How To Choose Pet Health Insurance
In the modern veterinary practice we have the means to diagnose and treat a great many more conditions than ever before and with the increasing knowledge of the average person, expectations for treatment are also higher. Expectations for emergency services to almost parallel human facilities and the labour costs of unsocial hours also contribute to prices. Unfortunateley these advances are not without cost. The capital required just to maintain facilities for these functions and keeping staff trained to the highest possible levels keep prices high.
There are still significant numbers of animals that are given less than ideal treatment or cannot have remedial surgery because the owners budget will not allow. Even now we occasionally have to euthanase an animal due to costs of therapy.
Having a comprehensive insurance policy that covers all eventualities means you do not have this concern. Decide whether you are looking for a higher excess to reduce premiums, cover just for large unexpected emergency bills, lifetime cover, other secondary cover such as third party liability.
It is not our purpose to recommend any single insurance policy or company. This information is to help you ask the right questions and look at policies critically so you can have the best cover for your needs that you can afford. If you have any specific questions about a policy it is always better to ring the company and ask them.
Type Of Cover
Some policies will only have one type of cover, others will have different levels of cover from a budget type to a super deluxe. The simplest way to decide is to get the highest cover you can afford but if you do not want to pay any extra look at less common expenses such as holiday cancellation cover or refund of purchase price if lost or strayed. The different levels of cover usually have distinct differences in how much they will pay out so look closely at the figures and excess charges.
This is the most common reason people insure their pets. Look at how much is covered for one condition in one year. Will that cover continue after renewal next year and will it be for the same amount of money or is it limited? Most policies have a limit per condition but this may be a lifetime limit regardless of when it is reached or an annual limit that is renewed at renewal time each year. Some policies will exclude a condition you have claimed for when you renew - so you cannot claim for that same condition in subsequent years. This type of policy will not cover your pet for any chronic condition that needs long term therapy like heart disease, arthritis or diabetes after the first year. Be aware of the limitations of 'New Year', 'New Policy'.
It may also be worth looking at alternative or complementary therapies. Many therapies that we consider mainstream are still classed as 'alternative' such as hydrotherapy for joint and surgical recovery, other physiotherapy techniques and acupuncture. Prescription diets are covered by some insurance policies but not all. Most policies will not cover pre-existing condition so you cannot have a condition looked at by a vet then take out insurance for the treatment! There will also be a period after starting insurance when a claim cannot be made (usually about two weeks).
Insurance policies do not cover the the cost of routine treatment such as vaccinations, neutering, worm treatment, flea treatment or dentistry. Our PHC (monthly health club) covers essential preventative treatment with a discount to other products and services.
Age Of Pet
Most policies will continue to cover a pet that has a policy in place as it heads into old age. Check this on any policy you are looking at but also check when the premiums will be as they age. Averagely policy costs will increase as the age of your increases. Usually animals over a certain age (often around 9 or 10) will not be able to get new cover.
Making A Claim
Once the fees for a condition have exceeded the excess then it probably worth making a claim. Even if you do not make a claim some policies have a stipulation that you must notify them of any changes in you pet's health. If that is what the the policy says, take no chances and tell them about even the most minor trip to the vets. The most common way to claim is to obtain an insurance claim form from the company and leave it with us to fill in the veterinary information. Ask the insurance company how long they take to process claims.
Changing Your Policy Or Company
In our experience pet owners will often look to change their policy or provider once a claim has been made or premiums have been increased. If you decide to change the policy or company, you must be aware that anything you have previously claimed or has been mentioned in clinical notes at any time may no longer be covered. If you wish to maintain cover for a previously mentioned or diagnosed condition you will need to negotiate this for the new policy.
What Are The Alternatives To Insurance?
Some people decide, having paid for a policy for years and never claiming, that they will cancel their insurance. This is a big gamble to take as often done as the pet is getting older and is more likely to need treatment.. If you have the financial discipline to set up a savings fund for veterinary fees, you may feel you would rather have control over your own money. The obvious disadvantage to this is the risk in the early stages that there would not be enough money for a major incident like a broken limb or intensive care. It may not be enough in the long term if a chronic condition requiring expensive drugs and on going medical care is dispensed.