With the increased costs of veterinary care, many pet owners are looking at pet insurance. Pet health insurance differs from human policies in that you pay for all care up front, and then submit a claim and supporting receipts to the particular agency. Some clients are happy with this coverage, and others are totally dissatisfied. Pet insurance can definitely give you peace of mind when it comes to care for your cherished companions. Here are some important things to think about, and some questions to ask before you purchase a pet insurance policy.
Many companies do not cover congenital, inherited, or pre-existing health problems. A congenital issue is one that is present at birth. Some common ones include an inguinal hernia-an abdominal hernia, an open fontanelle-an opening in the skull, a liver shunt-an unclosed hole from gestation causing blood to not flow to the liver, patient ductus arteriosus-an unclosed hole in the heart, abnormal heart valve formation, and others. Certain breeds of dogs and/or cats are more predisposed to specific congenital health maladies. Some of these problems are much more serious than others, and some can be surgically corrected.
An inherited problem is one that is associated with a certain breed; but that can occur early on, or take several years to present itself. Some common ones include hip dysplasia-poor confirmation of the hip joints, cataracts, glaucoma, luxating patella-a condition in which the knee cap slips in and out of place, heart murmurs-a problem with the heart valves not closing correctly, heart enlargement, thyroid problems-either high or low, skin cancer, and several others. All of these problems can have significant consequences; some can be surgically corrected, while others can require ongoing medical care.
A pre-existing problem is any health issue that had occurred prior to the start date of an insurance policy. Expect any insurance company to request all previous records for your companion prior to the start of coverage.
How do you protect yourself and your companions? Know what problems are common for the breed of dog or cat that you have, and then find out from the particular company if there are exclusions for various health problems. Find out if there are limits on coverage. Find out if there are caps on coverage either annually, or for a particular medical problem. Ask these same questions even if your pet is not a specific breed. Find out how long it takes on average for the insurance company to issue a reimbursement. Ask what the method is for deciding how much money is given back with each claim. Find out if preventative wellness care, emergency care, specialists, second opinions, and alternative treatments are covered. Are you covered if you travel out of state or out of the country? Can you pet be dropped from coverage? It is much better for you to do as much research ahead of time, instead of having unexpected surprises later on.
If you do decided to purchase an insurance policy for your dog or cat, I recommend getting coverage when he or she is as young as possible. This will give you the best opportunity to not have any pre-existing health issues. This does mean that you may end up paying for a policy for several years before your pet has any health problems that warrant reimbursement. Also, know how much you normally spend annually on your pets. Consider the different levels of care available, and decide which one works best for you. On average, most policies cost $15 to $75 each month. Ask your veterinarian if there are pet insurance companies that he or she can recommend. Our clinic recommends Veterinary Pet Insurance, and ASPCA Pet Insurance. Find out how long that particular company has been in business. Ideally, you should compare two to three different companies to find out which one will best serve your family.
Some other options to think about include setting up a bank account for pet care, and/or opening up a line of credit. Many clients prefer to routinely deposit money into a bank account for their cherished companion. This helps them to be better prepared when an emergency or unexpected health issue occurs. Others have a credit card that is just for pet care. Care credit is a wonderful service that has helped many patients. It is a line of credit that can be applied for at the veterinary clinic or on line at www.carecredit.com. This card can let you pay for care over several months to years, often without interest. You can have additional people co-sign on the application to maximize the available funds. The more you prepare ahead of time, the less stress for you; and the better the level of care that you will be able to provide for your cherished companions.