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Should You Consider Pet Health Insurance?

by Melissa Caravella  

Health care services, whether for humans, canines, or felines, are increasingly expensive. Understandably, many pet owners don’t want healthcare decisions driven by finances. Enter pet health insurance.

Like health insurance plans for humans, pet insurance defrays the costs of an illness or injury, usually by reimbursing a portion of vet expenses. However, as with human health insurance, restrictions and exclusions are common. Ask your veterinarian for advice and if he or she can recommend any plans. It’s a good idea to compare plans from a few providers. Here’s how to evaluate potential plans:

1. Determine the coverage level that’s right for you. Generally, the more coverage provided, the higher the premium. Some pet owners like the security of a plan that covers catastrophic events—like a major surgery or cancer treatment—while paying higher out-of-pocket costs for routine care. Others prefer a higher premium for the assurance that most or all costs are covered. Some plans offer add-on options such as dental care. In some cases, if you have more than one pet, you may get a multiple pet discount.

2. Review the policy before you buy. Understand any pre-existing or hereditary conditions that aren’t covered and other exclusions, such as preventive care or office visits. Some policies limit per incident or annual coverage, or have a lifetime max.

3. Find out if you can retain the veterinarian of your choice. Just as with “human” plans, some pet plans require that you use their in-network providers.

4. Ask about the claims process. Because most insurance plans require you to pay upfront, you’ll want to understand the submission requirements and timeframe for reimbursements.

If you’re considering pet insurance, it’s best to look for a plan while your furry friend is healthy—many policies include a waiting period before coverage begins.

This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue ofUC Berkeley Health After 50.