Everything You Need to Know about Pet Insurance for Your Dog, Cat, or Other Pet

Enrolling in pet health insurance for your dog, cat, small animal, or exotic pet is a great way to help ensure you will never have to make a difficult financial decision when it comes to your pet’s health. Pet insurance is a great option to safeguard your dog, cat, or other pet from accidents and major injuries, and you can also look into offsetting the cost of regular veterinary care.

Pet insurance options vary from one pet insurance provider to the next, but you can check out the scoop on pet health care as outlined by a few experts from Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the ASPCA Pet Insurance, and another insurance consultant.

Q. – When is it a good idea to get pet insurance? Which pets are good candidates for pet insurance? Should all dogs and cats have pet insurance?

A. – Mindy Bough, ASPCA Animal Health Services: It is best to obtain pet insurance before your pet becomes ill or injured. Pet insurance can help make sure you’ll never have to make a financial decision about your pet’s well-being. With the costs of veterinary care rising, there’s never been a better time to protect your pet!

A. – Brian Iannessa, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI): The ideal time to enroll in pet health insurance is when a pet first comes into your possession. Basically, the younger the better with respect to insuring a pet. This way, the risks of pre-existing conditions being deemed as exclusions from plan coverage are minimal. Plus, young pets can succumb to illnesses and accidents just as middle-aged and senior pets do. Most pets should absolutely be safeguarded with medical insurance, providing it’s not too late for that particular pet; most insurance companies have upper age limits for insuring pets. And, in some instances, pets that might be under the age limit but are still senior pets may already have a serious pre-existing condition that could completely preclude them from coverage. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of insuring pets when they’re young.

A. – Dan Weedin, Seattle-based insurance and risk management consultant: It’s best to get pet insurance when your pet is young and healthy.  It’s less expensive and your pet is more likely to be insurable.  Once they are insured, they are good to go.  A good analogy is life insurance for humans.  Get it when you are young before something happens and insurers don’t want you and it’s more costly.

Q. – Does pet insurance work like human health insurance? How is it similar or different?

A. – Mindy Bough, ASPCA Animal Health Services: It is similar, but there may be some differences. Each health insurance company and plan may be different, so it is important to do your homework so you know exactly what benefits you receive with your policy. With ASPCA pet insurance, you simply visit your veterinarian, pay for services, and send in a 1-page claim form with your receipts. Our coverage allows you to use ANY veterinarian in the US or Canada. Our pet insurance plans reimburse 80% of allowable covered veterinary charges. Allowable covered charges are covered costs considered reasonable for your geographic area. We use publicly available and proprietary veterinary fee information to determine fair reasonable costs. We have a low $100 deductible, per pet, that only needs to be met once a year, rather than per incident.

A. – Brian Iannessa, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI): Pet health insurance is similar to human health insurance in the following ways: it’s designed to defray the costs associated with testing and treating a litany of different medical conditions; insurance premiums are based on age (among other factors); pre-existing medical problems are not eligible for coverage; and deductibles and co payments are involved. It’s also very different from human health insurance because pet insurance follows a reimbursement model (pet owners pay their veterinarian up front, and then submit a claim form for reimbursement). Thus, it is the opposite of the human health HMO/PPO configuration; there is not a restricted list of veterinary providers or price discounting at the clinic level. The relationship in pet health insurance is strictly between the pet owner and the pet insurance provider. In addition, pet insurance premiums are typically much cheaper than human health care premiums, which translates to more modest insurance reimbursements than are associated with human health insurance (pet insurance isn’t intended to cover all of the costs incurred by a pet owner, but to provided adequate third party assistance).

A. – Dan Weedin, Seattle-based insurance and risk management consultant: Pet insurance is on a reimbursement basis. You pay the bill and then send in the receipt to the company. Most human health insurance is on an insurer pay first basis.

Q. – What kinds of pets can be insured with pet insurance?

A. – Mindy Bough, ASPCA Animal Health Services: Many types of pets can be insured with pet insurance. Check with individual insurance carriers to determine which pets may be covered.

A. – Brian Iannessa, Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI): Every pet insurance company within the U.S. offers medical insurance for dogs and cats. VPI Pet Insurance, however, is the only provider that extends coverage to dogs, cats, birds, and exotic pets. Exotic pets include everything from an iguana to a goat.

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