Do you think about your pet as part of the family? If you said yes, you're certainly not alone! So many of us love our pets as if they were our own children. And many of us would want to do anything we could if our four-legged family members got hurt or sick.
As our bond with our pets gets stronger, it's not surprising that more pet parents are purchasing pet insurance. It's estimated that 1.8 million pets are insured in North America.* Pet insurance helps us give our pets the kind of medical care we want for them with less worry about the cost.
Of course, only you can decide if it is right for you and your pet. This pet insurance guide can help you think through your options and make a smart decision.
A bare-bones pet insurance plan will cover accidents only. This includes burns, lacerations, and bite wounds, which is one of the most common injuries for dogs. It also covers top cat injuries, including swallowed objects and abscesses.
A more robust pet insurance plan will cover accidents and illnesses. Depending on the provider, it could also include coverage for other things such as:
As you look into different plan options, you should keep in mind the health issues your pet might face in the future. For instance, if you have a breed like a Chihuahua or Golden Retriever that is prone to a hereditary condition, you may want to make sure it is covered by the plan you choose.
All pet insurance plans have exclusions, which are things that are not covered. They differ by provider so be sure to check this information for each one you are considering. You can look for a list of exclusions at the provider's website. Some providers will also allow you to download and read a sample policy to see what you're buying exactly.
One thing to note is that no provider covers pre-existing conditions, which are conditions that occur before your policy takes effect or during a waiting period. However, there are differences in the way providers define and handle them. Again, it's important to understand the details of your coverage before purchasing a plan.
The cost of pet insurance varies by provider, but it is typically based on several factors including:
Some providers let you customize your coverage by choosing things like your annual limit, deductible, and reimbursement percentage. If you select a lower annual limit, higher deductible, or lower reimbursement percentage, you may be able to reduce your monthly premium.
Just remember that those adjustments will affect the amount you can get reimbursed during your plan year. If you pick a higher deductible, you'll have to meet that amount before reimbursement starts. If you select a lower annual limit, you will only get reimbursed up to that amount each plan year until it resets again.
Terms like deductibles and annual limits can sound like another language if you're not familiar with insurance. Here are some key terms to know:
This is the maximum amount you can be reimbursed during your 12-month policy period. It resets at the beginning of every plan year. So if you had an annual limit of $10,000, your reimbursements would stop when you reached this amount until your plan renews.
Your deductible is the amount you need to meet before reimbursement starts. Here's an example. Let's say you submit your first claim for $250 in covered costs. If you're deductible was $100, your reimbursement would be based on the remaining $150. Since this is an annual deductible, you would not need to meet this amount again until the beginning of your next plan year.
This is the percentage of covered costs you'll get back after you meet your deductible. For example, if you had a 90% reimbursement percentage, you would get reimbursed 90% of your covered costs after your deductible was satisfied.
A waiting period is the amount of time that needs to pass before certain coverage kicks in. Providers can have waiting periods for accident and illness coverage as well as treatments like knee surgery. You should find out what conditions have waiting periods and how long they are as you shop for plans.
You should be able to see any licensed veterinarian and visit any emergency clinic. This way, you can stay with the veterinarian you trust. Some plans also let you take your pet to specialists such as dermatologists, cardiologists, and allergists without referrals or additional fees.
Typically, you pay your veterinarian for services like you usually do and then submit a claim along with your invoice or receipts to the pet insurance provider. Some providers allow you to submit claims online or through an app.
An app can be useful since you can submit a claim even before you leave your veterinarian's office. It's a great way to avoid procrastinating and make sure you get any eligible reimbursements as quickly as possible.
That's the big question! And only you can answer it for yourself. There are many reasons why you might choose to insure your pet. In one survey+, the most common reasons pet parents purchased pet insurance was because it:
In many cases, pet parents probably have more than one reason when they make that decision to insure their pets.
"I am at ease when it comes to Greyson's healthcare. I know that I may be faced with expensive surgeries to improve his health as he ages; with his pet insurance, I'm confident that I won't have to make as many difficult decisions in which I weigh my financial stability against his quality of life."
- Timothy Moore, The Penny Hoarder
If you decide that pet insurance is right for you, these tips can help you as you consider your options:
If you'd like to do more research on pet insurance plans now, you can get a free quote from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. All you need to do is enter some information about you and your pet to see available coverage options and prices. There's no obligation to buy
* North American Pet Health Insurance Association
(NAPHIA), State of Industry Report 2017
+ North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), Driving Growth of Pet Health Insurance, Research Report 2016