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Pet Insurance: Hoping for the Best while Preparing for the Worst

By September 22, 2021 No Comments

Whether you share your home with a dog or a cat (or both!), chances are that you’ve heard about pet insurance before. Maybe that was even at your first puppy or kitten visit with us! But why did we bring it up and what is it all about?

This blog post will explore some commonly asked questions regarding pet insurance. Ultimately, only you can decide if a health insurance plan for your pet is the right fit for your family but consider this a guide to help with your research.

What is pet insurance?

Most pet parents have a general idea of what they expect to pay for veterinary care yearly and budget accordingly but just like us, our furry friends can become ill or require urgent care. If this happens at the wrong time, an already stressful situation may be exacerbated by financial constraints. This is where pet insurance can come in handy.

Pet insurance transfers a large percentage of the cost of veterinary care to an insurance company in exchange for a monthly premium. Of course, this is an over-simplification, but we’ll cover the details later on.

First, let’s talk more about the benefits of pet insurance as well as some common concerns.

What are the pros and cons of pet insurance?

The most obvious benefit of pet insurance lies in the financial freedom that comes with a good plan. In an ideal world, health care decisions are determined by the merit of one diagnostic tool or treatment option compared to another but realistically, cost is a factor. Pet insurance can mitigate financial constraints when making health care decisions for a pet.

Additionally, pet insurance is a convenient way of preparing for emergencies or the increase in vet bills as your pet ages. The old adage ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’ certainly holds true here.

At Gateway Pet Hospital we often discuss pet insurance when you first come in with your new pet. This might seem counter-intuitive since your young pet is hopefully happy and healthy, so why should you worry about the cost of veterinary care now? The reason for this has to do with the way insurance plans work. If your pet is diagnosed with a medical condition before you purchase insurance, then any cost associated with managing or treating Fluffy for this condition will likely not be covered by your provider. Insuring your pet early gives them the broadest coverage possible later on when they are more likely to need it.

Oftentimes, pet parents wonder whether it is ‘worth it’ to pay for insurance. While it is true that certain breeds and life-stages are more likely to require veterinary care than others, ultimately there is no way of predicting exactly when and how often any given pet will need to see the vet. (Apart from their yearly wellness visits, of course.) Additionally, critical care or life-saving surgeries can easily cost thousands of dollars and even long-term medications can rack up quite the bill. So, whether pet insurance is ‘worth it’ or not depends on your alternatives in a situation where you quickly need access to emergency funds.

Lastly, as with any insurance plan, you might wonder if the company can reject a claim. This concern underlines the importance of thorough research since only ineligible claims can be denied. What exactly that means depends on the fine print of the contract. Here is where it pays off to ask questions early on. If you’re unsure where to begin with that, the remainder of the blog post might come in handy!

What kinds of plans are there?

Many plans are aimed at covering the financial cost of emergencies and illness. Additionally, there are also those that cover routine wellness care, such as the cost of annual exams and vaccines. Some companies even offer plans that cover all of these scenarios.

To learn more visit the websites of insurance providers directly. When comparing companies, these are some important questions to ask:

– Does this company offer plans in Ontario?
– Has it been operating here for a long time or are they new to the market?
– Do you personally know anyone that uses this company and how do they feel about it? Alternatively, what are their reviews like?

A few companies that come to mind are (in alphabetical order) the OVMA Pet Health Insurance, Pets Plus Us, Petsecure, and Trupanion.

 

How is the cost of insurance plans determined?

As with other types of insurance, companies use formulas to calculate the risk associated with offering you insurance. Some important factors that play into this calculation are:

– species
– breed (some are more prone to certain health conditions) or size (largely due to orthopedic issues)
– age (older pets often see the vet more)
– lifestyle (indoor vs. outdoor cats)

While these aspects largely depend on your pet, another big factor in determining the price of your premium is the deductible. Often a lower premium makes for a higher deductible. While that may be tempting, it is important to ensure the deductible still fits your budget.

Once you’ve made it this far, it is time to take a look at the fine print.

Lastly, what questions should you ask before signing up?

If you have found a plan that sounds promising you could consider inquiring about a free trial to help familiarize yourself with the company.

Here are some questions that warrant consideration at this point:

– Are there terms in the fine print that you do not understand? Does the contract clearly outline what kind of coverage you purchase?
– How is the contract renewed? Are there any conditions you must meet yearly?
– What happens as your pet ages? (Will the premium change?)
– Will you know up-front if there are any pre-existing conditions that are not covered?
– Are there any illness/incident caps that apply?
–  How are claims handled?

Finally, please feel free to give us a call at the clinic if you would like to discuss whether pet insurance is a good fit for you and your pet(s).

Pookie was recently diagnosed with a rare but serious medical condition called idiopathic bicavitary eosinophilic effusion that required a referral to specialists and advanced diagnostics. Without insurance his owners would not have been able to proceed with the testing needed.

“I trust our vet team more than anything and they can confidently recommend the proper treatment without being worried about cost as much. There’s been advanced procedures we’ve put through insurance that I might not have considered out of pocket that actually saved Harley’s life last year.” – Caitlin Tilt.

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