this amount of quality care will assuredly be echoed in costs, making it a prohibitive option for most people.
Figo is a recent entry into the pet insurance business, offering a more technologically inclined user experience and features not usually seen from the large, traditional insurance providers.
- Their website includes a cloud-based platform to help manage your account and your pet’s records where you can upload documents, file claims, or contact customer service.
- Even with its limited history in the business, Figo offers considerable coverage options with reasonable rates.
- They provide options for unlimited benefits and, unlike other companies, a 100% reimbursement option.
Based in Jeffersonville, Indiana, PetFirst has been insuring dogs and cats since 2004.
- Although standard pricing does not deviate from what the market offers, the upper coverage tiers tend to be pricier than other companies.
- Additionally, they do not provide unlimited annual options. So if you opt for a higher annual benefits limit, you will end paying higher prices than unlimited plans with other providers.
- PetFirst excels in their robust discount options. Any year you do not make a claim, they reward you with a “healthy pet” discount.
- They also consider multiple-pet households, offering discounts when more than one creature is enrolled.
With the stated mission of ending economic euthanasia, Pets Best offers plans to help pet owners provide quality of life for their four-legged family members.
- They have no age limit when it comes to enrolling an animal and all their coverage plans include prescription medications as part of their benefits.
- Only the most expensive plan has no payout caps, other less expensive plans have benefit limits.
- They do, however, offer a 24/7 hotline to receive veterinary assistance over the phone, helping avoid possible visits to the emergency room.
- Their claim processing is also highly regarded for their expediency and direct deposit option.
With all this information at hand, you are now closer to picking a plan that works for you and your pet.
Here are just a few more factors to consider as you make the final call:
Although a few pet insurance providers have relationships with vets that enable them to process claims at the time of the visit, much like human medical insurance, most pet insurance companies reimburse the costs of coverage to you, per the percentage chosen in the enrollment period and after you exceed the established deductible.
What does this mean?
Basically, you pay for the necessary procedure and subsequently need to file a claim with the insurance provider.
They will then send you a check for the corresponding amount, though some companies do have direct deposit available (a quicker alternative).
In most cases, you need to have the funds with you to pay for your pet’s care until the company completes the claim.
You should inquire about each companies claim practices, and their typical processing time so you’re not stuck with hefty expenses with no relief in sight.
Considerations should also be made regarding enrollment.
Waiting periods and maximum/minimum age requirements are present when you enroll your pet in coverage.
Time frames ranging from 24 hours (for accidents) to 30 days (for illnesses) are established by the companies before the particular coverage kicks in.
Free look periods are usually available also.
Peruse the details of the plan to know the minimum number of weeks your pet must be, or if they have an age limit for enrollment (most do, but some offer lifetime plans, regardless of age).
Your pets are a special part of your family, and knowing they’ll be covered if something goes wrong is an incredible relief.
With the number of customizable plans and carriers on the market, I have no doubt you can find a plan perfect for your furriest family member’s needs.
Do some research, compare quotes, and get your pet covered today!