It doesn’t take much time owning a pet to realize that all sorts of expenses can creep up on you. Aside from dog food, dog toys, consumables, dog beds, dog sitters, and so on, there are of course vet bills that come about with the general upkeep of your pet’s health.
What about when the unexpected happens?
Emergency treatment for an accident or an illness could lead to a tremendous medical bill, and it can be potentially insurmountable if you don’t have pet insurance to help you make sure your four-legged friend gets the best care possible. Hopefully, the worst will never come. Even still, you may find it surprising how much insurers will cover.
What Is Covered Under Pet Insurance?
Generally speaking, providers offering the best dog insurance design their plans to support the owners in the case of an unexpected event or an emergency that would be otherwise too expensive for the owner to pay for. While it does indeed exist, it’s simply not the standard for a pet insurance policy to cover smaller bills associated with veterinary care. Here are some of the major things that you can expect a policy to cover:
Accidents & Illnesses
The main purpose of holding a pet insurance policy is to make sure that you are covered in the event of an unexpected event like an accident, an illness, or an injury where the veterinary bill incurred to save your dog’s life would be quite high. Almost all insurance policies you’ll come across today are going to be designed for these circumstances. They may have optional plans where you pay more for more extensive coverage, but this is the bread and butter—so to speak.
Typically, plans will be designed with a deductible that your bill will have to exceed before the coverage kicks in. Usually, the higher the deductible the more affordable the monthly premium will be. You’ll also find that plans may have an annual maximum reimbursement, though many plans these days are moving to unlimited reimbursements. Of course, having an annual maximum is what helps keep the prices of these plans lower when it comes to monthly payments.
It’s a good idea to check with a potential insurance company to see if their plan provides for your pet’s particular needs. What one plan covers is not necessarily covered by another. Things you want to keep an eye out for are: a maximum age limit for your dog (especially if they are on the older side), the types of visits that the insurance plan will cover, and how much coverage they will offer. It’s best if you can get an unlimited amount of annual coverage, even if you compromise with a high deductible, to make sure that if the truly horrible worst-case scenario becomes a reality, you’ll have the funding to make sure your pet gets the health care that they need.
Congenital and Hereditary Diseases
It’s not uncommon at all for a dog’s insurance plan to cover congenital and hereditary diseases. These are typical illnesses that a dog is born with and they can come up at any point in their lifetime. The key here again is that insurance policies are designed unexpected—if you know that your dog already has a particular disease then it’s far less likely to be covered when you sign up for a new policy. We’ll discuss how insurance providers deal with pre-existing conditions in more detail later on in this article.
What About Routine Care and Wellness?
Many dog owners wonder if routine visits to the vet are covered by their insurance policies, and it’s a question that makes a lot of sense. After all, our own personal health care policies do tend to cover a lot of the fees involved with our trips to the doctor or the hospital, so it might be something we’ve become accustomed to expecting.
The brief of it is that some insurance policies will cover routine veterinary visits, but in almost every case this is going to come at a cost. Whether that is an upgraded plan offered by a company you’ve already chosen, or it’s simply standard in a plan from a more premium level company, at the end of the day if you have a policy that covers general wellness for your dog it is highly likely that you’ll be paying more for this level of coverage from month to month.
As you browse through the policies offered by various providers, you’ll find that some of them try to stand out from the crowd by offering fringe benefits that you won’t find elsewhere. One of the more common example of this is the coverage of exam fees. Most insurance policies do not cover exam fees, and they can be perceived to the pet owner as another “deductible” that has to be paid before the insurance policy initiates reimbursement. Others may cover some aspects of a dog’s general wellness like puppy shots or vaccines, holistic care, and other proactive treatments that will keep your pup healthy for the long haul. It’s important to evaluate all of a policy’s benefits and exclusions before you make your final decision.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Pre-Existing Conditions?
Generally speaking, it is uncommon or even unheard of that insurance for pet owners will cover a pet’s pre-existing conditions. That said, there are some exclusions to this statement that warrant some clarification. There are some pet insurance companies that will evaluate a pet’s pre-existing condition and determine whether or not a particular condition, or aspects of it, that they can cover.
There are also a few relatively new players that will offer a pet insurance policy to cover an animal with a pre-existing condition. It is recommended that you take a particularly close look at these offerings to make sure it is the kind of insurance pet owners have had good experiences with, so that your pet gets all of the coverage that you believe you are paying for.
With all of that in mind, if you have a pet with pre-existing conditions it’s a good idea to have the expectation that it will most likely be part of the exclusions in your pets insurance policy.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
The process by which pet insurance works is not all that different from other types of insurance, and it is even somewhat similar to health insurance plans. Of course, the process is going to vary a bit from one pet insurance agency to another, but in a nutshell it works along the following lines:
- The pet owner requests for a quote for their pet’s insurance. The monthly premium will depend on a number of factors, including information about the pet, the zip code of the pet’s residence, and the extent of the pet insurance coverage. If the quote is acceptable they sign up their dog or cat with an insurance company.
- The pet health insurance company reviews the application, and if everything is acceptable then enrollment begins once payment is received from the pet owner.
- After a waiting period, the pet owner can submit claims for qualified vet bills (usually from a licensed veterinarian) to the pet insurance company. The pet insurance company will review and determine whether or not any claims submitted are covered by the insurance plan.
- Provided the claim is submitted after the waiting period and it is not nullified by any exclusions, the pet insurance company will reimburse the portion of the bill that was specified in the insurance plan. The reimbursement may be delivered to the owner holding insurance for the pet, or it may be delivered directly to the veterinarian—depending on the company. There is usually a deductible that applies before coverage kicks in that can not be reimbursed.
Of course, the exact process and logistics may be somewhat different from one pet insurance provider to another, and depending on the company, they may have some systems that make the entire process easier like a mobile app or an online claim submission system. Other pet insurance plans may still rely on more traditional claims processes like faxing or mailing the bill, and once it is verified to be in line with the pet insurance coverage a reimbursement check will be mailed to the pet owner.