How to Shop for Pet Insurance

When it comes to pet insurance, one thing that’s important to consider, preferably before you’re dealing with an emergency, are the costs. As you can imagine, medical care can get expensive and pet insurance can be a smart investment. Pets are living longer and being diagnosed with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer – even heart conditions. Then there are the torn ACLs and broken bones that can happen at any time.

Good pet insurance gives you peace of mind. Yet, there are so many types of pet insurance, how do you choose? When can you buy it? What do you need to know?

Like any insurance, you don’t want to wait until you need it, because then it will be too late. Instead, you’ll want to compare policies during a time of calm and preferably while your pet is younger. It’s generally less to insure younger pets. Plus, some policies have age limits and won’t insure pets past a certain age.

Here are a few things to know about pet insurance:

  1. If your pet has a pre-existing condition and you want to switch policies, make sure your new policy will cover your pet. Many won’t, so be sure to ask or read the fine print before you make the switch.
  2. If you have more than one pet, ask if there are discounts for multiple pet households. Many insurance companies will give discounts for more than one pet.
  3. Are you limited to certain network providers? If so, do you know who they are?
  4. Pet insurance that covers routine office visits might actually cost you more in the long run than paying out of pocket. Many such providers have higher premiums.
    Here’s how you can evaluate the age of your pet vs. the cost of the routine care vs. the premiums. If your pet is young and healthy and the premiums are high with routine visits, you’ll probably save money by simply paying your veterinarian outright and choosing a policy that covers only serious illness or accidents.
  5. Is there a co-pay or does the insurance company reimburse you? (Usually, you’ll pay the fee at the hospital, fill out a form with your insurance company and they’ll reimburse you.)
  6. Are certain treatments limited? While the medical field is always changing, you want to have an idea of what is covered and what isn’t. Some insurance providers cap you at a certain amount. Yet, if your bill is greater than that amount, it won’t cover everything. This is where it pays to shop around and know what you will be entitled to should you need to use it.
  7. Are there breed restrictions? Some companies won’t insure certain breeds.

With all the array of providers, there’s certainly one to fit your needs. It’s a good idea to compare 3 or 4 policies and ask for recommendations from your family veterinarian and other pet professionals. NorthStar VETS has posted links to different pet insurance providers on its website. Also, Consumer Affairs compares pet insurance in this post.

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