I’m sure that you can agree with me when I say that pet health insurance seems to be extremely hard to understand and probably even more frustrating to purchase.
But get this:
It turns out that pet health insurance has a framework similar to traditional health insurance and it doesn’t change.
Once you learn it, pet insurance, in general, will be easier to understand and buy.
In this guide today I am going to go over exactly what pet health insurance is, how it works, and how to use this information to find the best policy for your furbaby.
The History Of Pet Health Insurance
In 1890 Claes Virgin, founder of the Länsförsäkrings Alliance wrote the first pet health insurance policy in Sweden, believe it or not, it was focused on horses and livestock at the time.
It’s ok if you can’t pronounce the name of his company, I didn’t even try it; the meaning of the name is literally “County Insurance.”
Britain would follow in 1947 with its first pet health insurance policy.
When it comes to being pet parents, the United States isn’t at the top of the list for covering our furbabies.
The first policy written in the U.S. was in 1982 and the first pet to receive the coverage was good ole Lassie by Veterinary Pet Insurance.
We lag behind countries like Sweden and Britain drastically with only 0.7% of pets in the United States being covered by Pet Insurance.
I know we had a late start; however, I think it’s a bit ridiculous to be so far behind.
What Is Pet Health Insurance
When you first get your pet, the last thing on your mind is all of the future accidents or unexpected illnesses that may happen.
Mainly you are focused 100% on cuteness, everything your cat or dog does is cute.
For some, the cuteness of their pet never goes away.
However, the truth is that accidents will probably come and so will illness.
When this happens you will want to have already had your pet covered by Pet Insurance.
“In Plan English” – Pet Insurance is health insurance for your pet.
A Pet insurance plan will offer coverage for things such as illness, medications, hospitalizations, accidents and some even offer preventative care.
These policies usually only cover cats, dogs, and horses but you can sometimes find it for more exotic pets like rabbits and birds.
How Does Pet Health Insurance Work
Now, I know this is probably going to rub a lot of pet parents the wrong way.
However, Pet Health Insurance is not considered a “Type of Health Insurance,” it’s actually considered a Property & Casualty Insurance because your pet is seen in the insurance companies eyes as a type of property that you own.
Other than this distinct difference, the policies almost work the same. I am going to go over each part of a pet health insurance plan below:
Like all Insurance, each pet insurance policy will come with a monthly premium due.
You usually can find savings if you pay the plan on an annual basis.
However, rates and premiums are going to vary based on the type of pet and the pets’ age.
The deductible is the amount of money you must pay before the insurance company starts sharing in the costs of your coverage.
Each company will have different deductibles that can range from $50, $100, $200, $250, $500, $750, or $1,000.
Just like with any type of insurance that has a deductible, the lower the deductible, the higher the premiums.
If you purchase a pet insurance policy with a $100.00 deductible and your pet needs to see a vet because of an accident, you will be responsible for the first $100.00 of the bill.
If your pets’ vet bill is $100.00 or below, then you will be responsible for the whole bill, and the insurance company will start assisting with their Reimbursement.
The Reimbursement is the amount of a vet’s bill that an insurance company will pay once you reach your deductible.
Usually, you will have to pay the full amount and be “reimbursed” the difference by the insurance company.
Reimbursement levels range from 60%, 70%, 80% and 90%; I have yet to see any policy in the United States that offers a 100% reimbursement option.
Let’s say your cat hurts her tail while playing around the house.
You take her to the veterinarian, and your final bill comes out to around $2,500.
You have the $100, deductible plan with 70% reimbursement, the way the breakdown would work goes like this:
Traditionally, you are going to pay 100% of the final bill and wait for the insurance company to reimburse you.
Based on the above plan you are responsible for the $100.00 deductible and also 30% of your pets bill.
The insurance company would deduct the $100.00 and then refund you 70% of the remaining bill which would be $1,680.
In all, you would have only paid $820.00 for a $2,500 bill. As you can see the savings are amazing and the policy really pays for itself easily if you have one vet visit.
