There are several things that must be considered when looking at policies, the most obvious of which being what you are insuring – how many pets, what species/breed, how old they are, if they have had any previous health problems, and so on. You must also consider how much you are prepared to pay for the premium, which is usually a per month expense.
Some things that are not so obvious are what kind of coverage you want and/or need, what kind of deductible and co-pay you want, the maximum benefits, how often the policy renews, and what is excluded from coverage. This may seem like a lot and can be overwhelming, but here the information will be broken down to help you decide which company and policy is best for you.
If you are looking for a quick answer on what policy is the best, please click here before continuing to read this article.
Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with the insurance jargon by reading the Glossary of Terms.
Licensed in: This will tell you what states the insurance company is licensed in. Since licensing is done state by state, coverage may not be available in your state; if it is not, then there is no reason to do anything further with this company.
Enrollments Requirements: If the insurance company requires certain things, such as for your pet to be a certain age, in order to be eligible for coverage, it will be listed here.
Policies for Avians and/or Exotics: Finding pet insurance for your exotic pet is difficult because most companies do not offer policies for them. Currently, only VPI has policies to cover exotics. Pet Assure, a managed care pet insurance alternative, extends benefits to exotics. Care Credit can also be used for exotic pets.
Multipet Policies: Some companies require you to have a separate policy for each insured pet whereas others allow you to have a single policy for multiple pets in your household.
Deductible: The deductible can be per-incident or annual. A per-incident deductible is not as desirable as an annual one because you will be required to pay the deductible for each new ailment or injury your pet has with a per-incident one. An annual deductible means that you will only have to pay the deductible once per policy term, which is usually a year. Smaller deductibles usually translate to higher premiums, so it is important to evaluate how it affects your out of pocket expenses.
Maximum: The maximum can be per-incident, annual, or lifetime. Per-incident means that there is a maximum the insurance company will pay out for each new problem. Usually when there is a per-incident maximum, problems are put into groups and the maximum is for each group. Annual means that there is a maximum amount that the company will pay out per term, which is usually a year. Lifetime means that in the lifetime of your pet, the company will only pay out up to a set number. The likelihood of reaching the lifetime maximum is not very high, but most companies will allow you to purchase a new lifetime maximum in the event that it is reached.
Co-pay: This is the amount you are responsible for each time you make a claim; it is a percentage of the vet bill. It varies by company and policy, and you will see it listed here. A smaller copay may translate to higher premiums, but you should get the smallest co-pay you can afford. It is important to know that regardless of your co-pay, if you are referred to a specialist, you will have a co-pay of 20% or 30%, depending on your state’s requirements. This is done to keep pet insurance premiums affordable. The higher rate also applies if you go to an emergency vet facility, meaning one that is open after regular business hours, for a non-emergency.
Premiums: Premiums vary because of a lot of different factors, including the age of your pet and the policy you choose. It is important to remember that just like everything else, you get what you pay for. If you choose a policy with a low premium, chances are that it will wind up costing you significantly more in the long run. Here will be listed the approximate range of this company’s premiums, but this is just a general guideline – the actual premium for your pet may be higher or lower.
Policy Renewal: This will tell you how often a policy with this company must be renewed and if ailments your pet was previously treated for become pre-existing (and therefore no longer eligible for coverage) with the new policy. Most companies renew policies automatically, and if this is the case, you must notify the company in writing if you want to cancel the policy.
Raise Premiums with Age: Some companies raise the premiums as your pet ages. This will tell you if this particular company does. It is important to know that even if this company does not raise premiums because of age, the premiums may still go up for other reasons, including inflation and a general increase in the costs of veterinary care.
Raise Premiums with Claim Experience: Some companies raise premiums because of your claim experiences. In other words, if you file a lot of claims, your premiums might go up. It is important to know that even if this company does not raise premiums because of claim experience, the premiums may still go up for other reasons, including inflation and a general increase in the costs of veterinary care.
Pays According to Invoice: If a company pays according to the invoice, what you see is what you get — provided everything is eligible for coverage. Other ways of paying are according to a benefits schedule or according to what is considered reasonable and customary in your area.
Requires an Exam or Medical Records: Some companies require your pet to have a physical exam before insuring him or her; other companies might require a copy of your pet’ medical records. If this is the case, you should try to get in writing what the company will not cover because they consider it to pre-existing and for how long they won’t cover. This will ensure that if something comes up after your pet’s policy has been written, the insurance company won’t be able to claim it was pre-existing when it was not.
Bilateral Conditions Policy: Some pet insurance companies consider bilateral conditions to be pre-existing conditions if the first incident occurred before your pet enrolled in the policy or during the waiting period, even if the second occurrence is completely unrelated to the first. This means that if your pet had a cruciate ligament injury and later had the same injury on the opposite side of the body, it would not be covered and you would have to pay out of pocket for any expenses relating to this. Other companies will cover bilateral conditions if the treating veterinarian deems the incidents to be unrelated. Regardless of what the company’s policy is, it will be listed here.
Coverage for Hereditary Disorders: Most companies will not cover hereditary disorders but some will if your pet has shown no signs of it before getting the policy. Whether something is hereditary of not is at the discretion of the insurance company, even if your vet disagrees with it. If possible, you should obtain a list of what is considered hereditary, but not all companies have a set list.
