The pet insurance market surpassed gross premiums of $1 billion by the end of 2017 which signified a 15% rise from the previous year.
This rise can be attributed to an increased number of people taking up insurance policies for their pets.
The pet insurance industry is still relatively young. As such, only a hand full of companies offer these services, and getting the right information is difficult.
One of the grey areas in pet insurance is the waiting period.
In this article, we shall discuss it in detail as well the important aspects of pet insurance you need to know.
What Is the Waiting Period on Pet Insurance Policies?
This is the period of time between the moment you sign the policy and the point at which the cover will actually become active. Depending on the policy you take up for your pet, this duration may be between two weeks to a few months.
Generally, accidents are covered immediately, but illnesses take much longer. Taking up an insurance policy for your pet should not be done on a when needed basis.
These policies should be taken up as a precaution in the event your pet suffers a serious accident or illness. This is why policies that cover certain conditions take some time before you can claim.
This strategy is designed to protect insurance providers for paying for the treatment of pre-existing conditions. It also prevents pet owners from making fraudulent claims.
What Qualifies as a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is any illness or injury that your pet may be suffering from prior to being signed up for an insurance cover. Insurance companies do not cover such cases.
In fact, even vet appointments for a later date booked before taking up the policy will not be covered.
It is important that you have your pet examined before taking up a policy and provide your insurance provider with a comprehensive medical history review.
Though some pre-existing conditions may go unnoticed during checkups, you will not be charged with a fraudulent claim if you provided accurate medical records.
How Do Policy Changes Affect the No Wait Period?
At some point, you may decide to change the type of cover you have taken up for your pet.
It may be upgrading from a basic cover to a more comprehensive one or vice versa to reduce costs. At times you may even decide to switch to a different insurer to get a better policy.
When executing a policy change, you may have to serve another no claim period. It may last a month or longer after the changeover. You may still be hit with another no claim period even if you change policies with your current provider.
Some insurance companies may give you a waiver to ensure the cover for your pet is continuous. However, it is always important to confirm the same with your insurer.
How Pet Insurance Varies from Your Medical Coverage
Though you might consider your pet a member of your family, insurance companies have a different opinion.
Pet insurance policies function more like property insurance rather than health insurance. Don’t sweat it. This method is better for you.
The policies are relatively easy to read and understand compared to a policy you would take up for yourself.
With pet insurance, you will have the luxury of choosing your vet as long as they are licensed.
These policies are simple and have only a few packages to choose from. Some cover just accidents; others factor in accidents and illnesses whereas a third category covers more conditions.
The best part of pet insurance is that they are relatively cheap. Taking up a simple policy for your dog will only cost you around $14 per month. Top plans come at around $98 monthly.
However, there are several factors that influence the cost of premiums. They include the breed and age of your pet. At times, where you live is also taken into account. For cat owners, premiums are even lower.
Along with your monthly premiums, you will also have to pay a deductible before your insurance company starts sharing in the costs of your coverage.
Deductibles range from $50 to $1,000. Similar to other policies with deductibles, you will have to pay higher premiums for a lower deductible.
For instance, if you have a pet insurance policy with a deductible of $500 and your pet needs treatment, you will have to foot the first $500 of the bill.
If the bill is lower than your deductible, you will have to pay it in full. From that point, the insurance company will then assist with their reimbursement.
This is the amount of the vet’s bill that your insurance provider will pay once you reach your deductible.
Insurance companies offer reimbursements ranging from 60% to 90%. Normally, you will have to pay the whole amount first then get reimbursed the difference.
Suppose your dog gets involved in an accident and the final bill at the vet amounts to $5,000. If the insurance policy on your dog has a deductible of $500 with a reimbursement plan of 70%, this is how reimbursement will be calculated.
With the above plan, you will be responsible for the $500 deductible plus 30% of the bill. The insurance company will first deduct the $500 and refund you 70% of the remaining balance, which amounts to $3,150.
By the end of it all, you will only end up paying $1,850 of the entire bill. Insurance companies now offer the option of paying directly to the vet.
Direct payments to the vet are a great option as it allows you to avoid paying large unexpected amounts out of your pocket.
Some vets may even allow you to pay your portion after the insurance company makes its payment.
Insurance companies often institute an annual maximum cap on pet insurance policies.
Once the total cost of all and any medical procedures your pet may have during that year reach the maximum cap, you will have to foot 100% of any subsequent bills within that year.
Annual maximum caps range from $5,000 to $10,000. Some may even be unlimited, depending on the value of the policy. Higher value policies come with higher annual maximum payouts.
How Do Pet Insurance Claims Work?
With pet insurance, the process of making claims is slightly different. As you take up the cover for your pet, it is important that you find out how the claims process works with your provider of choice.
The most important thing, however, is receiving your reimbursement as soon as possible.
These days most companies have mobile applications for Apple and Android devices.
With the app installed on your phone, all you will need to do is take a photo of the bill and upload it. You will then receive your reimbursement via direct deposit within 5 days.
For pet insurance companies that do not have a mobile application, you will be required to print a claims form online, fill it out and send it along with all other required documents via fax or mail.
How Does Age Affect the Premium Amount I Will Pay?
As your pet continues to age, it faces a greater risk of suffering from conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure.
The premiums you pay may increase as your pet gets older to cover such risks and increased visits to the vet.
However, this depends on the type of policy you have and your insurance provider.
Some companies simply calculate premiums based on the age of the animal. Other pet insurance providers will also take into account your pet’s specific needs as well as risks associated in particular neighborhoods.
Factors to Consider When Taking Up a Policy for Your Pet
Though pet insurance policies are relatively easy to decipher, consider the following before you settle on a provider:
How soon will the insurance provider reimburse you after you submit a claim? It should be no more than five days.
Other than the basic components of your cover, what other benefits will you get? Does the policy come with a wellness care plan?
Value of the Coverage
Ensure that the coverage your pet will receive is fair for the premiums you will be paying. Your focus should be on getting as much value as possible for the premiums you will be paying.
Quality of Customer Service
This is a very important aspect to consider. If the treatment you receive in the early interactions is not satisfactory, you are better off taking your business elsewhere.
How the Company Is Rated
The ratings of insurance providers signify their financial strength and ability to pay claims.
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Taking up an insurance policy for your pet may seem like an extravagance, but it could save you thousands of dollars in medical bills in case of an emergency.
When taking up the cover, inquire about the waiting period for different conditions covered by the policy. You should also ensure you get as much value as possible for the premiums you pay.
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