Vet bills can quickly get out of hand for chronic disease treatment and unexpected emergencies. If you don’t have the cash to pay for surgery, medicine, or other ongoing treatments, you can quickly pile on debt or be forced to make the tough decision to put down your pet. Unless you have pet insurance.
This type of insurance works similarly to your health insurance, with premiums, deductibles, and lifetime and term maximums. And like health insurance for humans, the price and coverage of pet insurance plans vary, with more expensive plans covering more conditions for longer. Plans will take into consideration your pet’s species, breed, age, current health, and where you live—if you have an outdoor cat and you live near a busy road, you could pay a higher premium
When considering pet insurance plans, there are five factors you should be looking at: coverage, benefit limits, deductible type, payout model, and verified reviews.
Coverage refers to what types of diseases, conditions, and treatments the policy will help or entirely pay for. High-ranked insurance plans—usually more expensive with higher monthly premiums—cover all accidents and illnesses, including hereditary and congenital conditions, which require the most expensive and extensive treatments.
Less expensive plans with lower premiums offer less comprehensive coverage, usually with a higher deductible to be met before they will reimburse you.
Keep in mind that pet insurance doesn’t usually cover known issues with a breed, teeth cleaning, vaccinations, or regular check-ups.
Benefit limits mean there is a maximum amount the company will pay out for vet bills and medications. Variations of benefit limits include per condition limits, annual limits, or lifetime limits. More expensive plans won’t have these limits, which really helps if your pet needs extensive and on-going treatment, but you’ll still be paying a higher monthly premium for this.
If your plan does have one of these limits, coverage could stop before treatment is finished, which lands you with whatever remains of the bill.
Depending on the insurance plan, there are different ways you can pay your deductions. An annual deduction is easiest to budget for as you only pay it once a year, but it can be harder to pay this larger sum all at once. You could pay per condition, which may be good for one chronic condition, but it would become expensive if your pet has multiple conditions. Per incident deductions mean you pay for each vet visit.
Alternatively, you could set up a pet emergency fund and set aside a certain amount of money each month—$100 would be equivalent to a more expensive, comprehensive insurance plan. This would allow you to spend the money however you needed without limitations, and you wouldn’t have to worry about reimbursement paperwork or delay. Like with all investments, you’ll need to consider your budget and see which plan is right for you and your pet.