Pet health insurance is gaining popularity in the United States, yet far too many pets still lack coverage. Of the 114 million cats and dogs here, only 4.41 million have health insurance. With the rising costs of, well, everything, since the COVID-19 pandemic, you should consider a pet health insurance policy that can pay for itself throughout your pet’s lifetime.

Benefits of a health insurance policy for your pet

A pet insurance policy offers numerous perks, but some reasons to purchase a policy the day you welcome a pet into your family include:

  • Financial protection — Caring for a pet is expensive, whether you’re buying high-quality food, replacing shredded dog beds, or paying for emergency surgery after your new puppy devours your trash can contents. A comprehensive insurance policy in place ensures you have the financial backing you need to pay for essential preventive or emergency veterinary care.
  • Peace of mind — If your pet develops a sudden illness or injury, you may worry about being able to pay for their care. With insurance coverage, you can rest assured that your furry pal will be taken care of, without needing to make the impossible decision between your mortgage payment or paying for your pet’s care.
  • Increased access to care — Budget constraints often limit diagnostic and treatment options for pets with complex medical conditions that require specialist care, and chronic or difficult-to-resolve conditions can take a significant chunk out of a savings account. Pets backed by a comprehensive insurance policy live longer, with an improved quality of life.

Understanding pet health insurance policies

Pet health insurance policies can be difficult to unravel, but understanding common terms and their application to your pet can guide you to choose the perfect policy. The ins and outs of a pet insurance policy include:

  • Coverage types — The coverage level varies greatly among policies, from accident only, to comprehensive policies that include wellness and specialist care. Riders can be tacked onto policies to provide routine veterinary care coverage, holistic care, end-of-life care, and other special services outside urgent care needs. 
  • Exclusions and limitations — Before purchasing a policy, you must understand its limitations. No insurance provider will cover pre-existing conditions, and providers can define future coverage for the same or similar conditions differently. They generally also will not cover, or will provide varied coverage, for breed-specific or hereditary conditions.
  • Waiting periods — A waiting period is the time frame between your policy purchase and when coverage begins. Coverage is often tiered, meaning accident coverage kicks in within a day, while coverage for illnesses may not begin until 14 days after policy purchase. Many insurance providers also do not cover orthopedic conditions for the first 6 to 12 months after a policy has gone into effect.
  • Deductibles, premiums, and reimbursement rates — Your monthly premium is affected by several factors, including the deductible, coverage level, and reimbursement rate. A higher deductible and minimal coverage generally means a lower premium, while a higher reimbursement rate increases your premium.

Tips for choosing a pet health insurance policy

Finding the perfect insurance policy that meets your needs and those of your pet can be challenging, but is well worth the effort. When evaluating insurance policies, focus on the following:

  • Coverage options (e.g., accident, accident-and-illness, comprehensive)
  • Exclusions (e.g., pre-existing conditions, breed-specific conditions, age limits)
  • Premium cost versus policy benefits
  • Reimbursement schedule and limits
  • Claim processing
  • Customer service
  • Client satisfaction

Also, choose an insurance policy tailored to your pet’s needs that factors in their age, breed, and health history, and anticipates potential future health issues. For example, if you plan on welcoming a French bulldog into your family, ensure the policy will cover respiratory disorders, skin issues, and orthopedic injuries.

The most important point? Purchase your chosen pet insurance policy at the same time as you bring your furry pal home to avoid pre-existing condition exclusions.

By carefully considering all your options, you can find the ideal insurance coverage for your pet’s health care while sparing your wallet. For help in determining the coverage level your four-legged friend may require, discuss your insurance options with our Palm Valley Veterinary Center team.