15 Of The Most Important Questions To Ask For The Best Pet Insurance

Pet owners have an unusual relationship to the needs of their pets. On the one hand, you’ll do anything for your most loyal friend, including buying them the best food, taking care of their grooming, and keeping them busy and happy. On the other hand, you probably don’t have the best pet insurance.

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This is not because you aren’t going to give your pet the care it needs if something happens. It has more to do with the fact that we prefer not to plan for that eventuality. We live as if our pets will be healthy until the day they die, but that is simply unrealistic. I think we have an understanding that an illness or injury is particularly bad for animals because we can’t tell them what's going on. Also, financial issues play a part, as pet insurance is yet another monthly payment that’s going to impact your finances.

Unfortunately, the reality is that our pets at some point need vet services, and they can be incredibly expensive. You don’t want to be scrambling to find the money in an emergency. Consider how much money you're left with at the end of a month. Now, what would happen if you were hit with a $1,000 vet bill? Chances are, you would struggle to find that amount, or have to take it out of your savings. Alternatively, you may end up making monthly payments to your vet. Pet insurance can save you from this quandary.

Buying the best pet insurance is crucial for your peace of mind and your pet’s health. When choosing an insurer, ask the following 15 questions.

1. Do I want a comprehensive insurance plan?

Many people get by with discount plans. Essentially, these provide discounts on veterinary services, among other things. This is a good way of hedging your bets, but if you get hit with a major bill for an unexpected health issue, you’ll be left paying out of pocket. A comprehensive insurance plan, on the other hand, is similar to regular health insurance and covers the entire bill.

2. Can I keep my current vet?

The question that caused people sleepless nights when learning about the ACA applies to pets as well. Find out from the various insurance companies whether you can keep your current vet or whether you'll have to choose from an allied member. Not everyone needs worry about this, as allied vets are usually vetted and top notch, but if you have a good relationship with your current vet, this is important information.

3. Are there waiting periods?

Pet insurance comes with waiting periods in some cases. This is more usually the case with older animals, who may already have health issues or are coming towards the later part of their lives. If you're hoping to get pet insurance to pay for a procedure your pet needs right now, you’ll be out of luck.

Note that older animals might not be eligible for pet insurance. Many companies do not cover dogs over ten years old, for example.

4. Are there exclusions?

In addition to pre-existing conditions, certain pet insurances have exclusions for certain hereditary conditions. This is often true for those conditions that are common with certain cats or dog breeds and are a result of bad breeding practices. So, if your dog is at risk for hip dysplasia, for example, your most pressing concerns may not be covered. In this case, find pet insurance that covers these conditions.

5. What about neutering or spaying?

If you can get neutering or spaying covered by your pet insurance, you're in luck. Most companies expect that you'll be neutering or spaying your pet and, at best, will work the cost into your initial payment.

6. How high are the deductibles?

Like with regular health insurance, pet insurance plans have deductibles. Find out how high these deductibles are on the various plans. Generally, the lower your premium the higher the deductibles will be. To get the most bang for your buck, you will need to do some calculations, and it can get a little complex!

7. Does it cover routine health care?

Every pet needs routine health care, including immunizations and dental care. Some insurance plans cover this care, but other plans are meant entirely for incidental health needs. Covering the routine care yourself often makes more sense than spending the equivalent on comprehensive health insurance that does so. After all, they'll simply work these costs into the monthly price.

8. How about prescription medication?

With the pet health industry progressing, medications are becoming available that we never had before. While this is great news, much of this prescription medication is very expensive. Some of it is exactly the same as medicine humans take. Prozac, for example, has become a very popular option for anxious pets. Find out if the insurance plan covers it.

9. When are benefits capped?

As with human health insurance, pet insurance plans cap spending for particular illnesses and injuries. Find out how high these caps are, as comprehensive pet insurance loses its advantage if the caps don’t come close to covering the costs that can be expected. Take into account the conditions your pet is most at risk for.

10. How am I reimbursed?

Pet insurance plans may pay you or the provider directly. Ask how long it takes to process payment, and whether you'll have to lay out the total value first. It might be difficult for you to find the money in a pinch, even if you will get reimbursed later. However, your provider may allow you to wait until you're reimbursed to pay the bill.

11. How do I claim?

Being aware of the claims process before committing to a plan is important. If it’s too complicated, you may be left waiting for your reimbursement as you file and refile the same claim.

12. Does the plan drop pets of a certain age?

Most plans will continue to insure pets even once they have reached an age at which they would not be able to enroll. Make sure of this before committing, as your pet needs to be insured when they are most at risk of chronic conditions.

13. What are the cancelation terms?

You may run into reasons to cancel along the line, whether due to bad service or relocation. Ask for the cancelation terms to ensure you have options. Some plans have a money-back guarantee over a certain time period. They should offer to pay back some of your premiums down the line if you haven’t claimed.

14. What do other clients say?

Looking for reviews is only prudent, as some companies try taking advantage of customers. Reviews will give you an idea of how efficient they are, as well as whether you can rely on them not to try and get out of paying. Customer service nightmares are all-too-common when dealing with any insurance, whether humans or pets.

15. How do I ensure multiple pets?

Ask whether your pet insurance provider offers discounts or plans for people with more than one pet. Multiple plans add up, and if you have a lot of animals can become unaffordable. Nonetheless, not having insurance in this case can lead to huge problems down the line.

What if I get the wrong answers?

The above questions provide a comprehensive overview of what you're looking for from any pet insurance company. What happens if you keep getting answers that just don’t make sense to you? Should you go ahead with it anyway?

The truth is that, while some companies will give you answers that are less than ideal, there are companies that go about things the right way. You will find a company that provides the insurance you need, as long as you keep looking. The process can be arduous, but today’s frustration will save you money tomorrow.

Who can help me decide?

If you're really struggling to decide on pet insurance, speak to your vet about it. They may be allied to a particular insurance, but if you have a good relationship with the person and you trust that they have your best interests at heart, ask them for their honest opinion.

Ultimately, no one has a better idea of what your pet needs and how much it will cost than your vet. They've seen many people like you and have a good sense for what you can expect as your pet grows older and faces new challenges.

Keep in mind that some vets get a commission for bringing customers to one or another pet insurance company, so you shouldn't put this question to a vet you don’t know. As with human doctors, while in an ideal world we would put our complete trust in them, we have reason to be cynical.

Pet insurance is something every pet owner should have. It is only prudent that you are equipped to give your pet the best care when they most need it.

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Martin Jaeger
 

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