Insurance for pets has been around for over 30 years, but it continues to be baffling to both pet parents and veterinarians. So many questions arise when debating a pet insurance purchase:
- Puppy vs. Senior pet
- Golden Retriever vs. a Bichon Frise
- Preventive Care vs. Accident and Illness
- What are deductibles and co-pays?
- How does it work?
One very important note to start with is that pet
insurance differs from human medical insurance in that there is no impact on medical decision-making or financial incentive for veterinarians to recommend one treatment over another. This is an extremely important distinction and one that will keep pet insurance as a positive force in the veterinary world for doctors, clients and pets.
As with most insurance the idea is that you pay now to ensure that, should something terrible happen, any decisions to be made will not be based on your pocketbook alone. I have been engaged in one too many conversations with clients who have had to make the decision not to repair a treatable condition or, worse, have to euthanize because they cannot afford the therapy necessary to save their pet. It is probably the worst thing to experience as a veterinarian as it is for a loving pet parent. There is no question that insurance can go a long way to prevent these tragedies from occurring.
It is natural to question whether the premiums you are going to pay will be worth it in the end, particularly with all of the confusion about pre-existing, hereditary and excluded conditions. But remember you absolutely cannot predict whether your dog is going to eat a foreign body or your cat is going to go into kidney failure. Insurance is by its very nature a gamble that something bad could happen. The best-case scenario is that you have paid for insurance that you will never need. The worst is not being able to pay for a critical treatment, having inappropriate insurance for your pet or not understanding exactly what your insurance covers and then being hit with a surprise when you really need the coverage to kick in.
When choosing pet insurance the most important things to consider are your pet’s individual needs, lifestyle, predispositions and what is comfortable financially for you as a pet parent. Insurance companies make an effort to be as clear as possible, but the issue I see arising again and again is an improper understanding of the coverage that a client has signed up for. Utilize the customer service personnel at the insurance companies you are considering. Ask questions:
- What is involved in submitting claims?
- Are or will pre-existing conditions ever be covered?
- How quickly you can expect reimbursements?
- When does the insurance coverage actually start?
According to PetFirst Pet Insurance, “There are waiting periods with each provider. The designated times will vary from policy-to-policy as well as provider-to-provider. Be sure to ask questions about the waiting period for: 1) Coverage to begin for both accident and illness; and 2) Coverage on specific accidents or illnesses to begin (for example cruciate repair coverage may not begin until the 13th month of coverage).”
There is no question to me that pet insurance is a positive and important contribution to our ability as veterinarians to provide the best medical care we can. Understanding how it works and making appropriate choices can also make it a valuable and often lifesaving option for pet parents to keep their pets happy and healthy and part of their families for a long time.
Your Heal House Call Veterinarian can advise you about pet insurance and tell you all about our Heal+ Preventive Membership that includes comprehensive wellness care along with a revolutionary $5,000 accident and illness insurance policy.