Recently a majority of pet health insurance companies have been offering the ability to have the payment made directly to the vet.
Paying the vet directly is a great option, and I would suggest that anyone who can go this route to take it since it will allow you to avoid paying a large, unexpected bill out of pocket.
Think of the annual maximum as a “Cap” on your coverage.
If your pets’ veterinarian bills reach the maximum for that year, you are responsible for 100% of the costs for the rest of the year.
Annual maximums can range from $5,000, $10,000 or Unlimited.
The higher the annual maximum, the more expensive the policy.
Now hear me out:
If you can afford it, and the insurance company offers the option, I always recommend purchasing the Unlimited option.
Insurance really protects us from uncertainty; it’s much better for you to have no “Caps” on coverage for your pet.
The worst thing that could happen is that you end up getting a $25,000 bill and you have a $5,000 annual cap, that’s how you can easily slip into debt.
Claims work a bit different with pet health insurance.
You will want to know the exact process of filing a claim and how the claims process will work for whatever company that covers your pet.
Most pet health insurance companies now have mobile apps for Apple or Android.
These apps allow you to take a picture of your vet bill, upload it, and receive your reimbursement in as little as 1 to 5 days via direct deposit.
If your pet insurance company doesn’t have that option, usually you will want to go online and print out a claim form and send in all required documents via fax or mail.
No matter which option, filing the claim as soon as possible is important for getting your reimbursements back fast.
Types Of Pet Health Insurance
When you start looking for coverage for your pet, it’s a great idea to understand exactly the type of coverage you are searching for and what types of coverage you may need for your pet.
You wouldn’t search for personalized dog blankets if you didn’t already have an idea of how you wanted it designed, so I suggest you do the same research for your pet insurance.
There are three main types of coverage, and I outline them below:
Accident coverage is simply that, coverage for your pet if they are in an accident.
This type of coverage is usually included within any basic pet insurance policy and can also be purchased separately with some companies.
Someone who has a dog that can’t qualify due to current medical issues would do great with just some sort of Accident policy on their pet.
Illness coverage is also a standard benefit on all policies; this coverage is used to treat sickness, disease and any changes to your pets’ normal well being.
It’s important to review the illness guidelines and know what will and won’t be covered.
Hereditary & Congenital Conditions
You want to search the policy options for this benefit.
Although it isn’t a type of coverage option, it is important to have this inside of your policy.
You want to make sure that your pet can be covered for any hereditary conditions you won’t be aware of when they are born.
Wellness care is also preventative or routine care. This coverage can include things like vaccinations, exams, and dental work.
These policies aren’t offered by every insurance company, so you need to check around to see if this benefit is offered if it’s something you want.
Usually, there will be an additional fee to add this to the policy.
What’s Covered By Pet Insurance Plans
Pet Insurance covers a large range of situations and below we give you a sample list of things covered while trying to answer is pet insurance worth it.
Policy Specific Benefits:
As the above list shows, pet insurance is very flexible, and you can cover your pet with an assortment of benefits.
On top of the above list, there are also additional benefits you can add to your policy for an additional cost.
These benefits are usually part of the Wellness coverage option we spoke about above.
Keep in mind that the above list is just an overall showing of things covered.
You would need to check directly with your pet health insurance company to see what benefits they offer.
Now that we know what is covered, lets review what isn’t covered.
What’s Not Covered By Pet Insurance Plans
Before the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obama Care, was put into law, us pet-parents had to deal with the same situation.
No Pet Health Insurance Company will cover pre-existing conditions.
Each carrier states what is considered a pre-existing condition.
However, they all basically say the same thing:
Any illness or injury that begins before your policy is effective, or during your waiting period, will be considered “pre-existing”. Some conditions, like broken legs or kennel cough, heal or are curable and require no further treatment. Once healed or cured, these are not considered pre-existing conditions.
A pre-existing condition means that the condition first occurred or showed clinical signs or symptoms before your pet’s coverage started. If there is a condition your pet is currently being seen for or has been seen for in the past, more than likely it would be considered pre-existing. period(s).
