What is Pet Health Insurance?
You want your pet to be happy, active, and sociable, and to live a long and healthy life. But pets, just like people, face medical problems, whether from an accident, nutritional issues, disease, or inherited condition. And there is no telling when trouble may strike, leaving you with unexpected and sometimes hefty expenses.
Does Pet Insurance work Like People Insurance?
Like health insurance for people, you can buy a health insurance plan for pet. But unlike insurance for people, pet insurance reimburses you after you’ve paid in full. Reimbursements cover up to 90% of the vet bill and turnaround time for payment is as little as 2-5 days.
Finding the Best Coverage
With the right coverage, you can plan in advance to have the financial resources necessary to provide the right treatment at the right time, without having to postpone or even forego costly procedures that can restore your pet’s health.
Reputable insurers offer their customers the right range of coverage options, including preventative medicine, inherited conditions, medications and so on, together with a range of premiums and deductibles. They know that they are helping people to get the most out of their pets.
Reviewing Pet Insurance Plans
Pet health insurance is a relatively new form of coverage, and many people are only just now hearing about it for the first time. More people than ever are purchasing insurance for their pets, and some of the top businesses in the US are starting to include pet coverage in their health plans.
Why are Over 1 Million US Pets Insured?
One of the reasons for the increasing popularity of these plans is the fact that pets are living longer, in part because of the development of amazing technologies and medicines, which are often not cheap.
Another reason more for the increased interest in pet insurance is that specialized breeds are becoming more common, and these animals are at relatively high risk for congenital defects, some of which don’t show up until adulthood.
Finding the Right Coverage for Your Pet’s Health Issues
So the key to getting the right coverage is to match your pet’s needs with the options offered in specific plans. If you plan on bringing a St. Bernard into the family, for example, it is important that your coverage include hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia.
Also be sure that your particular pet, whether a dog, or cat, is one of the primary concerns of your insurer. In other words, if you’re looking for insurance for an English Bulldog, consider only insurers who make cats one of their specialties, and not just as an afterthought of a firm that specializes in dogs.
The first step, then, is to do some research about pet insurance options. Talk to your vet and your fellow pet owners. Review the websites of insurers with an eye, not only to their available options, deductions, premiums and specialties, but also to how long they have been in business, how many different states and regions they are active in and their accreditation with consumer groups like the Better Business Bureau.
Make a list of various plans, including what they cover and the premiums and deductibles. Take care to check for any conditions or treatments that may be excluded, and any caps on either specific treatments or total expenditures.
Customer reviews can also be a great way to learn what companies are really like (though of course they always need to be taken with a grain of salt). So, questions you may want answers to include:
- are hereditary & congenital conditions covered?
- are prescription drugs covered?
- are accidents and sudden illnesses covered?
- how much is the annual deductible?
- what percentage are the reimbursements?
- what are the claim limits per year?
- are burial or cremation covered?
- are there copays?
- are vaccinations covered?
- are kennels covered?
- is spaying or neutering covered?
- is dental care extra?
- is there a waiting period before coverage kicks in?
- does coverage increase in cost or cease in old age?
Comparing Pet Insurance Plans
While doing your research, you’ll probably find that some people have had bad luck with pet health insurance. There are complaints about long waits for reimbursement, or that a treatment or condition thought to be covered in fact was not.
The way to avoid such problems is to do a careful comparison of the various plans offered by the various companies. In many cases, insurers will cover only those conditions that begin after a plan goes into effect, so again be sure to take into account hereditary and other pre-existing conditions.
In what follows, some of the basic facts about some of the main insurers will be discussed in order to give you an idea of the kinds of pet health coverage that are available.
Healthy Paws has become a leader in the pet insurance business since it was founded in 2010. The firm offers breed-specific insurance, and its coverage options include an array of treatments and diagnostics, surgery, prescription medication, non-routine dental, hospitalization, illnesses and accidents and chronic conditions.
Pre-existing conditions are excluded, though hereditary conditions that are not apparent at the time the policy is issued are covered, including hip dysplasia provided that a pet is enrolled before age 6. Healthy Paws offers an unlimited maximum payout for life.
Healthy Paws Pros
- coverage extends outside the US to Canada
- generous maximum payout
- comprehensive coverage for special conditions
Healthy Paws Cons
- excludes examination fee
- limited non-routine dental cover.
More information: Read our Healthy Paws Review
PetPlan has been offering a variety of pet health insurance plans in the US since 2009. These include the so-called “Gold” plan, with an annual limit of $22,000, “Silver,” with an annual limit of $14,000 and “Bronze,” where the limit is $10,000.
Options include diagnostics, veterinary examinations, lab tests, an array of treatments, non-routine dental, surgery, hospitalization, and prescription medications. This firm’s plans in most cases cover chronic and hereditary diseases, but exclude pre-existing illness or injuries.
- comprehensive and permanent coverage of inherited conditions
- no separate deductibles, gimmicks, or hidden limits
- coverage of some alternative therapies that other insurers exclude
- coverage of illnesses acquired outside the US
- required pre-enrollment examination for pre-existing conditions
- 80% maximum coverage for referrals and non-emergency treatment
More information: Read our comprehensive Petplan review.
Nationwide Pet Insurance
Nationwide, formerly known as Veterinary Pet Insurance (which was founded in 1982), offers plans that cover a wide variety of treatments and diagnostics, surgery, hospitalization, and prescription medications and that, in the case of their “Whole Pet Plan,” extend to inherited and chronic diseases that have not set in when the pet is enrolled.
Like most other insurers, Nationwide excludes pre-existing conditions. Generally speaking, the maximum benefit allowance for medical and diagnosis is $20 while for surgical treatment per annum is $500.
- range of plans: Major Medical, Pet Wellness, and Whole Pet
- the Whole Pet Plan offers an unlimited maximum payout
- comprehensive coverage of chronic diseases
- 90% reimbursement on most veterinary bills
- extra effort required to determine the exact coverage of chronic diseases
- limited non-routine dental treatment
- the Major Medical Plan excludes inherited conditions except hip dysplasia
More information: Check out our complete review of Nationwide Pet Insurance.
Pets Best has been around for more than a decade and offers a variety of plans. Like most other providers, the firm’s coverage options include hospitalization, a variety of diagnostics and treatments, surgery, and prescription medications. There is also a maximum limit when it comes to the payout and an exclusion of pre-existing conditions.
The base policy covers chronic diseases and limited non-routine dental care. Coverage varies from state-to-state. A number of conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia and cardiovascular defects, have a one-year waiting period. The Maximum Payout Structure is set at $20,000 annually and $200,000 for lifetime.
Pets Best Pros
- coverage of inherited conditions (in specified states)
- no age limit for enrollment
- coverage extends outside the US
- continuous coverage of chronic illnesses
Pets Best Cons
- coverage of inherited conditions unavailable in some states
- Limited non-routine dental coverage
More information: Take a look at our detailed Pets Best review.
Embrace Pet Insurance
Embrace has been around since 2005. The company’s policy covers the costs of examinations, diagnosis, limited dental, hospitalization, treatments and surgery, and includes chronic and hereditary illnesses that have not afflicted a pet before the end of the waiting period.
As usual, pre-existing conditions are excluded. Prescription medications represent an additional add-on. The yearly maximum reimbursement is $15,000.
- choose any licensed veterinarian
- relatively generous maximum payout
- prescription medication coverage additional
More information: Read our Embrace Pet Insurance review
PetPremium is a recent entry into the pet insurance marketplace, having been founded in 2013. One thing that sets PetPremium apart from other firms is the flexible and customizable nature of the four plans that are offered.
There is also the option of choosing your preferred copay plan or deductibles, whether monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or annual. PetPremium also offers coverage for behavioral modification therapy for such habits as destructive chewing.
- four types of customizable policies/plans
- 90% reimbursement
- annual deductibles as low as $100
- choice of veterinarians
- no maximum age for pets
- coverage of behavioral therapy
- unlimited annual benefit
- maximum of $3000 for every accident/illness for most plans
- limited coverage of inherited conditions in lower-tier plans
- maximum per-accident reimbursement of $ 7000
More information: For details on coverage, limits, exclusions & reimbursements, see our PetPremium review
Getting the Most out of Pet Insurance
It takes some effort to do the necessary research and to compare and contrast the various companies and plans, but the payoff is the certainty of knowing that you will be able to live up to your responsibility and provide for your pet. If you’re still unsure about pet insurance coverage, no sweat!
Pet Insurance Basics
We cover all of the basics about pet insurance right here. And if you’ve got the hang of pet insurance already, don’t forget to use all of the resources available at your fingertips: Ask other pet owners, visit forums, check out company websites, read reviews by customers and agencies like the Better Business Bureau, and consider the the advice of your veterinarian.
When comparing plans, take into account a whether or not the coverage gives you the breed-specific protection you need for your dog or cat. If you don’t know which health problems affect your pet’s breed, learn about them now:
Pet insurance by breed — Cats
Pet insurance by breed — Dogs
For the sake of your finances and your peace of mind, find the right plan for your pet, and make sure to know the terms and to pay all the premiums on time.