When many pet owners think of pet insurance, they often think of its financial protection against unexpected emergencies. But there’s more to this coverage, including pet wellness insurance designed to offer financial support for those expected expenses, such as routine, dental cleanings or an annual check-up.
Each option has its merits, but which is better? It depends on your and your pet’s needs.
Here's an overview of today's article:
Establishing a foundation: the basics of pet insurance
A closer look: pet wellness plans
The great debate: wellness plans vs. pet insurance
Get your money's worth: tips to make the most of your policy
Understanding pet insurance
Pet insurance is like human health insurance, as it covers the costs of your pet’s veterinary care. It’s geared toward offsetting steep vet bills during unforeseen accidents, injuries, and illnesses, although some providers offer add-ons that cover expected veterinary care.
For example, if your pet ingests a foreign object lodged in their digestive system, they’ll likely need surgery to remove it. Paying for this surgery can be financially stressful between emergent diagnostics and surgery costs. With pet insurance, these concerns ebb into a more manageable state, covering the bulk of the price and leaving you with a substantially smaller bill.
Of course, like human health insurance policies, pet insurance coverage can vary from one plan to the next. Deductibles, reimbursement rates, and coverage caps fluctuate between plans, so choosing a plan for your pet is important.
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Pet wellness plans explained
Pet wellness plans fall under the pet insurance umbrella, focusing on routine care costs, like vaccinations, dental cleanings, and annual check-ups. Unlike most pet insurance policies, which focus on unforeseen expenses, these plans cover expected costs.
Your pet wellness plan helps promote proactive healthcare for your pet, providing reimbursements for those typical costs. These plans are a convenient, cost-effective way of spreading out the costs of routine care over time, making budgeting for your pet’s healthcare more manageable.
Wellness plans vs. insurance: which is better?
When debating the merits of wellness plans versus insurance, evaluating each aspect is essential to select the option best suited to you and your pet’s needs. Both options are important in pet healthcare but ideal for different scenarios.
For example, wellness plans are excellent for pet owners with young pets who want to prioritize preventative care and budget for routine expenses, like vaccinations and check-ups.
On the other hand, pet insurance is a solid pick for pet parents who want financial protection against accidents, injuries, and illnesses. This option offers peace of mind knowing you’ll be able to afford necessary medical treatments for your pet, especially in the terrifying event your pet sustains a serious injury or illness.
Each option has its merits, so to help you decide on the best fit, let’s dive into the core differences separating the two.
|Pet wellness plan
|Applies to unexpected accidents, injuries, and illnesses
|Applies to routine preventative care
|Examples of coverage
|Emergency vet visits, surgeries, hospitalization
|Annual check-ups, dental cleanings, vaccines
|Varying premiums based on coverage level
|Fixed monthly or annual fee
|File claims for reimbursement after treatment
|File claims for reimbursement after treatment
|Financial protection against unexpected costs
|Convenient budgeting for routine care expenses
The coverage scope between pet insurance and pet wellness plans is dramatically different. While pet insurance covers a broad range, pet wellness plans stick to a specific category of veterinary care.
Pet insurance policies usually come in two tiers: accident only or accident and illness.
- The former protects against accidents like foreign body ingestion or a broken bone.
- The latter covers that and more, extending the coverage umbrella to various diseases like cancer.
Of course, inclusions and exclusions vary based on the provider.
Pet wellness plans are occasionally available in tiers, although this varies based on the provider. Most cover the basics of routine and preventive care, extending to expenses for dental cleanings, vaccinations, and annual check-ups.
Since insurance plans generally offer more coverage, they’re typically more expensive than pet wellness plans. However, it’s important to remember that the costs depend entirely on factors specific to the plan and pet, so they can vary dramatically from one to the next.
Both options have limitations, as neither offers complete coverage for every veterinary expense you might encounter. However, most pet insurance policies provide more comprehensive coverage, while pet wellness plans spotlight preventative care.
