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ScoutKnows Insurance Buyer’s Guide

ScoutKnows Insurance Buyer’s Guide

What Is Pet Insurance?

Like health insurance for humans, pet insurance can help offset expenses you might incur helping your furry friend recover from an illness, receive treatment for an injury, or get the medicine he needs. For a regular monthly payment, pet insurance plans reimburse you for a percentage of the cost of most medical treatment your pet may need. All plans vary in terms of monthly cost, percentage of reimbursement, deductible, and what conditions and medicines they cover. For this reason, taking time to compare pet insurance plans to make sure you enroll in the best one for you and your canine companion is important. Some well-known pet insurance providers include:

  • 24PetWatch
  • AKC Pet Insurance
  • ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
  • Embrace
  • Figo
  • Healthy Paws
  • Nationwide
  • PetFirst
  • PetPlan
  • PetPremium
  • Pets Best
  • Trupanion

What Common Issues Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Every pet insurance plan is different, which is one reason conducting thorough research and comparing plans is so important.

For the most part, plans allow you to use the vet of your choice, cover illnesses and injuries (with the exception of accident-only plans), offer flexible deductibles, and provide lifelong coverage.

Choose Your Vet

Because pet insurance plans typically reimburse you directly for the costs of your veterinarian bill, you and Bingo are free to visit any veterinarian you choose. What you need to keep in mind, though, is that while some policies simply pay a set percentage of any qualifying bill, other policies reimburse only for charges they deem “usual and customary,” which might not match what your vet’s office actually charged you. For example, you may own a policy that reimburses 80%. You recently incurred a vet bill of $500. The math tells you that you should receive a $400 reimbursement from your pet insurance company; however, it may turn out that your policy deems only $300 of the $500 bill as “usual and customary,” and thus will reimburse you only $240 (80% of $300, instead of 80% of $500).

We would also recommend discussing pet insurance providers with your preferred veterinarian, as some offices recommend certain providers. Choosing a provider recommended by your vet’s office may help reduce hassles and confusion that may arise pertaining to billing and reimbursement.

Illnesses and Injuries

Most basic pet insurance plans cover falls, mishaps with vehicles, accidental poisoning, and illnesses that are not typically genetic. For an additional fee, some plans offer special coverage options, such as for lost pet recovery costs, preventative care, wellness exams, hip dysplasia, vaccinations, flea and tick control, and routine exams and tests. Some plans also offer extra coverage for property damage inflicted by pets, prosthetics, and cremation or burial in the case of accidental or premature death. Having your pet insured means that your pet gets the proper treatment in case your dog/cat gets sick or injured.

Flexible Deductibles

A deductible refers to the out-of-pocket expense you must pay before your insurance kicks in. While a few pet insurance plans offer only one deductible amount, most allow you to choose your deductible when you enroll. Deductible amounts typically begin as low as $50, and can reach as much as $1000. In general, the lower your deductible, the higher your monthly premium.

Lifelong Coverage

Providing you enroll Dudley before he has reached the upper age limit for your chosen insurance provider, he will enjoy coverage for life. Most plans require Rufus to be enrolled before he reaches an age between nine and 14 years, depending on the plan, though some will allow you to enroll him regardless of his age. Still other plans require a dog to be enrolled by a certain age for illness coverage, but do not enforce an upper age limit for accident-only coverage.

What Should I Consider When Comparing Plans?

Few if any pet insurance providers cover pre-existing conditions. Generally, a pre-existing condition is defined as an illness or injury incurred or identified prior to enrollment in an insurance plan; however, all providers operate under differing definitions of “pre-existing.”  For this reason, be sure to carefully read each plan’s definition of the term, and start shopping before your pet is sick or injured.

In addition to your pet’s current health, consider his age when shopping for insurance. Usually, providers require a puppy to be at least six weeks old (sometimes up to 10 weeks). Some providers will not provide initial coverage to dogs over a certain age, but if you enroll your dog before he reaches the maximum age set by the provider for initial enrollment, most plans provide lifelong coverage, meaning your insurance will not lapse after your dog reaches a certain age. In other words, a provider who offers lifelong coverage may not enroll dogs after they have reached the age of 12, but if you enrolled Buddy when he was five, he will be covered throughout his life, for as long as you continue making your premium payments–even if he lives to be 18; his coverage will not end when he reaches 12.