A pre-existing condition is any injury, illness, or irregularity noticed by you or your veterinarian before the end of your waiting period, even if your pet never went to see the veterinarian for it. No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions.
Your pet having these pre-existing conditions does not eliminate them from getting covered.
The policy simply won’t cover any vet bills associated with them.
Mostly all other situations will be covered; please be sure to check the policy and benefit guidelines as some policies cover things that others won’t.
Pet Health Insurance Enrollment Process
The enrollment process is pretty straightforward.
All of the pet insurance companies that I have reviewed or looked at online allows for a seamless application process.
Everything can be completed online, and your pet can be covered in minutes.
You might have to go through a telephone process for more exotic animals, but overall you can get your pet covered in a matter of minutes.
Check out the below videos for examples of how the enrollment process looks and works for two different pet insurance companies:
Pets Best Online Enrollment Process:
Healthy Paws Online Enrollment Process:
Hopefully, you can see that enrollment for any type of coverage is very fast and simple.
The hardest part is figuring out what type of coverage your pet or pets will need.
Term Life Insurance Underwriting Outcomes
How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost
What type of guide would this be if
we didn’t write about pet health insurance cost?
After seeing how much protection your pet will have when you buy pet insurance you probably think it won’t be affordable.
But get this:
The average pet insurance cost is only $27.00/month.
This coverage is obtainable and affordable for anyone that has a pet.
Rates are going to be based mainly on pet type, age, and location.
$27.00/month is the average so below I put together some sample rate charts that will show pet insurance cost based on pet type in the state of Georgia:
Sample Pet Insurance Cost For Dogs
Sample Pet Insurance Cost For Cats
You probably noticed that rates for cats are lower than rates for dogs.
This is probably because their average lifespan is 15 years compared to dogs which are 11 years.
The same can be said true about rates for pet parents who are women vs. those who are men.
Rates for women are lower because on average they outlive men.
Will my pets’ premium increase due to Age?
When pets age, they face the same risk that we do in regards to an increased risk of things like cancer, kidney failure, and heart disease.
Depending on the specific policy you have, prices can increase as your pet gets older to cover increased vet visits and the aging needs of your pet.
It’s also company specific how the increase is handled.
Some companies will simply bill you based on the age of your dog while others will base it on a specific needs increase in a particular area or neighborhood.
It’s best to view your policy details to see how your particular policy will work.
What If I Can’t Afford Pet Insurance
There are a ton of options out there to help you make money on the side, you can use money making apps, or refine the skills you already have to make an extra $100.00 per day.
You can even get paid for walking your dog. When it comes to affording pet insurance you don’t have to limit yourself since the premiums aren’t too expensive.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It
As we stated above, the average pet insurance cost is around $27 a month.
Let’s compare this to just a single visit to the vet for an emergency, chronic condition or an illness that can cost you over $20,000.
I can’t think of any situation that would make sense for someone to not have pet insurance.
Pets have the energy, body and reflexes to create all sorts of chaos around the house and on themselves.
How To Choose A Pet Healthcare Plan
When you start searching for the top pet insurance companies, you need to look for the following things:
Claims-Paying Speed – How fast will this insurance company be able to reimburse you for the claim, the best pet insurance companies usually can pay a claim within five days.
Highly Rated – You want to check to see the A.M. Best or Demotech rating for the company you are deciding on, the best pet health insurance companies will have an A rating or equivalent. These ratings determine financial strength as well as claims-paying ability.
Great Customer Service – This is one area you can’t look past. The way a company will treat you and how easy it is to speak to someone when you need help is fundamental. You want to be sure you have a team of people that appreciate your business and your pet.
Waiting Periods – Be sure that your policy doesn’t have a waiting period that is much longer than what other carriers offer. Each policy will have their specific waiting periods so be sure to find the one with the shortest waiting periods.
