Pet Health Insurance Buyer's Guide

Thursday, January 2, 2014
Should you buy pet health insurance for your cat? Veterinary treatment has made some astonishing advances in the past few years, but this treatment can come with an astonishing price tag. Try $2,000 to $5,000 to treat a broken leg, or $1,500 for a surgical procedure. What would you do if you were faced with a big vet bill?
Nobody wants to consider the possibility of their kitty being injured or becoming ill with a chronic health condition. But every year, one in three pets will need emergency vet care. And two out of three will develop a serious health problem over the course of their lifetimes. Purchasing pet medical insurance now can prevent a heartbreaking choice later.
Before you buy any cat health insurance, do your homework. There are many companies selling many different policies. It can be confusing, so compare the policies carefully so you can make a wise decision.
Ask the following questions:
  • Has the company been in business for fifteen or twenty years? This is a competitive business, and companies selling health insurance for pets come and go. You don't want to find out your company is out of business when you try to file a claim.
  • Has your vet ever heard of this company or had dealings with it in the past? He or she may be able to suggest a good company or one to avoid.
  • Can you go to any licensed vet, or are you limited to a certain network? Is emergency care covered? What about in the middle of the night? Now is the time to get answers, not when you are in the midst of a crisis.
  • What exactly is covered? This will determine your how high your premiums are. If all accidents and illnesses are covered, your premiums will be a lot higher than if you have a policy that covers accidents only or accidents and certain conditions.
  • What about pre-existing conditions? What are they? If your cat is treated for a condition, will it be considered "pre-existing" when you renew? If so, further treatment for the condition won't be covered.
  • Should you choose a high or low deductible? If your deductible is higher, your premiums will be lower. But you'll pay more every time your kitty goes to the vet. So think about how many times a year your feline visits the vet. A higher deductible is fine for a pet with few vet visits, but may not be so great for one who needs more vet care.
  • Is there a penalty for changing your plan or deductible? You want to be able to do this in case you have some financial problems and need to change your plan.
  • What conditions are excluded? Understand exactly what is and is not covered so you don't wind up with an unpleasant surprise later on. Are there caps on the amount the company will pay each year, or for a certain condition? Is there a lifetime cap per animal?
  • Can you renew the policy when your pet gets older? Some companies won't insure older pets. How much will your premiums increase as your pet ages?
  • How is your reimbursement calculated? Some companies pay a certain percentage of the amount you paid your vet. Others have a benefit schedule where they decide how much they'll pay for a certain treatment. Then they pay a percentage of this amount, which may be less than what you've already paid. Be sure you and your insurance company are on the same page when it comes to reimbursements.
  • Is the pet insurance company licensed in your state?