insurance

6 Things You Must Know About Pet Insurance

Premiums aren't cheap, but coverage can help defray the cost of big-ticket vet bills.

1. Pet health care is pricey.

Veterinary care accounted for $14 billion of the nearly $56 billion Americans spent last year on their pets. One reason: Vets are recommending many of the same advanced medical treatments available to humans. To cover the escalating cost, pet owners are turning to
insurance. Pet insurance works a lot like human health insurance when you go out of network: You may take your pet to any vet, but you pay directly, then submit your claim. Policies cover illness and accidents, and many insurers now offer wellness riders to cover routine care, such as checkups, vaccinations, and spaying and neutering.

 

2. But he’s your best friend.

Pet insurance probably isn’t a good deal if all your pet needs is routine care. What a policy buys you is peace of mind in case your pet has a serious illness or accident. And if you buy a policy when your pet is young, you minimize the chances of an illness being deemed a preexisting condition that won’t be covered. Older pets, especially those 7 to 10 years old, may not qualify for coverage.

3. What to look for.

The average policy costs about $30 to $35 a month. The more expensive the policy, the more it will cover—for example, you can get accident-only coverage (say, if Fluffy takes a spill and breaks her leg) for $10 a month, but a comprehensive policy (including preventive care) with a $100 deductible and $15,000 annual payout limit could run $100 a month. There are about a dozen insurers to choose from, and it can be difficult to compare policies. Go to www.petinsurancereview.com for a rundown on each company.

4. What you’ll get back.

Only one company, VPI, uses a benefits schedule; for each diagnosis, there’s a ceiling on how much the company will pay. The upside is that premiums tend to be less expensive, and you know exactly what you will receive. The downside is that in more-expensive areas of the country, the schedule may not reflect what you’ll be charged. Most companies pay a percentage of the vet bill—typically 80% to 90%.

5. Know the ins and outs.

Preexisting conditions are never covered, which adds an incentive to purchase a policy before your pet has health issues. Hereditary disorders may not be covered, either. Read the fine print, or ask a company rep if you own a breed with known problems, such as hip dysplasia in golden retrievers. Pay attention to deductibles and maximums. Deductibles may be annual, per visit or per incident (you may have several vet visits for one illness). And a company may impose an annual maximum, a maximum per incident or a maximum over your pet’s lifetime.

6. Discounts for members.

You may be able to cut costs with a membership plan. For example, Banfield Hospitals (a national chain associated with PetSmart) offers coverage for routine care starting at about $20 per month, with discounts of up to 20% on other serv­ices. Pet Assure offers a discount program at participating vet practices; $99 a year for dogs and $79 for cats gets you a 25% discount on all medical services, and family plans are available for those with multiple pets. If you don’t want to prepay, you could use a CareCredit health card at participating practices; it offers special financing options.

Most Popular

Why Are Gas Prices Still Going Up?
spending

Why Are Gas Prices Still Going Up?

The cost of a gallon of gas is at an all-time high. What’s driving the surge and will gas prices go down anytime soon?
May 23, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
Which States' Taxes Are Going Down
Tax Breaks

Which States' Taxes Are Going Down

State lawmakers are cutting income, sales and property taxes to return budget surpluses to residents.
May 25, 2022

Recommended

Short-Term Insurance Plans' Good, Bad and Ugly
retirement

Short-Term Insurance Plans' Good, Bad and Ugly

You'll need a squinty-eyed analysis to gauge the value of short-term care insurance plans and if they're right for you.
May 26, 2022
Things You’ll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

Things You’ll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box

Locking up certain important documents and valuables in a bank vault could turn into a headache for you or your heirs.
May 18, 2022
7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover
Healthy Living on a Budget

7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover

Medicare Part A and Part B leave some pretty significant gaps in your health-care coverage. But Medicare Advantage has problems, too.
May 4, 2022
3 Paths for Getting Vision Insurance in Retirement
Healthy Living on a Budget

3 Paths for Getting Vision Insurance in Retirement

Medicare Part B's restrictive coverage of vision care means you'll have to find a different route to get the right insurance. Here's some guidance.
May 2, 2022