Pets Budget Conscious

03.05.2019 | 3 Minute Read | By Lesly Gregory

On average, pet owners spend about $126.19 each month on their furry companion. This includes the entire range of expenses, from food to toys to care. Dogs typically cost more than cats, but pet expenses can quickly rise up into the thousands of dollars for a medical emergency.

Less than half of all pet owners have enough savings to cover such a high surprise cost, and pet insurance can help lessen the sticker shock of an emergency visit to the vet.

Types of pet insurance

Coverage primarily focuses on pet illnesses or accidents rather than those yearly visits and annual shots. Most basic policies cover cats and dogs, although exotic pet coverage exists.

While there are three common types of pet insurance, the most popular policy type, Accident and Illness, covers typical pet accidents like swallowing a foreign object or getting injured by a car, along with illnesses such as digestive problems, infections or diseases. Basically, this policy accounts for most of the medical emergencies a pet may experience in their lifetime.

For those looking for a little less coverage, Accident-only policies include only pet accidents – things like cuts and lacerations, in addition to the accidents mentioned above.

For those in need of a little more, Insurance with Embedded Wellness provides the largest variety of coverage with accidents and illnesses included alongside certain maintenance health treatments. These types of plans may cover things like heartworm prevention, flea and tick medications, dental care and even yearly shots, in addition to accidents and illnesses.

Other policy parameters may revolve around the money paid out and a specific length of time for coverage. Time-limited policies have a maximum dollar amount for coverage per condition for a specified time period. After the time expires, that condition is no longer covered.

Maximum-benefit policies have no time restriction but do set a spending threshold per condition. Lifetime policies have no restrictions and cover your pet for life. An expensive option, it can become beneficial should your pet develop a chronic condition.

Limitations to coverage

Almost half of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer. This costly diagnosis is not one you want to get caught paying for out of pocket. If you’re considering pet insurance, it may be a better purchase when your pet is still young.

Should your pet fall ill before you get pet insurance, they’ll be characterized as having a pre-existing condition, which means that illness will most likely not be covered within your policy. Additionally, your pet doesn’t have to have an actual diagnosis before pet insurance takes effect to receive a pre-existing label. Showing signs of a developing condition before insurance kicks in or during the waiting period (which is about two weeks) after purchasing a policy may be enough to affect coverage.

What it really costs

While you can purchase pet insurance regardless of the age of your pet, the older they are when you insure them, the higher your premium payment. The breed of your pet is another factor that can affect your insurance costs. Purebred dogs and cats often cost more to insure because it’s known what hereditary conditions they’ll be more prone to experiencing.

Location can also impact cost. Individuals in areas where the cost of living lies on the higher side will naturally pay more for veterinary care, which includes pet insurance premiums. On the flip side, an insurance discount may be available if you’re covering more than one pet.

Even with all the factors impacting price, the monthly cost of pet insurance ranges between $15 and $75. Most insurance companies give you the option to decide how you’d like to make your premium payments. If a monthly bill isn’t your thing, see if you can pay quarterly, semi-annually or annually in order to make pet insurance fit best into your budget.

Deductibles and co-pays will vary by insurance provider and the plan you select.

How to submit a claim

There’s no in-network and out-of-network doctors when it comes to selecting a vet for your insured pet. They all take all kinds of pet insurance. This gives you the ability to continue going to your current vet regardless of when you take out a pet insurance policy.

Utilizing the benefits from pet insurance typically requires you to pay the veterinary bill up-front, submit a claim to your pet insurance provider and get reimbursed minus the co-pay and deductible you’re responsible for paying.

It may be possible for the insurance provider to pay the vet directly, but this practice isn’t as widespread as you see with human healthcare since many vets don’t want to wait for payment from the insurance company when they can collect it from you, leaving you to wait for reimbursement.

The next step after understanding how pet insurance works is to do your research. Get quotes from multiple insurance providers and always read the fine print of the policy you select to ensure you’re getting the coverage you need at a budget-friendly price.

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