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  1. pet insurance

What is Pet Insurance and How Does it Work?

Posted by Dr. Roth on February 16, 2022

Wellness Care
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A pet’s health and well being are top priorities for pet parents. Even with the best care, though, things happen. A dog could develop a health issue and need medication for the rest of their life. A cat might ingest a non-food item that requires emergency surgery to remove. 

Pet health care can be expensive. Emergency costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the severity of the issue. Pet parents shouldn’t have to choose between their pet and their financial well being should something happen. That’s where pet insurance plans come in. However, not unlike human health insurance, pet health insurance can be confusing. Just what is pet insurance, and how does it work? Here’s what pet parents need to know. 

Common Pet Health Insurance Terms

Navigating pet insurance plans can be a challenge. Pet insurance and wellness plans are structured differently than human health insurance plans in the United States, so it is important to note the differences in order to select the one that can best help pets. Understanding some of the most frequently used terms can help pet parents get started with navigating their options:

  • Premium: The amount a pet parent will pay monthly (or annually) for their policy. That cost varies based on numerous factors and from one company to the next. 

  • Deductible: The amount a pet parent pays out of pocket before their insurance starts paying. Depending on the insurer, that deductible may be annual or per condition. 

  • Co-payment (co-pay): A parent’s out-of-pocket cost after reaching their deductible. That means with a 20% co-payment, a pet parent would be responsible for paying $100 for a $500 vet bill. 

  • Reimbursement: The portion of a vet bill the insurance company pays (after the pet parent reaches their deductible). Fuzzy pet health plans offer 80% reimbursement. 

  • Pre-existing conditions: Medical conditions a pet has before a pet parent buys a pet insurance plan. No insurance company will cover claims related to them. Pet parents should enroll in a policy as early as possible to ensure they get coverage for any issues a pet might develop.

  • Waiting period: How long a pet parent needs to wait after signing up for a pet insurance plan before the insurer will begin covering expenses. 

  • Maximum: The total amount an insurance company will pay for a pet’s medical care. That maximum may be per year or per condition. Some companies have a set lifetime maximum. If a pet parent exceeds that maximum, they’re responsible for the remaining cost. 

Types of Pet Insurance Plans

Pet parents have a few different types of pet insurance options to choose from, including:

  • Accident-only: An accident-only policy only covers the costs of medical bills when a pet has an accident (such as a torn ACL, ingested foreign object, or getting bit by another animal). It won’t cover bills associated with illnesses, however. One of the main benefits of an accident-only policy is that it typically has lower premiums than other plan types. 

  • Accident and illness: This policy also covers the cost of many major and minor illnesses, including urinary tract infections, ear infections, arthritis, and cancer. 

  • Wellness insurance: Also called a wellness plan, this type of insurance covers annual checkups, vaccines, dental cleanings, and other routine care. Pet health insurance plans do not typically cover vaccinations. Some insurers offer this as an optional add-on to an accident-only or accident and illness policy, but it can also be purchased individually if a pet parent is merely looking to reduce the costs for routine, preventive care. 

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Pet insurance coverage depends on the type of policy a pet parent chooses. Coverage also varies between insurers. In general, most cover costs associated with:

  • Accidents

  • Injuries

  • Illnesses

  • Necessary surgeries

  • Chronic conditions

Pet insurance doesn’t typically cover preventative care such as routine visits,  flea and tick prevention, spay/neuter surgery, or dental cleanings unless a pet parent has a wellness policy. No insurer covers pre-existing conditions, boarding, or grooming though some companies may have affiliate relationships or discounts with preferred partners for those pet services. 

What Determines Pet Insurance Costs?

Like other forms of insurance, the cost of pet insurance varies based on numerous factors. When getting a quote, pet parents will answer several questions about their pets. Their answers will affect the estimated premium.

Questions a pet parent might see include:

  • What type of pet do they have? 

  • What is the pet’s breed?

  • How old is the pet?

  • Is the pet male or female?

  • Is the pet spayed or neutered?

The insurance company will also ask for the pet parent’s zip code, as the cost of pet health care can vary significantly from one city and state to another. 

How Does Pet Insurance Work?

After a pet parent chooses a policy, they’ll need to provide their pet’s medical records to the insurance company. That information will show the insurer if the pet has any pre-existing conditions. They’ll also begin paying their monthly premiums. 

For most insurance plans, when a pet parent takes their cat or dog to the vet, they’ll pay the cost out of pocket. Next, they’ll submit the required documentation to their insurance company. If there’s a deductible, the pet parent won’t get reimbursed until they meet it. Then the insurer will begin reimbursing covered expenses.

Considerations for Choosing a Pet Health Insurance Plan 

Pet insurance can save a pet parent hundreds of dollars on vet expenses each year. In the event of an emergency, it can potentially save them thousands. They can get the treatments their pets need without having to worry about emptying their savings or going into debt. 

When choosing a pet insurance policy, pet parents should compare a few companies to ensure they’re getting the best policy for the best price. In addition to comparing deductibles, they should look at what’s covered by each plan, reimbursement rates, and maximums. Some pet breeds are known to have specific health issues as they age, whereas other more active breeds might be more prone to accidents or out-of-home injuries based on their lifestyle. All factors are worth taking into consideration when selecting an affordable pet insurance plan.

Pet parents should also consider other things the insurer might offer. For example, Fuzzy pet health insurance provides free unlimited online vet chats with their policies. That can help pet parents avoid up to 58% of vet visits and the costs associated with them. What’s more, the live vet chats are available 24/7/365. Pet parents can get answers to all of their pet health questions without making an after-hours run to the emergency vet. 

The Right Pet Insurance Plan Can Make All the Difference

As much as pet parents might want to think that nothing bad will ever happen to their pets, issues and emergencies do arise. Fuzzy pet health insurance offers pet parents more than an insurance plan. Pet parents get peace of mind knowing they can contact qualified vets at any time for cat or dog health advice, questions, or concerns. They also get 80% reimbursement and between $5,000 and $10,000 payment limits. Pet parents can pet insurance rate  quotes online in minutes by answering just a few short questions.

Being prepared with the right pet health insurance plan can make all the difference. The small monthly cost can save pet parents money, stress, and potential heartache. 

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