Picture this! Your beloved Italian greyhound is being his typical spazzy self, and leaps off the back of the couch—again. Six months ago when he did that, he broke his front leg and required surgery and a steel plate, leaving you with a hefty emergency veterinary bill. Your savings account has not recovered.

After this acrobatic performance, your hyper pup will not put any weight on his other front leg. Fearing the worst, you rush to the emergency veterinarian again—why do accidents never happen during normal business hours?—struggling not to cry, not only because of your pet’s injury, but also the possible drain on your finances. Fast forward to the diagnosis—your precious pup needs surgery again. Heartbreakingly, you cannot afford another surgery, and the emergency hospital does not offer payment plans. What do you do in such a situation? 

Pet insurance is the answer. Rather than turning to humane euthanasia because of lack of finances, or amputation as a less costly option, you can take out pet health insurance that covers catastrophic events. While you can use pet insurance for routine wellness care expenses, its best feature is providing up to 90% coverage of accidents, illnesses, and emergency costs. But, before jumping into the first insurance policy you run across, here are a few key facts you should know about the ins and outs of pet health insurance.

#1: Pet insurance works a lot like human health insurance

Pet insurance plans include many of the same features as human health insurance plans, including:

  • Premium — Your monthly premium will be adjusted based on the coverage amount, and your deductible.
  • Deductible — You can choose between two deductible types. A per-incident deductible must be met for each injury or illness, and the insurance company covers the remaining cost. With an annual deductible, you must pay that amount before your insurance provider picks your expenses for the rest of the year. 
  • Co-pay — After your deductible has been met, you still must pay a co-pay. For example, if your co-pay is 10%, your insurance provider will pay the remaining 90% of the bill after your deductible has been met. Co-pays may also be in dollar amounts, such as $100 per emergency or specialist visit.
  • Maximum coverage — Some insurers have an unlimited coverage option, while other policies may limit reimbursement to a set annual or incident amount.
  • Pre-existing condition stipulations — An insurance provider will not cover your pet’s pre-existing health condition, such as an orthopedic injury or chronic illness.

#2: Your pet’s health insurance plan will include a waiting period

If your pet develops a minor limp, you cannot sign up for health insurance and expect the provider to cover any medical bills the next day. There is often a 15- or 30-day waiting period between registration and coverage, and some providers will not cover an illness or injury that occurs during the waiting period. Don’t delay—sign up for pet health insurance the day you welcome home your new furry pal.

#3: Pet insurance does not cover all your pet’s medical bills

Choose your pet’s insurance policy carefully. While becoming more common, wellness care is not always covered, so you may still need to pay for vaccinations, physical exams, and parasite prevention. If you’d like a comprehensive policy, search for one that covers routine preventive care, along with accident, illness, and emergency care. You may also choose to add coverage options for specialist referrals or holistic care. Do not assume your pet’s insurance policy covers every medical bill—always read the fine print. 

#4: Not all insurance companies offer payment at the time of service

While pet insurance is an excellent way to protect your pet—and your wallet—many policies require you to pay at the time of service, and then be reimbursed weeks or months later. However, direct payment, where you need worry only about your co-pay or deductible when your pet is receiving routine or life-saving veterinary care, is becoming more common.  

#5: Pet insurance is best purchased when your pet is young and healthy

Since pet insurance has waiting periods, and restrictions regarding pre-existing conditions, the best time to investigate potential policies is before you bring your new pet home. Once you settle on an insurance plan, check whether they require a veterinary physical exam before offering coverage. If so, schedule a wellness visit for your new furry pal as soon as possible, to receive the maximum benefits. 

Are you having trouble choosing the best health insurance policy for your pet? Check out this comparison chart to help you get started. And, if your furry friend gets into trouble, or needs routine health care, give us a call—we can help, regardless of whether your pet has insurance.