Insuring Our Pets Health by Dr Brown
Pet insurance has been around for many years but recently, our clients have been asking about it a lot more. There are numerous companies out there that offer pet insurance. There are also companies that offer pet care discount plans. These are not insurance companies and you can only go to veterinarians that participate.
Given the current economic times, insurance may be worth looking into since many of us don’t have the cash reserves or credit card limits we once had and emergencies with our pets can become quite costly.
Every pet insurance company is a little different in what they offer and how their plans work. There are some essential questions that you should ask to determine which company and plan is right for your pet and your situation. There is a good review of pet insurance companies and their plans at www.petinsurancereview.com. Pet insurance differs from our health insurance in that you will need to pay for fees upfront and then submit your claim to be reimbursed.
As new technologies and new treatment methods become available, the cost of veterinary care increases. Pet insurance may allow you to provide best medicine for your beloved pet when it is most needed. Deciding to euthanize a pet due to financial contrasts is a very difficult decision for all involved and unfortunately, we have been seeing more of this lately.
There are several factors to consider when comparing insurance companies. Consider the following questions when deciding on which insurance is right for you.
1) Schedules versus Reimbursement – some companies have a benefit schedule which limits the amount of reimbursement to a predetermined amount and does not take into account the differences in fee schedules based on the area of country, the type of technology that is being used, etc. The Reimbursement method is a percentage of what was charged, so it is much easier to figure out what your costs will be. Ask for a copy of a claim form to review the policy coverage before signing up.
2) Congenital and Hereditary conditions – This can be very important for many pure bred pets since they are more like to carry certain genetic tendencies. However, any pet can be born with a congenital problem that may be a lifelong condition. Each company has different coverage in these areas. Some don’t cover them at all and some you need to purchase additional coverage.
3) Pre-existing conditions – These are any illness, medical condition, or injury that developed prior to instituting insurance. Many companies will not cover any pre-existing condition whereas others may add it back into the policy after a period of time if there have been no claims in that area.
4) Co-insurance and deductibles – Co-insurance is the percentage of the claim for which you are liable before any applicable deductible is applied. This can vary from 0% to 30%. Fixed dollar amount per illness or injury per policy period that will be deducted from any reimbursement following a claim. This can vary from $50.00 to $1000.00. The higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium. Most insurance websites offer an interactive rate calculator. Example:
Claim amount $5,000, 10% Coinsurance = $500, Deductible (Per Condition) = $200, Total Reimbursement = $4,300.
5) Ages of coverage – some companies have a minimum and maximum age of coverage whereas others do not. This is important if you have a older pet that has been healthy and you now decide that insurance is something that you need. Be sure and research the upper age limits for the company you are considering. You will also want to ask if the policy is guaranteed renewal regardless of age and claim status.
6) Maximum benefit – some policies have a yearly maximum benefit some have lifetime maximum benefits. There may also be maximum limits per condition or per incident.
7) Specialist and alternative therapy coverage – many companies do not cover alternative therapies like holistic, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc.
8) Dental coverage – most plans do not cover routine teeth cleaning unless you choose optional wellness care coverage. Even major periodontal disease that needs surgical extractions is only covered by a few companies.
9) Claim processing and reimbursement – be sure to ask how long this process takes. A good turnaround time is 2-4 weeks.
Here is a list of the top 5 consumer rated companies that will give you a place to start.