Additional Benefits – Be sure to see what additional benefits can be added to your policy. Not all insurance companies offer wellness care, if that’s important to you, don’t budge and be sure to go with a carrier that offers it.
Can You Choose Your Veterinarian – For the most part, the best companies will not limit you to specific veterinarians, as with any policy, please check before you purchase that your vet is either in-network or the product will work for any vet.
Money Back Guarantee – I don’t think you will find any pet insurance company that won’t offer some type of 30 day money back guarantee; however if you find yourself in that position, move on to another carrier. The best companies will offer one.
Price That Matches Coverage – Most of the time people think they want to have “cheap” coverage; however, the trust is that we actually just want our money’s worth. Be sure that the price you pay is worth the amount of coverage you receive for your pet.
When you start shopping for pet health insurance, don’t just go on price, go on total value.
Can You Trust Pet Insurance Reviews
I believe that you can trust the accuracy of how the product works and its benefits.
You can also trust the reviews that customers leave on a companies page.
Most reviews really try to give you the answers to all of your questions without you having to scour the web or the insurance company website for the answer to a specific question that may be holding you back.
What I don’t think you should try to trust a review on is how great that product would be for your pet because, in all honesty, your mileage may vary.
Now, with that being said:
Let me say that I have two pet insurance reviews one here on Pets Best and another one here on Healthy Paws.
These reviews are two of the most detailed reviews that you will find online about each product, and I recommend checking them out when you get a chance.
One thing that I try to do is put the “Hard to find” information in one place so that you can make a solid decision at the end of each review.
*Full disclosure* – I am a partner with both insurance companies and will be compensated if you purchase coverage through any of the links inside of the reviews.
Does Pet Insurance Have Waiting Periods
Yes, pet health insurance policies all come with some sort of waiting period.
These periods are going to be based solely on the type of product and the type of condition.
For instance, some carriers give:
A four day waiting period for accident and illness while others may give a two day or ten day waiting period for the same thing.
Waiting periods can last up to 6 months for things like cruciate ligament events and any related conditions or Hip Dysplasia.
The waiting periods are going to vary based on the company so please be sure to read the details for each policy.
How To Find Free Emergency Pet Care
If you find yourself in need of free vet care for low income families or free emergency pet care, then we have compiled a list below of places that can assist you:
Banfield Hospital – Usually can be found inside of a PetSmart store will assist with vet care.
HumaneSociety.Org – They have both Local and Nationwide lists of places that can help.
Tree House Humane Society – They have a list of places that can assist you.
Animal Humane Society – List of resources that can assist you.
Best Friends – List of local resources that can assist you.
Brown Dog Foundation – A Foundation that helps with pet care
This list will continue to grow.
Feel free to reach out to us if you know of a place that we can add to the above list.
Demystifying Pet Life Insurance
According to Trusted Choice, it’s probably not worth it to get a life insurance policy on your pet.
Unless your pet is a show animal and brings in revenue, the likelihood that their death will affect you financially is very low.
Check out the below list for costs associated with pet funerals:
If you look at this list, you can see that you will probably pay anywhere between $85 to $550 to cremate your pet and around $450 to $1,100 to bury your pet.
In all honesty, you could probably save for this event than actually purchasing a life insurance policy for your pet.
No one wants to think about their furbaby dying; however, when it happens its best to be prepared financially.
Your Pet Health Insurance Questions… Answered
I know there are plenty of questions out there in regards to pet health insurance.
Hopefully I have answered all the ones you could think of.
If you still have questions; below are some that I didn’t touch on:
Should You Cover Your PetSmart Pet Adoption With Pet Insurance?
Will Pet Insurance Cover Newborn puppy care?
Will Pet Insurance Cover Newborn kitten care?
Does Pet Insurance Start Immediately?
Does Pet Insurance Cover Shots?
We will also continue to update this list with more FAQ’s when we get them.
If you have a question, fell free to ask us and we will answer you directly and add it to the list.
Additional Pet Resources
Below is a list of resources that can assist your pet, they won’t all have something to do with pet health insurance; however, they will be beneficial: