Pet insurance can be a tricky thing to understand with all the terms and conditions. One term you’ll likely come across when researching pet insurance is waiting periods. Waiting periods refer to the amount of time before insurance kicks in and starts paying out for vet bills. Pet parents are responsible for any vet bills that accumulate during the waiting period. So how long are waiting periods generally? Are there any pet insurance policies with no waiting period? Read on to find out.
Though inconvenient for pet parents, waiting periods do serve a purpose. Waiting periods are one way pet insurance companies can avoid insurance fraud. Waiting periods prevent insurance companies from paying for pre-existing illnesses or injuries that policyholders fail to disclose during enrollment.
According to the AKC insurance policy, “a pre-existing condition is any illness or injury which occurred, reoccurred, existed or showed symptoms, whether or not diagnosed by a veterinarian, prior to enrollment or during the waiting period. Gaps in coverage can also cause a condition to be pre-existing.”
Waiting periods help weed out already sick pets from healthy ones and prevent new policyholders from filing a claim for an illness that occurred before enrollment. By not paying for pre-existing illnesses, insurance companies keep premiums low and are able to pay out for illnesses that arise after the waiting period is over.
Waiting periods vary from insurance company to insurance company. Usually, sickness coverage doesn’t kick in until 14 to 30 days after opening a policy. Accident coverage doesn’t take quite as long to take effect, generally within 48 hours, but again, this depends on the company.
Certain injuries and illnesses have longer waiting periods, primarily orthopedic ailments like cruciate ligaments and hip dysplasia. Waiting periods for these orthopedic illnesses can be anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
Some pet insurance plans will waive the waiting period for orthopedic issues if the policyholder takes their dog for an orthopedic exam after purchasing coverage. During this exam, vets will check the dog for arthritis, slipping kneecaps, dysplasia, fractures, and spinal issues. If the dog passes the exam and the exam report is submitted to the insurance policy, some insurance companies will waive the orthopedic illness waiting period.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any pet insurance companies without some sort of waiting period, even for very young animals. However, there are some exceptions for accident coverage and wellness plans.
ASPCA and PetFirst, for instance, have no waiting periods for accident coverage, though they do implement waiting periods for illnesses. This means if your dog is hit by a car the day after enrollment, ASPCA and Pet First should reimburse for the vet bill. On the other hand, if your dog gets a stomach bug within a couple of days of enrollment, the insurance will not cover the vet expenses.
Most wellness plans have no waiting periods, but these only cover preventative treatments like vaccinations, heartworm meds, and the like. Wellness plans are often only offered as an add-on and will not cover illnesses or accidents.
At this time, there are no pet insurance companies without waiting period policies in place for illnesses, though some types of coverage have no waiting periods. Wellness plans typically go into effect immediately, and some companies have short or no waiting periods for accidents. Waiting periods shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in which pet insurance you choose. Make sure you also consider the premiums and coverage level which works best for your pet.
Are you in the market for a pet insurance policy? Use our pet insurance comparison tool to compare plans and premiums so you can make the right decision for your pet.