Pet insurance plans typically exclude hereditary, congenital, and pre-existing conditions, like a cruciate ligament injury or a breed-specific condition. The list is usually shorter, but it’s important to remember that each provider outlines different exclusions, so review each before committing to a plan.
In contrast, the list of exclusions in a pet wellness plan is considerably lengthier. Since these plans focus on preventative care, you won’t receive coverage for any accidents, illnesses, or injuries your pet might sustain.
How to make the most out of your pet insurance policy
If you decide to purchase pet insurance, you can use a handful of strategies to maximize its benefits and ensure you get the most value from your policy. From carefully selecting a policy to staying on top of filing claims, here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your policy.
Selecting the right insurance plan for you and your pet is crucial. So, as you shop, consider all aspects of your pet’s needs and budget to ensure you select a well-suited fit. Consider factors like your pet’s age, breed, and pre-existing conditions when considering the available coverage options.
For example, if your pet is a puppy or kitten, you might want the extra coverage a wellness plan can offer. Or perhaps you want full coverage, so you might choose a comprehensive insurance plan with a wellness add-on. Look for a policy that meets your expectations in coverage and budget. Remember, your pet’s needs will likely change as they age, so keep that in mind, too.
Consider layering plans
You don’t necessarily have to choose between a pet insurance policy and a wellness plan — many providers offer both. Most providers offer wellness plans as add-ons, not standalone policies, so you can easily layer both for well-rounded coverage to protect your pet.
For example, you might choose pet insurance with preventative care by adding a pet wellness insurance rider to your primary policy. If the provider offers add-ons, you could even tack on specific additional coverages to further customize your policy and ensure you get the most comprehensive coverage.
Stick to what you need
While layering plans can be a great idea for those who want all the coverage, it might not be ideal for those who won’t use it. If you won’t use the coverage, don’t pay for it. Stick to the basics, selecting the coverages you know you’ll use. After all, you don't want to pay for something you'll never use.
Of course, it’s hard to guess what the future might hold, so you may use the full range of your policy should your furry friend need it. However, if you’re only looking for financial protection against surprises, you might want to stick with an insurance plan over a wellness plan. Ultimately, the best fit depends on you and your pet’s needs.
File claims as needed
If you’re paying for pet insurance, whether it’s a comprehensive policy or a wellness plan, remember to use it when you need it. Generally, you’ll need to submit a claim with your insurer to receive reimbursement for your pet’s veterinary care.
The process of filing a claim varies from one insurer to the next, but it usually looks something like this:
- Payment. Most insurers require you to pay upfront for your pet’s treatment, although some offer direct vet payments. So, once your pet receives treatment, cover your bill with your vet, but remember to save all receipts and necessary documentation.
- Submit documentation. Collect the receipts and information your insurer requires and submit it according to your insurer’s instructions. Most offer online claims portals, although some have apps or allow you to do it by phone, fax, or email.
- Claim review. After you submit the claim, the waiting game begins. Your insurer will review the information you submit and approve or deny the claim. Some insurers take as little as 24 hours for this process, although some may take weeks.
- Reimbursement. Once your insurer approves the claim, they’ll reimburse you for the amount your policy states based on deductibles, reimbursement rates, and other aspects that factor in.
Whether you opt for a wellness plan to prioritize your pet’s routine vet needs or invest in a pet insurance plan for financial protection against unexpected expenses, the most crucial aspect remains the same: prioritizing your pet’s health and well-being.
By selecting a well-suited plan based on your pet’s needs, you can maximize the benefits and your investment.
Pet insurance is an umbrella term for various policies, including accident only, accident and illness, and wellness.
Most pet insurance policies cover unexpected veterinary expenses, such as a broken bone or sudden illness.
Pet insurance with wellness coverage focuses on expected vet costs, including vaccinations and annual exams.
- Insurance Information Institute. Facts about pet insurance.
- Office of the Insurance Commissioner Washington State. What's covered and not covered under pet insurance.