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Dominate Pet Insurance: Pro Tricks for Maximum Benefits

Like most insurance, pet insurance can be a little daunting to navigate. From learning all about different coverage to calculating your premiums, deductibles, and reimbursement rates, a lot goes into your pet insurance plan. Let’s take a deep dive into pet insurance and learn some tips and tricks to get the most out of your plan.


What’s on the agenda today:

Pet insurance 101: what is it, and why do I need it?

Learn the lingo: definitions of common pet insurance terms

Finding the best plan: pro tips and tricks


What pet insurance is and why it’s important

Pet insurance is health insurance coverage for pets. It can help pet owners save on veterinary bills and be financially prepared in emergencies. Approximately 1 in 3 pets will need emergency care every year. Sometimes, our four-legged friends injure themselves while running or playing, find hidden “treasures” such as bones or garbage, or sadly, end up with a chronic illness like diabetes or cancer.

Healthcare can be costly, and veterinary care is no exception. Pet insurance can help cover these costs, sometimes up to 100%. The pet insurance market has grown exponentially with the rise in pet ownership in recent years. Pet owners have more options than ever before when it comes to insuring their pets.

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Types of pet insurance

There are many types of pet insurance plans on the market but they commonly fall under one of the following categories:

  • Accident-only plan. Covers accidents and injuries such as broken bones, trauma, hit-by-car accidents, wounds, foreign bodies, toxin ingestions.
  • Accident and illness plan. Covers all accidents and injuries (listed above) plus illnesses and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, respiratory infections, bladder stones.
  • Wellness plan. Covers preventative care such as yearly check-ups, vaccines, dental cleanings. Wellness plans are typically offered as add-ons to other plans.

How pet insurance works

Pet insurance works similarly to human health insurance. Pet owners will enroll their pets in a plan, pay a monthly premium, and file claims for medical bills as they are accrued. Payment methods for pet insurance claims generally work one of two ways — owner reimbursement or direct-vet-pay.

On an owner-reimbursement model, you’ll pay your veterinary clinic directly and be reimbursed a portion (based on your coverage percentage rate) by your insurance company later. On a direct-to-vet payment model, you’ll only pay a portion of your pet’s medical bill upfront (based on your coverage percentage rate), and the rest will be paid directly to the veterinary clinic from the insurance company.

Understanding pet insurance terms

You'll want to become familiar with some key terms and definitions when learning how to use pet insurance and sifting through policies like a pro.

Premium

A premium refers to the amount you’ll pay monthly for your pet’s insurance coverage. Premiums can range from $15 to $100-plus per month, depending on the plan. Premiums are based on your pet’s age, breed, and location.

Deductible

A deductible is the amount you will be responsible for paying before the insurance will begin to pay claims. Most pet insurance policies have a fixed annual deductible ranging from $50 to $1,000. Some providers allow you to choose your deductible based on what you’ll be most comfortable paying out-of-pocket.

Some pet insurance plans also include a per-incident or per-condition deductible, meaning that the deductible won’t apply for conditions that occur more than once within a year. The use of per-incident deductibles varies among providers, but they are usually under $100.

Reimbursement percentage

The reimbursement percentage is the percentage of your veterinary bills that your insurance policy will pay out after your deductible has been met. Some insurance providers offer multiple percentages, while others have standardized rates. These percentages can range from 50% to 100%, but the majority fall between 70% and 90%. For example, if your pet needs emergency treatment that costs $2,000 and your reimbursement rate is 80%, your insurance will pay out $1,600.

Maximum payouts, caps, or limits

Some insurance plans have limits to the amount a policy will pay out. They are sometimes referred to as caps or maximum payouts. They are usually broken into three categories:

  • Per-incident limits. This limits how much will be paid out for a single condition. For example, if your policy has a $5,000 per-incident limit on hip dysplasia, but the treatment cost is $6,000, the remaining $1,000 will not be covered.
  • Annual limits. This is the limit on how much your policy will cover annually. Once the annual limit has been reached, your pet's remaining medical costs for the year will be out-of-pocket. Not all pet insurance policies have yearly limits but those that do typically range from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Lifetime limits. This is the total limit an insurance policy will pay out during your pet’s lifetime. Once this limit is reached, your coverage essentially ends. Not all insurance policies have lifetime limits, but those that do usually start at $10,000.

Exclusions

This means anything that’s excluded from coverage. Providers can have different exclusions, but the most common include pre-existing conditions, cosmetic procedures, and veterinary costs associated with breeding your pet.

Some pet insurance also has breed-specific exclusions, which typically means certain conditions may not be covered for breeds that are prone to them. For example, some plans may not cover Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) for French Bulldogs because their anatomical features make them very prone to this condition.

Waiting periods

This refers to the time you’ll have to wait between enrollment and when coverage begins. All pet insurance plans have waiting periods but can vary in length and by condition.

Getting the most out of pet insurance

Pet insurance can be an invaluable resource for pet owners. Here are some pet insurance tips and tricks for getting the most out of your plan.

  • Early enrollment. Insuring your pet early, preferably before maturity, can help you save on premiums and get the most coverage since the likelihood of pre-existing conditions is often lower. Of course, if you have an older pet, insurance can still be a worthy investment, but whenever possible, enroll your pet early to reap the most benefits.
  • Talk to your vet. They have valuable insight into your pet’s breed and can advise on what you may want to look for in a policy. Some veterinary clinics know in advance about pet insurance promotions like “new pet” or “exam day” offers that waive waiting periods.
  • Consider customizable. Some pet insurance plans offer customization like choosing a deductible, reimbursement rate, and annual limit to raise or lower your premiums and coverage. If you’re looking for more budget-friendly options, check out some of the customizable plans on the market.
  • Brood over your breed. Your pet’s breed can be a driving factor for costs and coverage. Be sure to consider all of your breed’s potential health conditions and check for any breed exclusions or limits on coverage when shopping around for plans. For instance, if you have a Dachshund, you’ll want to make sure Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD) is covered. Likewise, if you have a Great Dane, you’ll want to look into coverage for Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), or more commonly known as Bloat.
  • Ponder the perks. While the most important thing when it comes to pet insurance is the health coverage for your pet, some providers offer additional perks worth considering when comparing plans. From discounts on prescription drugs and dog walking services to free veterinary telehealth, some plans come with more money-saving perks.

Finding the best plan

The ideal pet insurance plan can look different for everyone. You may want a plan that pays upfront or with the lowest deductible, and you might prefer a plan with wellness benefits.

Take time to research and compare plans and get customized quotes so you’ll know what type of premiums you’re looking at. Overall, the best plan will be the one with coverage that fits your pet’s needs and your budget.

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