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How to Get Pet Insurance — 9 Things to Look For

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By Chelsea Mortensen

man signing pet insurance policies

Healthcare is expensive, whether it’s for humans or pets. Pet insurance is a great way to ensure that if the worst happens and your pet’s life is in danger, you’ll be able to take care of it. There are dozens of pet insurance companies out there, and it can be hard to find the right one. When looking for quotes, you’ll want to compare carefully to know what you’re really getting for your money. So if you’re wondering how to get pet insurance, start by asking these nine questions.

First, we’ll show you three questions to ask about your pet. Then, we’ll cover six questions to ask about your insurance company. Let’s get started finding the right pet insurance for you!

The 3 Questions About Your Pet:

Before you even look at insurance plans, it’s smart to assess your pet’s needs. Every plan has slight differences in coverage, so knowing what you’re likely to experience with your pet is important.

1. How Old Is Your Pet?

Ideally, you want to get pet insurance as young as possible. Younger dogs and cats are less illness-prone and have lower rates. Plus, if your pet is younger when you start your insurance, you’re less likely to have to worry about pre-existing pet problems. If your pet is older, your options might be more limited. Many companies won’t start new plans for pets over a certain age.

Something else to consider is that many companies offer a locked rate. These might be more expensive when your pet is younger but will have strict limits on how much the plan’s price can increase as it ages. Knowing your pet’s age will help you decide if it’s a good investment.

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2. Is Your Pet Prone to Any Health Conditions?

Some types of health emergencies are unavoidable and unpredictable. You probably won’t be able to guess whether your dog will catch a virus or get into an accident. But other health conditions are a little more predictable. If you have a purebred pet, check to see what conditions are common in that breed. Alternatively, if you got your pet from a breeder, see what you can learn about your pet’s family history. When you’re looking for insurance, you can check whether those higher-risk conditions are covered.


3. Does Your Pet Have Any Pre-existing Health Problems?

Different insurances have different policies about pre-existing health conditions. For many companies, any previous health issue isn’t eligible for care, while others might offer care if your pet has been symptom-free for a certain period of time. Depending on the condition, you might find that your insurance fully covers a pre-existing condition. These insurances are rarer but can be worth it for your pet.

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The 6 Questions About Your Insurance Company:

After you have some idea of your needs, you can start to narrow down what insurance plan is best for you. Here are some questions to ask along the way.

4. What Are the Waiting Periods?

Insurance plans have different activation periods. Most pet insurance plans start covering illness and injury within two weeks, but other conditions may not be covered for several months. It’s important to be aware of these periods before you sign on.


5. What Conditions Are Covered?

Different insurance plans cover different conditions. Most plans cover accident and illness, and many also cover some genetic conditions. If you know your dog is prone to specific conditions, read carefully to make sure they’re covered if they do develop. More comprehensive options are generally more expensive, but if you compare several plans, you’ll find that isn’t always the case.

woman having pet insurance form
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6. Does It Cover Prescriptions?

Prescription coverage isn’t guaranteed with all insurance. If your pet develops an illness that requires regular prescriptions, will you have to pay out of pocket for them? Read your pet insurance policy carefully before you sign to make sure that you have the prescription coverage you need.


7. What Routine Care Is Covered?

Many pet insurances don’t cover routine care like check-ups, vaccinations, and dental care, but a few do. Others might offer an optional add-on that covers some of these. Wellness care plans can be a good deal, but not always. Since routine care is predictable, it’s worth asking your vet for a quote on what it would cost to pay out of pocket for all of your routine care and calculating if you’ll be spending more over time by adding on a wellness plan.

pet insurance form
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8. What Fees and Copays Do I Pay?

Your biggest way to influence price is by adjusting your deductible, maximum payout, and copay amounts. Many insurance companies let you mix and match these to fit your needs. Deductibles need to be met before your insurance will pay anything out. Copay amounts are usually defined through a fixed percentage; 70–90% covered is typical, with a few plans going as low as 50% and a few covering 100%. Some insurance plans also have a cap; if your pet has an expensive surgery, you might find yourself on the hook for anything above a certain amount.


9. How Quickly Do They Respond?

Traditionally, pet owners don’t need to worry about whether a vet is in-network or not—instead, you’ll submit a claim with your vet’s bill and have the money reimbursed. But that does mean you’ll need to pay first and get the money later. Reimbursement times vary from less than 24 hours to several weeks, so if you can’t afford to be waiting for weeks on end, it’s important to find an insurance that will be there fast. A few newer insurances have direct pay options to specific vets.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing your plan. But not every owner has the same needs, and so getting the right pet insurance isn’t as intimidating as it seems. Once you have an idea of what’s most important to you, it won’t be nearly as difficult to find the best plan for you.

 

Featured Image Credit: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock

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