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When is the best time to shop for pet insurance?
Insuring a pet with a life expectancy of 15 years for example may cost you $700 dollars on average annually. An eight-year old pet who is expected to live for 7 more years on the other hand can cost you $1,100 yearly. We should understand that this is not only a sum game. But also consider how long can we protect our pets and how much is it going to cost us.
Why enroll early? Aside from premiums being cheaper for younger pets, there is also the case of pre-existing conditions. Almost all pet insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions. There are a few exemptions but expect these to be included in more expensive policies.
The best time to insure our pets is when they’re young and healthy. Most of us would think that skipping a few years when our pets are young and strong could save us some money, but numbers say otherwise.
Coverage – What does it protect me from?
The more extensive the list of covered items the better. Pet insurance policies with the most coverage translate to better protection for your pet. Whether your pet needs a few stitches or diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer, you need an insurance policy that’s not only good on paper.
Check for exclusions and policies that place limits on ailments specific to pet breeds. These include congenital, cardiac, respiratory and hi dysplasia which some breeds are at high risk for. It is also important to remember that coverage does not take effect immediately.
Accident only policies have short waiting periods with some as short as 24 hours. However, some pet insurance policies set waiting periods for major illnesses at 6 to 12 months. When a covered medical condition occurs within the waiting period this is considered as a preexisting condition and any future claims related with the condition is denied.
Types of Coverage
Preventive Care/ Wellness Coverage – Wellness coverage, not such a good deal. Also referred to as preventive care, covers checkups and vaccinations. Having this option may sound good but only adds up to your premium. Paying out of pocket is a more cost-effective option.
Accidents Only– a good pet insurance policy should include both accidents and illnesses. This provides coverage for broken bones, ear infections and swallowed objects.
Comprehensive – this policy offers extensive protection with its accident and illness coverage. Some chronic illnesses such as cancer that require continuing coverage.
Wellness coverage, not such a good deal. Also referred to as preventive care, covers checkups and vaccinations. Having this option may sound good but only adds up to your premium. Paying out of pocket is a more cost-effective option.
Coverage must haves:
⦁ Congenital, hereditary and chronic illnesses
⦁ Emergency care
⦁ Prescription medication
⦁ Specialist care
⦁ Diagnostic tests
Benefit Limits – How much does it pay for?
Along with coverage there is also the important question of how much your policy is prepared to pay for. There are four major types of benefit limits; annual maximum, annual per incident, lifetime maximum, and unlimited lifetime.
Annual maximum and annual per incident plans places limits on how the policy pays in a year. Benefits only become available the next policy year. Annual maximum benefits cover all accidents and incidents. Annual per incident plans on the other hand give more by placing benefit caps on an incident, illness or treatment basis.
We highly recommend selecting plans with unlimited lifetime benefits. This ensures your pet gets the best protection throughout his lifetime. This means you are not limited on how much coverage your pet receives in a year.
Deductibles and Reimbursements ?
Deductibles is the amount of money a policy holder pays out of pocket before the plan’s benefits start to kick in. For plans with $500 deductibles, 100% of all treatments are paid until the deductible requirement is satisfied.
Higher deductibles translate to lower premiums. Deductibles should not be confused with copayments which are out of pocket payments for vet bills. Copayments only take effect when vet bills become covered after deductibles.
Pet insurance policies usually provide three reimbursement models. An example would be a 90%, 80%, and 70% reimbursement plan. 90% reimbursement plans understandably would require higher premium payments. But this could also be offset by getting higher deductibles.
Premiums – How much will it cost me?
Most of us would go about shopping for pet insurance first thinking about premiums and how much is it going to cost us. While working within a budget is the most prudent strategy, we might end up with a pet insurance policy that is only good on paper.
We should only make decisions after careful consideration of all the factors above. Other things that can affect the price of premiums include our pet’s age, breed and your location. Medical care in rural areas are certainly cheaper compared to big cities life New York which in turn could drive up or down your premiums. Premiums can also be affected by your pet’s breed. Some pets are genetically at a higher risk for some medical conditions.
Accidents and illnesses by nature is something that you cannot plan for or look forward to. And with the cost of medication and medical care continuing to rise, the need for a financial tool that protects us from unexpected expenses is important.
Ronald Uy is a researcher and regular contributor for pet insurance at ConsumersAdvocate.org. When not writing, he’s busy planning his next adventure or heading out to the beach with Lucy, a 5-year-old beagle.
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