Coverage for Congenital Disorders: Most companies will not cover congenital disorders on the basis that your pet has had it since birth and it is therefore pre-existing. However, some companies will cover them if your pet has shown no signs of it before getting the policy. Whether something is considered congenital or not is at the discretion of the insurance company, even if your vet disagrees. If possible, you should obtain a list of what is considered congenital, but not all companies have a set list.
Coverage for Alternative Care: Alternative care, such as acupuncture, is very important to some people, especially for people whose pets do not respond well to traditional medicine. If this company covers alternative care, it will be listed here.
Coverage for Prescriptions: Prescriptions can be rather spendy, depending on what is ailing your pet. If this company covers prescriptions or prescription diets, if will be indicated here.
Coverage for Wellness Care: Some companies include wellness care in all their policies, some offer it as an additional rider, and still others do not offer it at all. Wellness care should be something that ought to be available through your regular veterinarian at a reasonable cost, and getting coverage through the insurance company may wind up costing you most in the long run. Because of this, it is important to think critically about whether it is worth it.
Coverage for Dental Care: Periodontal disease is the single most common disease in our pets today. It is estimated that about 85% of dogs and cats over the age of 4 years have some form of periodontal disease. This is extremely unfortunate because not only is periodontal disease the most preventable disease our pets can get, but it is also not covered by most pet insurance companies. Routine dental care, which can prevent periodontal disease, may or may not be covered depending on which company and policy you choose. Information on this company’s coverage for dental care will be listed here.
Coverage for Cancer: Most companies will cover cancerous conditions so long as it’s not pre-existing, but others will not cover cancer of any type. Additionally, some companies won’t cover an unrelated cancer if your pet has previously had cancer. If your pet is a breed that is particularly prone to cancerous conditions, this would be an important factor to consider.
Coverage for Pregnancy: Here you will find whether a company includes coverage for pregnancy and related problems.
Travel Coverage: If you plan on traveling with your pet, it will be important for you to know if your pet will be covered if you travel out of state or out of the country. Most companies will cover trips to Canada, but a few only cover the US. Embrace, Pets Best, and VPI offer worldwide coverage.
Riders: Some companies have riders that grant you additional coverage, such as riders for wellness care or elective procedures. Available riders will be listed here.
How Long Until Coverage Begins: Most companies do not begin coverage right away for illness because of the amount of time it takes for an illness to show — in other words, they want to ensure they are not covering a pre-existing condition. Usually, coverage for accidents begins the day following the purchase of the policy.
Exclusions: These are things that will never be covered under any circumstances. Some insurance companies have a more extensive list than others, but it is important to remember that companies that don’t spell out every exclusion may still deny coverage for things that are not listed – of course, this is potentially true of every company. If you have been denied coverage for something that you believe your pet’s policy should cover, click here. Also, if examples are given using the words “including,” it should be assumed that the examples listed are not exclusive or limiting, meaning there may be other things included in that specific exclusion.
Select Breeds: Some companies restrict the coverage of certain breeds. This has to do with the company’s experience of these breeds having more health problems that the average dog, having age-related problems sooner, and generally costing the company more money. Because of this, the amount of coverage available for dog of a select breed may be lower, the premium may be higher, and the age limit may be lower. If this company has a clause about select breeds, it will be listed here along with what the company considers to be a select breed.
Underwriter: The underwriter is the company that actually writes the policies. It is very important that the underwriter have a solid, reliable record, or else you risk the company you choose being unreliable. AM Best is a company that is devoted to rating insurance companies. A rating of “A” of higher is what you should be looking for. While the rating will be listed here, it is important that you double check this information yourself. To look up a company’s ratings, click on the above link, and then click on “Search for an insurer” on the right side. In the box labeled “Text,” enter in the company’s name and click “Search Now” at the bottom. The company’s rating and information will then be listed.
BBB: The Better Business Bureau is an organization that gathers and archives information about businesses to provide information to consumers about how the business is doing. In addition to acting as a mediator between businesses and consumers, the BBB alerts consumers to business fraud, provides information on ethical business practices, and gives businesses ratings based on several factors. This section will tell you whether the pet insurance company is an accredited business, which means the company has met a certain standard, and what the company’s rating is. There will also be the number of closed complaints the BBB has received against the company in the past three years. A link is provided to each company’s BBB page.
Other things to consider: Here you will find any other pertinent information that doesn’t fit anywhere else.
Types of Policies: Individual policy types will be listed here. If sample policies are available, they will also be listed here.
So you’ve read all this information. What do you do now?
Now that you know how to assess whether a pet insurance company and policy can meet your needs, you should visit each page to learn more about them. Then, you should get a quote for each company you are considering. It is important to know whether your pet is eligible for coverage and if the company has a policy that meets your needs. If the company cannot cover your pet or otherwise does not meet your needs, you should not waste your time further evaluating them.
Be aware that some companies will recommend a policy to you when you get a quote. You should not simply accept this policy as the best one for you because it is often recommended because it is considered the most competitive one. This does not mean, however, that it will meet your needs, so you should critically about whether or not it does before accepting the policy.
After you narrow your search down to three or four companies and policy you might choose, you should get a copy of the policy if possible and read it thoroughly. Also be certain to read reviews of customers who have actually used the company, but it is important to remember that some of the negative experiences people have had with the company are because they didn’t follow the #1 Rule – which is to read the policy.
We do our best to make sure all the information available here is accurate and up to date, but it is important for you to verify the information for yourself.