Pet Insurance Tips
- Look for a health insurer that has been in business for at least a couple of years.
- Ask your vet and other pet owners for recommendations.
- Search the Internet for complaints against or praise for the insurance company you're considering.
- Make sure the company is licensed in your state. Not all plans operate in all states. Be sure to check that your provider is licensed by the Department of Insurance and is regulated in your state.
- Contact your state's Department of Insurance about the company you're considering and any consumer complaints against it, and get the scoop on insurers operating in your state.
- Read policies very carefully for conditions and exclusions before enrolling. Many policies don't cover hereditary or congenital defects and others will cover preexisting conditions only if the dog or cat has not needed treatment in at least six months.
- Consider the specific health needs of your dog or cat.
- With new puppies or kittens, consider getting a policy that covers routine care as well as injuries and illnesses.
- Think about your pet's age. The best time to purchase a policy is when your pet is young. That way you won't have to worry if your pet develops a long- term health problem and thus has a preexisting condition.
- Consider plan affiliations. See if your employer or the pet-industry organization you belong to has an affiliation with one of the plans. Some companies make a contribution to premiums while others ensure that employees get a group rate.
- For older pets, consider policies that cover routine dental cleaning, prescription medications, and diagnostic tests such as blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, and ECGs.
- The older your pet becomes, the more the premiums will cost, and they can be quite high for an older pet, even a healthy one.
- Read the fine print, understand the limitations, and look for exemptions.
- Talk to other pet owners with insurance.
- Consider your pet's lifestyle. Active, outdoor pets are at higher risk.
- Ask yourself if you're looking for a discount plan or a comprehensive insurance plan. These can differ. With discount fee plans, you pay an annual fee and get discounted veterinarian and related pet services. A comprehensive pet health insurance plan would operate similarly to human health insurance.
Another option is to self-insure. In lieu of pet insurance, you can open a savings account for your pet and deposit a few dollars into it every week to pay for unexpected vet bills. Then you'll know the money is there if you need it for your pet's health emergency. Of course, this only works if you're a disciplined person and can put the money aside in the first place. This is a step toward peace of mind, but it can be difficult not to occasionally borrow from the emergency fund. What happens when your pet's emergency savings is used up? You have to start saving all over again. In addition, since the cost of treatments can be high, you could use up all you've saved on one accident or illness and not have enough money when another one arises. That's why pet insurance is worth investigating.
Excerpted with permission from Doc Halligan's What Every Pet Owner Should Know: Prescriptions for Happy, Healthy Cats and Dogs, by Dr. Karen Halligan. © HarperCollins, 2007.