These days, veterinary medicine allows cats and dogs to receive most of the same types of surgeries and procedures available to humans. There are special eye doctors, MRI machines, and cardiac and orthopedic surgeons for pets.
Just as these procedures can be expensive for humans, they are expensive for pets. If you are concerned about how you would pay for all of this medical care in the event your pet needed it, you should consider pet insurance after adopting your dog or cat. Like health insurance, pet insurance reduces the cost of medical services for an annual premium. Here’s what you need to know about getting pet insurance after adoption.
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
In order to get pet insurance, you fill out an application online or by phone. The insurance company verifies the information provided with your vet, and then your policy is active. Typically, there is a short waiting period before you can make a claim.
Unlike human health insurance companies, most pet insurance policies do not make payments directly to the provider. To make a claim on your pet insurance policy, you pay the provider directly and then submit the claim and receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement.
What Types of Pet Insurance Coverage Can You Get?
Pet insurance policies have a variety of choices with respect to deductibles, annual premiums, and coverage options. Here are some of the most popular coverage options.
- Wellness: A wellness plan only covers what is considered to be part of a typical annual check-up with the vet. This includes things like the wellness exam, micro-chipping, routine blood work, vaccinations, and preventative care against heartworms, fleas, and ticks.
- Medical: Medical insurance plans do not cover any of the basic wellness expenses that would be part of a wellness plan. Medical plans provide coverage for expenses that arise from an injury or illness. Types of care typically covered by the medical insurance policy can include infections, allergies, dental care, skin growths and tumors, fractures and tissue injuries, and diseases.
- Complete/Comprehensive: A complete pet insurance policy combines both wellness care and medical care coverage. While medical plans limit or exclude coverage for the treatment of hereditary disorders, complete insurance plans do cover these treatment costs. In other words, these plans can cover almost every medical-related pet expense.
What Pet Insurance Doesn’t Cover
Pre-existing conditions and hereditary disorders are often excluded from most pet insurance plans. However, some pre-existing conditions can be waived from exclusion if a vet can provide evidence that the disorder has been cured for a specific period of time. In other words, it is not a condition that should require regular, ongoing care.
There may also be waiting periods for certain issues. This is particularly true for major injuries such as ligament and meniscus tears.
If your pet might require additional coverage, you should look at one of the complete or comprehensive types of insurance policies for your pet. These may cover mild presentations of congenital anomalies and disorders. Although comprehensive plans typically provide coverage of hereditary disorders, other pre-existing conditions are still excluded.
Also, keep in mind insurance is intended for wellness exams with a vet and medical problems requiring normal veterinary care. Even the most inclusive policies don’t cover expenses like training, food, boarding, and grooming.
Does It Make Sense to Get Pet Insurance After Adoption?
Whether it does or does not make sense to get pet insurance is an individual question. Before getting pet insurance, you should research all of the options and costs associated with different types of plans.
Comprehensive plans offer the greatest coverage and benefits, but also have the highest annual premium. If you have a puppy or kitten that seems pretty healthy and is not a breed typically susceptible to hereditary disorders, the cost might not make sense for you.
Generally, you need to make a decision about how much you would be willing to pay out of your own pocket for major pet medical expenses. In some cases, the cost of insurance premiums over time nearly meets the amount of insurance coverage for the medical treatment. Due to the exclusions of pre-existing conditions, however, it is best to buy pet insurance while your pet is still young.
Pet Insurance Traps to Watch Out For
In order to get the most out of your pet insurance, there are a few traps you’ll want to avoid:
First, make sure you don’t miss a payment or let the policy expire at the end of the term. This will result in a lapse of coverage, leaving your pet without insurance. Plus, you’ll have to open a new policy subject to the same paperwork and waiting periods required of a new policy.
Second, you want to make sure you know whether treatment is covered before you agree to let your vet proceed. Don’t make a treatment decision assuming the insurance will reimburse the expense. The treatment might not be covered by insurance or you might still be subject to a waiting period.
Alternatives to Pet Insurance
If you are still not sure about pet insurance, there are a couple of other alternatives to consider.
Save the Monthly Insurance Premium
Rather than paying out the premium to the insurance company every month or every year, deposit that money into a special savings account. You can even request a direct deposit into a savings account to make sure you stick to your savings plan.
If you need the money to put toward your pet’s medical expenses, you have it. If you don’t end up using all of the money during the lifetime of your pet, you can use the funds as you choose. Just keep in mind that the cost of treatment may exceed the amount you have saved.
Look Into Veterinary Care Financing Programs
Most vet offices have financing options to help you pay for more expensive services and treatments. The vet may allow you to pay a certain percentage up front and then make monthly payments on the remaining balance. Others might direct you to apply for third-party financing companies. You would then make monthly payments similar to a credit card or loan.