Pet insurance helps ensure that companion animals can get the care they need. But when owners buy policies for their pets, it's important they understand how their policies work so they know what will and won't be covered and what out-of-pocket expenses they are likely to incur.
Specifically, there are four big things every pet owner needs to know. Here's what they are.
1. The deductible
Pet insurance policies generally have a deductible. That's the amount an owner must pay out-of-pocket for veterinary care before services are covered. Depending on the policy, the deductible could range from around $100 to around $500, although it's possible to get plans with lower or higher deductible amounts.
Pet owners need to make sure they can afford the deductible so they can pay their part of the care that their animals need. It can be a good idea to save the required amount in a special bank account.
Owners also need to find out if the deductible is per year, or per incident. If it is per incident, they will need to come up with the money every single time their animal takes advantage of a veterinarian's services.
2. Coverage exclusions
Pet insurance policies do not cover every single kind of veterinary care. Typically, routine wellness care won't be covered by a standard policy unless the pet owner purchases optional additional coverage for routine medical services, such as exams and vaccines. All pet insurance policies also exclude pre-existing conditions, which are medical issues an animal is diagnosed with before insurance is purchased.
Some pet insurance policies also don't cover various types of genetic or hereditary defects, and owners need to be aware of the types of things their plans won't pay for.
3. Coinsurance costs
It's common for pet insurance policies to require owners to pay coinsurance costs. For example, the insurer may agree to pay for 80% or 90% of care costs, leaving the owner responsible for covering the remaining 10% or 20% of the vet's bills.
Higher coinsurance costs leave owners with more potential out-of-pocket expenses in situations where their animal gets sick. But policies with lower coinsurance costs generally have higher premiums. Owners need to make a tradeoff between paying more upfront to avoid the risk of big bills later, or paying lower premiums but potentially needing to shoulder more responsibility for vet bills if an animal is sick or hurt.
4. Policy limits
Finally, pet owners should make sure they know the limits of their coverage. It is very common for pet insurance policies to have annual limits on the amount of care the plan will pay for. For example, the insurer may offer coverage for up to $15,000 in care over the year, or more.
While not all policies have these limits, those that do could leave owners on their own when it comes to paying for expensive treatments. Those who want to make sure their animal can get the absolute best care should consider paying higher premiums for higher policy limits or saving for excess care costs.
By understanding these four key details about a pet insurance policy, animal owners can make sure they have the coverage they need to give their pets the very best veterinary services when something goes wrong.
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