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Guidelines of Pet Insurance

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Many dog owners want to know whether it is worth buying pet insurance. If your dog has ever been seriously ill or injured, pet insurance is obviously invaluable. But non-emergency veterinary care is also expensive, and pet insurance can help you pay for these costs. Nationwide’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Jules Benson, said: “When you look at the frequency of claims we see every day, things that are less traumatic can have the same impact on the health of the pet and the financial situation of the owner.” Our most common claims are skin allergies and ear infections. Anyone who lives with pets with [these conditions] knows that they can quickly become very expensive."

Pet insurance gives you peace of mind. If your pet gets sick or injured, you will be able to take care of him.

“Pet insurance is not about a return on investment,” says Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. “It’s about knowing that I’m going to spend a certain amount on my pet no matter what, and I know my pet is likely to become ill or have an accident or both, and I’m protecting my financial ability to be a good, responsible pet owner.”

The number of North American pet owners who have pet insurance grows every year as people learn more about the value of insuring their pets.

“Pet insurance has become a lot more common, especially for younger consumers such as millennials and Gen Y,” says Rob Jackson, chief pet protector at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. “The cost of veterinary care continues to rise, which makes pet insurance even more necessary for people who consider pets part of their family. Every year, we see new treatments, prescriptions and high-tech advancements in veterinary science, which is great for our pets, but it means increased costs per incident.”

Then and now
Believe it or not, pet insurance has existed for more than 130 years. The Swedish businessman Claes Virgin, the founder of Lansforsakrings (now Agria Pet Insurance), wrote the first pet insurance policy in 1890. Therefore, purchasing pet insurance is a fairly common practice internationally, with approximately 50% of pet owners in Sweden and an estimated 25% of pet owners in the UK owning it.

Pet insurance is a growing industry in the United States and Canada. Compared with decades ago, there are now more vendors, policies, and choices. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the first pet insurance company in the United States, appeared in the 1980s. At that time, most people didn't even know that you could buy pet insurance, but the concept slowly became popular. For a while, if you want to insure your pet, VPI (now Nationwide) is the only option. Today, pet owners have more choices.

“Today, we have more than 20 members at the industry level,” Kristen says. “I know that there are between 20 and 25 companies in the market right now, and some of those represent multiple brands.” In the beginning, pet insurance policies were mostly one-size-fits-all, but today’s offerings are much more robust, offering variety and flexibility.

“There’s product for everyone,” Kristen says. “As the market is maturing, I think we’ll start to see more innovation in the kinds of products that are available to people, depending on what they can afford, what kind of coverage they want, how they want to use their coverage — they can make choices. If they want to add something on or take something off, they can do that.”

Embrace Pet Insurance Communications Manager Sara Radak adds, “It’s all about making the product better for the pet parent. We’ve ditched the paper claim form and made it easier to submit claims online. Auto adjudication is speeding up the claims process so pet parents get their reimbursement faster. “

And of course, we can’t forget how apps have changed the market. She explains, “Apps will continue to make it easier for pet parents to access and update their policy, submit and view claims, and take advantage of perks like Embrace’s PawSupport 24/7 health line.”

Lastly, Sara says to expect more pet insurance companies to look for new ways to differentiate themselves via pet health resources to make them not just a pet insurance provider but a partner in managing your pet’s health.

When it’s time to buy?
Think you are ready to buy but still unsure which company or policy to go with?

“Do your research!” Sara says. “Each company is different, and it’s not always easy to make an apples to apples comparison. Understanding what’s covered by the policy you purchase is critical to having a good experience when your pet is sick or injured.”

Here are three things you should know about today’s policies to help you choose the best one for you and your pet.

Pet insurance and human health insurance work differently
Regular pet insurance policies cover accidents and injuries, not pet health services, such as annual physical exams, vaccines, annual blood tests, tooth cleaning, or flea and tick prevention measures. However, many insurance companies offer health "additional insurance" that you can add to your insurance policy. This type of additional health care service will usually reimburse you for a specific amount of anticipated annual preventive health care expenses.

Instead of offering a small co-payment when you see your pet, you usually pay your veterinarian for all services in full, and then submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement. (At least one company, Trupanion, can pay the veterinarian directly—you only need to pay the co-insurance premium. Your veterinarian must register for this service with Trupanion.)

Buy pet insurance as early as possible
Your annual premium is usually based on three key considerations: the age of your dog, his breed and where you live. Some companies will also consider whether your dog is neutered or neutered, offering a slightly lower premium for fixed dogs.

Compared with older dogs, pet insurance for puppies and young people is cheaper. Noisy puppies and puberty dogs also have a lot of trouble. It’s good to know that if your puppy swallows something he shouldn’t swallow or breaks his leg in a rough house, you will be protected.

Since most policies do not cover pre-existing conditions, you need to register before your dog has a health problem.

“The earlier, the better,” Kristen says. “That’s not to say that there aren’t still reasons to have it when your pet is a little older, you just may not be able to get as robust coverage, and your premium is going to be higher.”

It’s true that insuring an older dog is more costly, but older dogs also often have more health issues. Arthritis, heart conditions, kidney issues and cancer are expensive to treat, so insurance can be a valuable investment.

Assess your dog’s need
If you know you want pet insurance but you’re not sure which company or policy to go with, Kristen says to talk to your vet and ask what conditions your dog is likely to get in his lifetime and what it costs to treat them.

“Is luxating patella or Cushing’s disease fairly common in the breed?” she says. “What’s the average cost to treat something like that? Is it usually an emergency? Could it be $5,000 or $10,000? That’s going to tell you what kind of benefits you need.”

Want even more information? Today, pet owners have access to pet DNA companies that do much more than tell you what breed your dog is but will do a health screening that lets you know possible genetic health risks for your dog. (Just a few examples are DNA My Dog, Embark and Wisdom Panel.)

“It never hurts to be informed about the risks your pet may face as they age,” Sara says. “Sadly, we don’t have a magic ball that will tell us what to expect from our pets’ health, but any insights into what could be down the road help us prepare to give our pets the best care.”

At the end of the day, pet insurance is a way to ensure you won’t be put in a scary financial position due to a large vet bill.

“People who have a preparedness mindset don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to their pets,” Dr. Benson says. “They see pet health insurance as a great way of making sure they’re prepared for anything that can happen to their pet.