August 8, 2021

Pet Insurance Basics: What To Consider Before Buying One?

Peri Elgrot

Top 10 Pet Insurance Review Editor

Buying pet insurance saves you from the pain and hassle of paying unexpected veterinary bills. It lets you have more time to focus on getting immediate and necessary medical attention for your pets, whether it is a dog, a cat, or whatsoever, and so also saving you from stress and anxiety. But beware, quickly jumping in to buy a pet insurance plan without first understanding the terms might get you into an unexpected problem later on and also cost you time and money.

Insurance plans for your beloved pets vary in many different aspects. From things they do and do not cover, and even things as basic as deductibles, are different for every plan, so be sure to do enough research before availing one. Aside from browsing for cute photos of kittens and puppies, let us dig deeper into the policy details to find the perfect pet insurance plan for you.

To help you out, here are some of the key points to consider in choosing a pet insurance plan.

Rules for Enrollment

Pets that are young and healthy will surely be qualified in every plan. However, some plans will not allow you to enroll your older pets. In general, the minimum age for a pet such as a kitten or a puppy before you are allowed to enroll them in any pet insurance plan is 6 to 10 weeks old, but also be sure to ask your insurer. On the other hand, the maximum age limit for pets to be enrolled for the first time in many pet insurance plans is 10 to 14 years, though some plans do not have any maximum age limit. Once you finally enrolled your pet, most pet insurance plans will offer you lifelong coverage given that you continue to pay the premiums.

Your pet seeing a vet in the past year or requiring your pet to undergo certain exams may also be necessary before you are eligible to avail of their plans.

Covered Incidents and Treatments

On types of incidents covered, some companies may offer only accident plans while others may offer plans that cover both illness and accidents.

Covering treatment for injuries caused by incidents such as poisoning or car accident is what an accident-only plan is made for. Your dog or cat getting sick and needing medical attention, however, is not the problem of the company if you avail an accident-only plan.

On treatments covered, the following are areas different plans may or may not cover.

• Behavioral and alternative treatment
• Continual treatment
• Examination fees
• Wellness care and routine

Payout Limit and Deductibles

Most pet insurance plans have maximum payouts, but some do not even cap the amount they will be paying for a treatment covered by their plans. We suggest that you read thoroughly the policy language for this very important part. Payout limits per year, for the whole life of your pet, or different conditions or incidents may be present. Different combinations of caps may also be present on different plans.

Deductibles, on the other hand, and for some who are not familiar, is the amount of money you pay using your pocket prior to the pet insurance company starts paying. Some pet insurance plans apply the deductibles annually. After you have paid the amount deductible for covered treatments, you will get a reimbursement from the plan. Renewing the plan or policy yearly will also reset the deductible.

A deductible applied per incident may also be part of some plans. As you pay the deductible for the treatment of a certain illness or injury, the plan provides you a reimbursement up to the limits of the policy, even in succeeding years of the plan. However, this also has its downside. If your pet enrolled in this plan develops different conditions within the same year requiring medical attention, paying the deductibles for each of your pet’s conditions might be a bit heavy.

Pre-existing Conditions and Other Possible Exclusions

Pre-existing conditions, in general, are not covered by pet insurance plans although the definition of the word “pre-existing” has quite a lot of variations. In the most widely used definition, such a condition is a form of a medical issue already present in your pet before you availed of your plan. However, there are also pet insurance plans that cover past conditions that have been successfully cured over a certain period.

Aside from pre-existing conditions, some specific illnesses and medical conditions may also be excluded from the coverage of certain pet insurance plans.


Waiting Period

There is a waiting period for every pet insurance plan after you sign up before you enjoy their coverage.

One or two days after signing up is the typical waiting period before the company will start covering injuries from accidents. For illnesses, the waiting period after signing up is generally longer. It may last around 2 weeks or longer.

Orthopedic problems may also have a waiting period from several months to a year, you should take note. Therefore, if your pet requires orthopedic treatment during this long waiting period, the plan won’t pay a cent.

Reimbursement Levels and Pricing

A percentage of the treatment cost is reimbursed to you by your pet insurance plan. The level or percentage of which is chosen by you as the buyer.

Make sure to read every bit of detail on how reimbursement works. There may be some pet insurance plans that reimburse you a percentage of the bills from the vet. Other plans may reimburse you a percentage of the treatment’s “usual and customary charges”. Any amount that is already above that percentage is your responsibility to pay for.

Talk about pricing, $433 is the average cost of the annual premium for a pet insurance plan or policy in 2014, as per the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. $154 is the average premium annually for most accident-only plans.

The basis for pet insurance pricing:

• Age and breed of your pet(s)
• ZIP code
• Type of coverage and amount
• Level of reimbursement and deductible
• Insurance company

The Next Move

Decide upon the amount and type of coverage your pet needs and after which, you then have to obtain quotes from companies for pet insurance. Compare each plan’s prices, annual payout limits, and deductibles. Finally, before purchasing, make sure to understand every piece of information provided to ensure that you did not miss anything.