Ask Moses: How does pet insurance work?

The handsome face of Moses the cat.

Dear Moses,

We keep hearing about pet insurance and seeing the brochures in your lobby, but we don't understand how it works. Can you explain it?

– Confused by Options

Dear "Confused", 

Pet health insurance works a bit differently than human health insurance. You will pay your veterinary bill up front, and then be reimbursed directly by your pet insurance policy. The reimbursement depends on what services are covered by your policy, as well as your deductible and co-pay, if applicable.

Here are the basics:

  1. You pay a monthly premium to the insurance company. These can be as little as $15 per month or over $90 per month, depending on the kind of coverage you choose.
  2. Deductible amount: your deductible amount can range from $100 to $500 depending on coverage.
  3. Co-payment: some policies require a co-payment, you pay part of the bill and the insurance pays part of it. 
  4. Coverage: if the treatment is covered, you will receive part or all of your expenses in a reimbursement check from the insurance company. Every company offers different coverage for different procedures. 

How to shop for pet health insurance

Pet health insurance policies are all different, so it is worth your time to download sample policies from the companies and carefully compare the features, costs, terms and conditions. Items you should review carefully include:

  • Coverage: Every plan has different coverage. Make sure you understand what is and is not covered, and how much of each treatment will be paid. Some policies cover annual exams and vaccines, others do not. 
  • Limitations, exclusions, caps: Most policies have specific conditions that are excluded, such as hip dysplasia. A policy may exclude specific breeds such as those tending to develop chronic genetic conditions, and will likely have limitations on payouts for some treatments. The policy may put a cap on how much it will pay out for one illness, or annually, or during a pet’s lifetime.
  • Pre-existing conditions: Pet health insurance will have a restriction or exclusion for pre-existing conditions. Review the documents to see how this is defined, and whether a condition your pet develops during the year will be excluded when renewal time comes up. 
  • Additional fees: Check for additional fees, such as a “monthly payment fee” or a registration fee, and make sure you include them in your cost comparison with other policies. 
  • Accidents: Another feature to look for is whether accidents are covered, and what kind of incidents are included. 
  • Options: Some firms offer several options for an additional cost, such as dental, vision, or cancer care.

The website offers useful comparison charts for dog and cat insurance policies, but make sure you check policies before buying in case changes have been made that aren’t shown on the site yet. 

Tip: Younger pets may be easier to insure, as some policies exclude older pets. If you have multiple pets you may qualify for a discount. 

If you have any questions about pet health insurance, please ask and we’ll do our best to help find the answer.

Phone: 954-421-2244   Serving Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek, and Boca Raton from our offices at Hillsboro Blvd and  Powerline Road in the Dunkin' Donuts plaza.    © Deer Run Animal Hospital 2019