Pet insurance is a topic that comes up a lot in our practice at Emerald City Emergency Clinic, so we’re answering a few of the most common questions to help you navigate the process and find the right policy to keep your pet — and your wallet — as healthy as can be.
1. Who needs pet insurance?
According to the American Pet Products Association, nearly 70% of American households have a pet. Of those pets, approximately 1 in 3 will need emergency vet care each year. The reality is that accidents happen and emergency treatment can be costly. Surgeries, even small ones, can cost thousands of dollars. Ideally, you won’t have to make a decision about care based solely on financial constraints. With pet insurance, small monthly payments can prevent you from scrambling to come up with a large lump sum in an emergency situation.
2. When should I sign up for pet insurance?
Just like humans, pets with pre-existing conditions can be declined coverage. Pre-existing conditions can also result in limitations in coverage or higher premiums. That means the best time to get pet insurance is when your pet is young and healthy. The earlier you sign up, the less medical history your pet will have, which translates into more comprehensive coverage. Puppies and kittens are less likely to have any issues they may develop later on, especially in breeds that are predisposed to health issues. For example, a dog breed that’s known for orthopedic issues could experience a torn ACL at some point, requiring expensive surgeries. With pet insurance, you can allow your vet to provide best-in-class treatment to address the problem rather than just managing symptoms due to financial constraints. We recommend getting pet insurance before you bring your new pet home. Insurance companies require a full nose-to-tail physical exam before granting coverage, so you should anticipate a 2-4 week waiting period before your policy goes into effect.
3. How Much Does It Cost?
Pet insurance costs vary based on the policy and level of coverage you select. You can opt for accident only, annual, lifetime coverage, or other options. Most plans require a co-pay at the time of treatment and deductibles that need to be met per incident versus per calendar year. Keep in mind that most pet insurance companies use a reimbursement model, so you would cover the cost of the emergency room bill at the time of service, then submit your invoice for repayment. Some companies will provide direct payment to the vet hospital, but you’ll need to check with both the insurance carrier and the vet hospital before treatment to confirm they can process the claim this way. Like health insurance for people, it’s important to research the different carriers before you commit to a policy and read thoroughly before signing.
4. How does it work?
When you bring your pet to Emerald City Emergency Clinic, we’ll ask whether pet insurance will be used as part of our intake process. From there, we will provide our best-in-class diagnosis and share a recommended treatment plan. Because we don’t know your pet’s full medical history, we can’t determine whether the emergency treatment is linked to a pre-existing condition, so that’s up to your insurance carrier to decide. If surgery is necessary, we recommend contacting your insurance carrier to confirm whether the procedure will be covered. Some insurance companies offer 24-hour customer support (a good thing to ask about during your initial research) and a quick call to the adjustor can determine whether the treatment will be covered. Otherwise, we will provide the paperwork required by your insurance policy for reimbursement.
5. Is there any reason I shouldn’t get pet insurance?
Pet insurance is intended to alleviate the financial hardships that can occur from unexpected emergency bills and expensive treatments. This may not be necessary if your family has a dedicated savings account for pet care or if there are no budgetary constraints. If your pet is older or has pre-existing conditions, you may not qualify for coverage or the cost may not be worth the benefits. In that case, you may be better off establishing a savings account instead of applying for insurance.
Pet insurance is intended to be a preventative measure, but so is consistent care. Regular check-ups, annual blood work and other diagnostics recommended by your primary veterinarian can help you avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency room, ensure your pet’s wellbeing, and provide a more predictable financial future for your whole family.
You can’t predict when an accident or emergency may arise, but you can be financially prepared with pet insurance.