Navigating Pet Health Insurance

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Are you among the millions of pet owners who find themselves mired in a swamp of pet insurance terminology, policy features, deductibles, plan limits and exclusions?  While we can assure you that you’re not alone, that probably doesn’t really help much as you attempt to navigate the complex and confusing arena of finding the right pet insurance for your pet.   Perhaps a little help in the form of simple terminology explanations might help. If you know what the term is supposed to mean, then you can ask more intelligent questions and hopefully get more understandable answers.   Sometimes, the terminology, policy features, costs to you, plan limits and some of the exclusions can really get messy and mixed up as you wade through the muck in search of the dry land of understanding upon which you can stand to decide which plan fits your pet and your situation.

First and Foremost is Your Desire to Care for Your Pet

So, you’ve got your doggy family members, Roscoe, Buster and Missy, to take care of and, sometimes, it’s all you can do to feed and love them.  Then suddenly little Missy gets a bit of diarrhea which spreads to “the boys” and, now, you have a real mess!  After this has gone on for several days, you know you need to get medical care for them but what about the expenses involved?  Where do you get the money to provide the care you know they need?  Pet insurance can be the answer to help you through these seasons of their lives.  This sounds like a perfect solution to a messy situation, right?  Well, yes … and no.  While pet insurance can be very beneficial when illness strikes, not all conditions and situations will fit under the pet health insurance umbrella.  

And the Journey Begins

If you’ve already begun the search for the perfect pet insurance plan then you’re likely already aware of the details through which you must sort (terms, policy limits, coverage and exclusions just to name a few points of consideration). Insurance of any type is just one of those very confusing topics which styme most of us.   Here are a few of the basic terms about which you should try to get specific answers from the companies whom you are considering for pet insurance:

  • Copayment and coinsurance - These are terms used interchangeably and refer to the cost to you of veterinary care after the deductible is met per event or incident
  • Deductible - Refers to the amount you will need to pay out of pocket before your insurance company will kick in to pay; this is usually per event or incident and this is a big deal for your budget to be sure
  • Exclusions - These are medical conditions or diseases which are not included under any circumstances in your policy or plan while others can have mitigating circumstances; these can include congenital or hereditary conditions, breed specific conditions, pre-existing conditions (conditions for which your pet has already been diagnosed), certain musculoskeletal disorders or intentional injuries caused by you or other family members or elective and cosmetic procedures
  • General anesthesia maximum - This is the maximum amount covered by your plan for anesthesia services

Do You Have a Plan of Action?

How many companies have you called?  How many plans have they suggested for your situation?  Can you accurately list the specific provisions in each plan?  Can you determine which one offers the most of what you’re looking for?  Chances are very great that the answers to at least one of these questions is a resounding… maybe?  

  • Find out what exactly the proposed plan covers
  • Get specifics on the actual coverage levels
  • Ask about the various deductibles, are they annual or per event and how they affect your monthly premium
  • Ask about the calculation for reimbursement that takes place when you file a claim and be sure to get some idea of how long it will take for you to get your reimbursement from the company
  • Another issue to make sure you understand is who can provide veterinary services and be covered by the plan
  • Also ask about ancillary veterinary medical services like labs, emergency rooms and surgical facilities

When you’ve asked these questions and received your answers, more questions will likely be brought to mind.  It is very important to ask those questions because you really do need to understand how your pet insurance works to avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.  Don’t be afraid to ask any questions that you’d like to have answered.  If the agent or customer service person to whom you are talking is truly interested in providing quality insurance coverage for your pet, the questions will be answered freely and courteously.   

Another tip:  As you do your cost/coverage comparison, it is helpful to list all of the plans on a sheet in separate vertical columns with the various categories of coverage information listed horizontally on a line by line basis.  Then, just fill in the appropriate information in the appropriate column on the appropriate line.  When your cost comparison is done, you will have charted all of the information you have gathered in one easy to read format so that you can see which plans offer most of what you need for your pet.   

Don’t Get Discouraged

Pet insurance may not necessarily be a clear cut solution to the high costs of caring for your family pet.  There is a maze of trails you must follow to educate yourself about this important issue.  Decisions about whether pet insurance is needed, what type and when to purchase it are better made when you are armed with information and a means to understand that information.  Doing your homework is a great suggestion in virtually all areas of life’s issues and pet insurance is no different.  There is a vast amount of information available online about pet insurance which can get you started and can help you narrow your search to a few companies with whom you can then sit down and have a face-to-face chat about what you need and what they can offer you and your pet.