We all love our pets and many consider their pets to be their furry children. When they get sick we want to be able to take care of them properly. With technological advances in veterinary medicine, much more is available now in both diagnostics and treatment. Procedures such as MRI’s, CAT scans, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment are all common but they can be quite expensive. Many people are now considering pet health insurance to help with the costs. It is important to ask the correct questions when interviewing companies that offer this insurance, so you know what you’re getting.
Pet health insurance is different from “human” health insurance in the way that with pets, the doctor is paid first and then the pet owner is reimbursed by the insurance company. There are twelve companies offering pet health insurance in the United States and they differ in their policies. Other companies offer pet insurance in other countries. Some companies offer different levels of care. There basic plans that cover accidents and illness, as well as premium plans that cover all aspects of health and wellness.
Most plans do not cover pre-existing illnesses, and this may be important in how other symptoms are covered by your plan. If your pet, for instance, has an ear infection in its history, ask if in the future the pet is diagnosed with an allergy, but with other symptoms, if that will be covered. An ear infection is often caused by an allergy. If your cat has been treated in the past for vomiting, and is later diagnosed with another disease that can cause vomiting such as IBD or kidney disease, will that be covered?
Another issue with the pre-existing clause is that it is important to ask if your pet is evaluated for coverage when first obtaining the insurance, or with each renewal. For instance, if after you get the insurance, it pays for treating your dog’s ear infection, will another ear infection treatment be covered next year?
Many plans do not cover “genetic” diseases. With advances in DNA studies, veterinary medicine is discovering more and more diseases are genetic based. It is important to ask what diseases they consider to be genetic for the breed that you own.
Some policies cover only up to a certain age of your pet. Some do not cover prescription drugs or dental disease. Others have a yearly or lifetime dollar limit.
Most companies have a deductible and then pay a percentage of the bill, usually 80% to 90%. Some companies have a set dollar reimbursement for each problem or procedure.
Another consideration is whether to obtain a basic or premium plan. It is important to compare the costs of each option. In many cases, it may be more prudent to purchase the basic coverage.
A small percentage of pets are covered by health insurance at the present time but this is expected to change in the near future. More than 1600 companies, including Google and Office Depot, offer pet health insurance as an optional employee benefit.