It seems like we insure everything in our lives — our homes, cars and lives. But what about our pets? Pet insurance is still relatively new in the United States, but the industry is already bigger than you might think.
According to the 2018 North American Pet Health Insurance State of the Industry report, more than 2 million pets are currently covered by insurance, and the market is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2019. But just what is pet insurance, anyway?
Pet insurance is divided into three different types: accident, illness and wellness. Depending on your preference and your pet’s needs, you may sign up for one, two or all three types of coverage.
Accident coverage is the most common type of pet insurance. It covers everything from broken bones to bite wounds, torn ligaments to ingesting foreign substances. If your pet is injured, this plan will cover it. The exact list of injuries and conditions covered will vary from one insurance company to the next, so it’s important to compare plans before enrolling.
At some point during your pet’s life, it will probably get sick. This is where illness coverage comes in. Illness coverage can cover things like arthritis, cancer and other diseases. However, it becomes more expensive as your pet ages and doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so it’s important to get pet insurance while your pet is still young.
A single routine annual vet exam can cost upward of $300, depending on your pet and vet. That’s why many companies are offering wellness plans as an add-on to pet insurance plans. This allows you to spend a little every month for coverage to avoid paying out of pocket all at once during routine visits. Wellness plans include things like annual exams; routine vaccinations; teeth cleanings; and flea, tick, and heartworm treatments.
How does it work?
Most pet health insurance plans reimburse you for the cost of veterinary care. You pay the initial cost of your pet’s veterinary visit and request an itemized receipt, then send it with a completed claim form to your pet insurance company. Claims are generally processed within a month, and a reimbursement check is sent to you. Like human health insurance, there’s a deductible to meet, as well as a monthly premium.
Is it worth it?
For Andrew Copeland, pet insurance was a literal life-saver when his cat, Missy, was attacked by a stray cat.
“Her condition was pretty touch-and-go for a while, and the bills weren’t cheap,” Copeland says. “But my insurance reimbursed me 90 percent of my vet bill, saving me thousands of dollars.”
Dog-owner Kate Hawthorne, however, found pet insurance didn’t cover enough when her dog, Hallie, got stung by bees.
“I still had to pay $400 out of pocket,” Hawthorne says. “Apparently, the exam was covered, but stinger removal wasn’t. I ended up cancelling my insurance shortly after that.”
The cost of coverage can vary depending on your pet’s age, breed and coverage options. To know if it’s worth it, make sure you learn how your premium will increase as your pet ages, understand what is and isn’t covered and avoid claim rejection for a preexisting condition by insuring your pet young.