Pet insurance is similar to human health insurance though there are key differences that are important to understand as you select an insurance policy for your pet.

  1. All pet insurance (with one exception to be noted later) is reimbursement based, which means you pay your bill, then submit your invoice to your insurance provider and they reimburse in line with the stipulations of your policy.
  2. Pet insurance can be divided into accident and illness policies and preventative care policies.  In most cases in New York City (and adjacent urban areas) preventative care is not always a great value but accident and illness coverage is imperative to alleviating financial stress associated with the health care of your pet during an illness.
  3. Preventative care typically codes out specific items it will cover and caps the reimbursement and a flat rate based on national pricing for these items. For example, the policy may reimburse you up to $65/annually total for up to 3 vaccines. However, in NYC, you may be paying nearly $60 per vaccine, so the value may not be that great to you.
  4. Accident/illness policies typically reimburse a percentage of the total bill but may exclude fees such as exams or certain treatments (sometimes they won’t pay for food, alternative therapy, and supplements).
  5. Policies will not cover illnesses that are “pre-existing” which means they were diagnosed before the policy is in place.  For example, if your pet breaks her leg today, you cannot then buy insurance to cover the cost of fixing it, because the broken leg would be pre-existing.  The different companies may vary in something called “curative periods” Which means something pre-existing could be eligible for future coverage if it is cured for a period of time, but this is all dependent on individual provider.

So what should you look for when choosing a provider?

  1. Monthly cost matters.  If the cost of the monthly coverage is so high that may be a deterrent, as you will then feel discouraged if your pet is healthy and you don’t “use the insurance”  Of course you want your pet to be healthy for as long as possible, and not encounter accidents or illnesses, but you should pick a policy that has a monthly or annual premium fee, with which you are comfortable.  In NYC, this fee may be $50-$200/month depending on age of your pet, breed, and any previous medical history they may have.
  2. The best time to get insurance is when your pet is young and healthy.  Insuring young healthy pets typically is associated with a lower monthly premium, but most importantly, if the pet is healthy, nothing is pre-existing or excluded from future coverage.   The longer you have the pet without coverage, the more you roll the dice on an accident or illness arising and becoming pre-existing for the future of your pet’s life.
  3. You want a policy that reimburses 80-90% of your invoices and has a minimum of $25,000 in annual coverage.  While $25000 sounds like a lot, if your pet encounters two major illnesses in a 12-month period, you could have bills at or in excess of $25000 and you would feel frustrated by having insurance but running out of coverage.
  4. You generally can set your deductible, which is the amount of money you pay out of pocket, before the percentage reimbursement kicks in. You may want a low deductible, which means you’re going to reach that number quickly, then the rest of your year will be covered at your percentage reimbursement OR you may want a high deductible, which would lower your monthly payment, but mean that you pay a higher amount out of pocket before insurance starts to pay a percentage of your illness/accident fees. This is a completely personal choice.
  5. Your vet will work with any insurance company, since technically all your vet needs to provide you for insurance is medical notes and an invoice. If your vet says they won’t accept insurance, that is a red flag.
  6. Communication with your vet and insurance company is key. The insurance companies do not often confirm receipt of records, invoices or let the vet know that they have  processed a claim. So if you as the owner are awaiting reimbursement beyond a period you deem reasonable, kindly let your vet know, as perhaps something got missed in terms of delivering records to your insurance company. 

Most importantly, no one WANTS to have a lot of need or usage on their insurance because that would mean your pet has illness or accident visits to the vet. However, these situations inevitably occur, and insurance is invaluable to helping you make the best medical choices with less concern about the cost of those choices. Please ask us how we can help you with insurance choices or reimbursement and please update us each visit if your insurance provider has changed!