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What is pet health insurance, and do you need it?

Pet insurance can be overwhelming. Does it truly save you money? Is it worth the investment? As veterinary medicine becomes more advanced, the price of care naturally goes up, and pet health insurance can help offset some of the costs.

Pet health insurance is a policy that comes with a monthly premium. If your pet is sick or injured, you foot the bill up front and submit a reimbursement claim to the insurance agency. Most policies include the costs of diagnosing, treating and managing illnesses or injuries and some plans even cover hereditary conditions, pre-existing conditions, and wellness care.

Because pet insurance plans are generally reimbursement plans, you may be concerned about covering costs. Ask your veterinarian about available options for assisting with paying at the time of service. It’s best to know your choices ahead of time, so you don’t have the added stress of trying to make payment arrangements or delay treatment during an emergency.

Is pet insurance right for you?

There’s no magic formula to tell you if pet health insurance is right for you and your pet, so you should discuss your options with your veterinarian. Here are some things to consider when choosing a plan:

  • Regardless of the insurance provider, your veterinarian should always monitor your pet’s health.
  • An insurance provider should spell out all plan details, including the limitations and exclusions and coverage for routine wellness care.
  •  Be sure to look into how your premiums will increase as your pet ages or if you make any claims.
  • If specific coverage is not available in a plan, ask if there are add-on options for services such as dental care or travel insurance.
  • Find out how the provider determines and addresses pre-existing conditions. If your pet has any conditions before purchasing your plan, this may change your insurance options.
  • In some cases, insurance providers will not insure a specific pet or breed of pet, or they may limit the number of pets you can insure if the pets are considered “high risk.”
  • You should ask the insurance provider if they offer pricing discounts for multiple pets.
  • Because policies vary, it’s important that you understand all charges, including co-pays, deductibles, add-on charges and other fees.
  • No matter the policy, you should always be allowed to choose the veterinarian who will care for your pet.
  • Ask the insurance provider how claims are processed and the timeframe for reimbursement.

Picking a pet insurance provider

Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a pet insurance company based on their experience, but it’s ultimately your decision.  For more information, see what the AVMA has to say about pet health insurance and explore the Forbes article that compares popular insurance plans.