Questions to Ask When Selecting a Pet Insurance Plan

Selecting an insurance plan that best meets the needs of your four-legged family members is just as important as selecting the right health insurance plan for your human family members.   A pet health insurance policy reimburses you for covered veterinary care and the cost varies based on the type and amount of coverage, the species and age of the pet, and even what breed of animal.  Insuring Fido or Fluffy as early as possible can help reduce any pre-existing condition limitations and future monthly premiums.

Here are suggested questions to ask as you review pet insurance plans: 

Can you continue to use the vet who currently treats your pet and veterinary specialists as needed to maintain good health?  Most pet insurance plans allow you to keep using your current vet and veterinary specialists like oncologists, dermatologists, and cardiologists but it’s best to confirm your care provider options before enrolling your pet in a plan.

Is the policy limited to illness, accident or wellness expenses or does it include a combination of two or all three types of coverage?  Accident coverage is the most common type of pet insurance to help pay for veterinary care following a bite at the dog park, pets who are hit by cars, or pets who are injured by a fall.  Illness coverage reimburses you for costs related to vomiting and diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, eye or ear infections, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases.  Wellness coverage typically includes annual exams and vaccines; blood, urine, and fecal tests and may reimburse you for parasite preventatives, dental cleanings, spay/neuter surgeries, and even behavior services.  Consider your pet’s breed, lifestyle, and personality when deciding which policy offers the best coverage(s). 

Are there any breed, hereditary, and/or congenital disease limitations?  As noted above, some policies have limitations on breeds or diseases covered or may charge a higher premium for breeds that are susceptible to cancer and heart or kidney disease.  Be sure to review any of the limitations that may reduce the amount of coverage available for your pet.

Are there previous illness or pre-existing condition limitations and, if so, what are the waiting periods for each?  If your dog is prone to ear infections and was just treated for one at your vet, there may be a period of time that needs to pass before the insurance company will reimburse you for related expenses.  Some insurance companies may consider ear and skin infections, allergies, and hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels) as pre-existing conditions so it’s best to clarify if they are categorized as illnesses or pre-existing conditions.     

–Are there any illnesses, diseases, or medical conditions that the policy won’t cover?  For example, does the illness coverage include treatment for diseases such as cancer or is there a supplemental cancer policy that needs to be purchased to cover these costs?

–Does the policy include reimbursement for prescription drug expenses?  The cost of medications for pets that are diagnosed with a chronic disease can become very expensive.  For example, insulin costs for diabetic patients range from $50-$200 for a month’s supply and the cost to administer oral chemotherapy can exceed $200/month.   

–Are expenses reimbursed according to the insurance company’s fee schedule or as a percentage of actual service fees paid to a veterinarian?  Although many insurance companies have moved away from reimbursing expenses according to their set fee schedule, you should check to make sure the policy you select reimburses you a percentage of actual service fees you paid at the veterinary clinic.

–Is there an annual deductible for each type of coverage or for each incident and are there annual/lifetime policy payment maximums?  An insurance plan that charges a deductible for each incident may have a lower monthly premium but, depending on your pet’s lifestyle, may end up costing you more than a plan with separate deductibles for each type of coverage.  Annual and/or lifetime maximum payments will also affect monthly premium amounts so carefully consider the benefits of a lower monthly payment against the risk of exceeding the amount you can be reimbursed each year. 

–How are claims filed and how long does it take to be reimbursed?  Most insurance companies accept claims by fax or e-mail and many allow you to file claims online with appropriate invoice documentation attached.  Consider if you’re comfortable submitting documentation in the way(s) required by the insurance company and if it will be a financial burden to wait however long it takes to be reimbursed.

–What is the pet insurance company’s ranking with the Better Business Bureau?  Have any complaints been filed against the insurance company with the Better Business Bureau and, if so, has the company been responsive in resolving these complaints? 

–What are insureds saying on Google, Yelp, or the insurance company’s Facebook page about customer service?  Look for comments about the ease of reaching customer support representatives, timely reimbursement of claims, and prompt resolution of complaints.

Doing your “homework” before selecting a pet insurance plan will go a long way towards ensuring your furry best friend has the coverage(s) needed to lead a happy and healthy life.  Please call us (630)598-0600 if you have questions or need more information about pet insurance.