Approximately 1.83 million pets were insured in the United States by the end of 2017. That's up 17.5% since 2016!* Clearly, pet insurance is becoming increasingly popular, but is it right for you and your pet? Only you can answer that question, but this information can help you make a smart decision.
What is Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance is a type of property insurance. Like other forms of property insurance, such as home or auto insurance, it's designed to help you manage expenses when something unexpected happens. For instance, home insurance can reimburse you for the cost of repairs after a fire. Similarly, pet parents with pet health insurance can be reimbursed for veterinary expenses they incur when a pet gets sick or injured.
So, why do reimbursements for veterinary expenses matter? For most of us, pets are considered part of the family, and there are a lot of advanced diagnostic tests and treatment options available to help our pets these days. That's great news, but it comes at a cost. In fact, it's estimated that pet parents in the US will have spent about $17.07 billion on veterinary care in 2017.**
That's where pet insurance comes in! Pet insurance helps lessen that financial worry by reimbursing you for covered costs. More importantly, it lets you focus on caring for your pet rather than the costs of care.
Pet Insurance Terms in Plain English
You may be familiar with concepts like deductibles, annual limits, and reimbursement percentages from other insurance, but they can work differently with pet insurance.
This is the amount you need to meet before you start getting reimbursed. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program allows you to choose a $100, $250, or $500 annual deductible. With an annual deductible, you only have to meet it once a year no matter how many times your pet is hurt or sick.
So, for instance, if your first claim has $250 of covered expenses, your annual deductible is $100, and you selected a 90% reimbursement percentage at enrollment, you'll get paid $135. After that, you'll receive your full reimbursement percentage up until you reach your annual limit.
Want to know more about pet insurance lingo? See this list of pet insurance terms.
An annual limit is the total amount you can be reimbursed over a 12-month policy period. It resets when a new policy period begins. With ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, you can customize your annual limit with choices ranging from $5,000 to unlimited.
Selecting a lower annual limit can bring down your premium, but it also means reimbursement will stop at a lower amount. When choosing an annual limit, you may want to balance how much coverage you think you may need in a policy year with the cost of the plan.
This is the percentage of covered costs you'll get back after you meet your deductible. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program offers 70%, 80%, and 90% options. If you select 90%, you’ll be responsible for paying 10% of covered expenses. Picking a lower co-insurance amount can reduce your premium, but you’ll need to pay a larger percentage towards your covered veterinary expenses.
How Pet Insurance Works
Let's say your pet is showing signs of an illness, like a runny nose and fever, and you'd like to take them to the veterinarian. Here's how your plan would work:
Visit Any Veterinarian: Pet insurance is different from human health insurance, in that there are no networks to worry about. It can be used at any licensed veterinarian in the US or Canada, including specialists or emergency animal hospitals. After your pet is treated, you pay the practice as usual.
Submit a Claim: You may be able to submit your claim online or by email, fax, or mail. The ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program also lets you submit claims using the My Pet Insurance app, which you can do even before you leave the veterinary practice. You just need to provide some information about the incident and take a picture of your invoice.
Get Reimbursed: Your pet insurance provider will process your claim and reimburse you for covered costs based on your reimbursement percentage and the deductible if it applies. The ASPCA Pet Health Insurance program lets you choose whether you'd like to receive a check in the mail or have your reimbursement directly deposited into your bank account.
Accident coverage is at the core of a typical pet insurance plan. It can cover all sorts of injuries from bite wounds to broken bones. Coverage for illnesses and wellness care may also be available as well as coverage for things like:
- Hereditary issues, including hip dysplasia and cherry eye
- Behavioral conditions, such as excessive barking, destructive chewing, and separation anxiety
- Alternative therapies, which may include acupuncture and hydrotherapy
It's important to look closely at the full list of what will and won't be covered by any plan you consider.
Pre-existing Conditions and Pet Insurance
A pre-existing condition is a condition that occurs before coverage begins or during a waiting period, but they typically won't be covered. These are conditions that exist before coverage starts or during a waiting period. They may or may not show symptoms or have been diagnosed yet.
Like other providers, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance doesn't cover pre-existing conditions. However, a condition that was considered pre-existing may be covered in the future if it can be cured and treatment-free for 180 days.
Pet Insurance Cost
Your premium will be calculated using factors including your selected plan, your ZIP code, and your pet's breed and age. You may also be able to customize your plan to adjust your premium.
For example, ASPCA Pet Health Insurance allows you to choose your deductible, reimbursement percentage amount, and annual limit. This can help you get the amount of coverage you need for your pet at a price that works for you. Get a free quote to see how it works.
Pet Insurance Myths Dispelled
There are lots of pet insurance myths about things like what it covers and how it's used. Here’s the truth about some of the most common ones.
1. It won't cover what I need. Pet insurance covers all kinds of injuries and many illnesses from ear infections to cancer. That said, make sure you understand what's covered and what's not before you purchase a plan, so you know what to expect.
2. It won't be accepted at my veterinary practice. Human health insurance plans may restrict you to a network of doctors, but this isn't the case with pet insurance. Because you pay the veterinary practice directly and get reimbursed by your provider, you're free to go to any licensed veterinarian. This includes specialists and emergency animal hospitals.
3. It's better to save for my pet's care. Saving is a smart idea, but pet insurance offers many additional benefits. For instance, pet insurance can cover multiple accidents or illnesses up to your annual limit during a policy year, while a single incident could use up all of the money you saved for your pet's care.
4. My pet is young and doesn't need pet insurance. Guess again! Within the first year of their lives, 60% of puppy pet parents and 48% of kitten pet parents with ASPCA Pet Health Insurance filed claims.+ If you enroll them while they're young before something happens, you can also help avoid a pre-existing condition.
5. It's best to choose the cheapest plan option. It can be tempting to enroll in the least expensive plan, but it's important to balance coverage with price. If the plan isn't going to provide the coverage you need, it may not be worth the money.
6. My pet isn't eligible due to a health condition. While that condition would likely be considered pre-existing and typically not covered, you can still benefit from coverage for other illnesses or injuries that may come up.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Whether or not to get pet insurance is a personal choice, but there are some things you can ask yourself to help you decide. For instance:
- Would it feel comforting to know you have help managing your veterinary costs?
- Could you handle an expensive veterinary bill without some financial cushion?
- Would you pay almost any amount to care for your pet?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, pet insurance might be a good choice for you.
It can also be helpful to know why other pet parents decided to cover their four-legged family members. According to a survey, pet parents insured their pets because pet insurance is helpful to pet parents, shows you love your pet, demonstrates you are a responsible pet parent, and helps avoid the need to make painful choices about withholding care due to financial considerations.++
Ready to see your plan options? Get started with a free quote. Want to do more research? Dig into the benefits of pet insurance or review our pet insurance buying guide with tips on what to look for in a provider.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.
*The 2018 North American Pet Health Insurance Industry Report, NAPHIA, 2018
**American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 2017-2018
+Internal Claims Data, 6/1/15 through 5/31/17
++Driving Growth of Pet Health Insurance, NAPHIA, 2016