Another factor to keep in mind is a policy’s required waiting period, or the amount of time that must elapse from your initial enrollment in the plan to when the coverage actually kicks in. Most plans require a two-week waiting period. Any injury or illness your dog suffers during the waiting period will not be covered under your insurance plan. Only after the waiting period has completely elapsed will your coverage begin.

Obviously, value and cost are also important to consider. Most pet insurance plans require a deductible, or a set dollar amount you must pay before your policy begins to pay any amount. Generally speaking, the lower your monthly payment is, the higher your deductible will be and the lower your reimbursement percentage will be. Conversely, if you pay a higher monthly premium, your deductible is likely to be lower and your reimbursement percentage, higher. Usually, you will be able to choose from a range of deductible options. Every plan handles deductibles differently. Some plans require you to pay a deductible with every one of Fido’s illnesses or injuries, whereas other plans may require an annual deductible. Just as you will be able to choose the amount of your deductible, you will also be able to choose the percentage of reimbursement. For the most part, plans offer options of 70%, 80%, or 90%.

One of the least expensive pet insurance options is typically an accident-only policy. This type of plan usually helps offset the costs of accidental poisoning or injury, but does not help with costs for the treatment of illnesses.

You also want to be aware of any payout limits or exclusions a policy might include. Be sure to read the fine print of every policy you consider before committing to a plan.

Finally, you have to consider whether pet insurance is really worth the cost. Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to calculate whether or not your pet insurance plan will ultimately save or cost you money, as the result will vary according to your specific dog’s health over his lifetime. In fact, where insurance might cost you money for the dog you share your home with today, it might save you money for the dog you will share your home with at a later point in your life. Whether insurance saves or costs money will depend on many factors, but the best way to determine if buying it would be beneficial, and if so, which plan would benefit you the most, is research.

Buyer’s Guide

Below is an easy-to-read chart comparing some of the benefits of major pet insurance providers. When using this chart, keep in mind that some of the information includes estimates, and may vary according to your pet’s breed, age, and location. To gain the best understanding of pet insurance plans available to you, as well as of the costs and benefits associated with them, we recommend visiting the website of any providers that interest you, and requesting an estimate that will consider your dog’s specific needs and circumstances. You can also try the estimate calculators available at PetInsuranceQuotes.com and PetInsuranceReview.com.

Insurance ProviderMonthly Cost: BasicMonthly Cost: PremiumVet ChoiceUpper Age LimitInjuryIllnessBreed-Specific ConditionsCongenital ConditionsPrescription MedicationsAlternative TherapiesRoutine Care OptionFlexible DeductibleReimbursement LevelsAnnual Payout Limits
Nationwide$33.22$65.66yes9YesYesUnder advanced planUnder advanced planYesYesYes$100-$50090% for Whole Pet Plan; otherwise, varies$14,000 on accident-only plan
Pet Premium$35.78$68.85Yes12YesYesUnder top-level planUnder top-level planYesUnder Level-3 planYes$100, $250, or $50070-90% of vet billNone
Trupanion$64.39$97.63Yes14YesYesYesYesYesWith riderPremium is lower without this option$0-$1000 per condition90% of vet billNone
Pet Plan$38.61$52.63YesNoneYesYesYesYesYesYesPremium is lower without this option$0-$100070-100% of vet bill$2500 to unlimited based on plan you choose
Pets Best$38.42$51.92YesNoneYesYesVaries by stateVaries by stateYesYesYes$50, $100, or $200 per condition80-100% of vet bill$10,000; $14,000; or $22,000
Embrace$41.76$56.85Yes14YesYesYesYesWith optional riderYesYes$100-$100070-90% of vet bill$5000-$15,000
Healthy Paws$27.62$27.61Yes14YesYesYesYesYesYesPremium is lower without this option$100-$50070-90% of vet billNone
24PetWatchYes10YesYesYesYesYesPremium is lower without this option$100-$100080% of vet bill$3000-$20,000
AKC$18.33$41.929YesYesPremium is lower without this option$100-$1000up to 80%$3000-$16,000
ASPCA$30$54NoneYesYesYesYesUnder Comprehensive PlanPremium is lower without this option$100-$50070%, 80%, or 90% of vet bill$2500-$20,000
FigoNoneYesYesYesYesYesYes$50, $100, $200, or $50070%, 80%, 90%, or 100%$10,000; $14,000; or unlimited
Pet First$24.95$49.95NoneYesYesYesYesYesYes$100-$250070%, 80%, or 90%$5000; $10,000; or $20,000