Pet insurance is the four-legged version of human health insurance. It involves all the standard policy provisions, like copays, deductibles and premiums. It protects pet parents from having to pay out of pocket for treatments and surgeries for their animals.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that a whopping 70 percent of Americans share their homes with furry family members, and they're projected to spend more than $32 billion on veterinary care for them in 2022.
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What Pets and Treatments Are Covered?
Pet insurance typically covers not only cats and dogs, but also birds, rabbits, reptiles, ferrets, pigs and rodents as well. But some providers may deny coverage for certain breeds that are considered high risk for congenital or hereditary problems, or for older pets. You might be limited to insuring only one or two of your pets, even if you have several of them.
You usually have a choice between several types of coverage. Basic insurance kicks in to help pay for vet visits for routine care, injuries and most illnesses, although cancer treaments and veterinary bills for pre-existing conditions may not be covered. Comprehensive coverage will cover these issues and help pay for prescriptions, x-rays, lab work and other diagnostic tests and medical bills. Wellness plans help pay for preventative care, checkups and vaccinations. Pet owners might also have a choice between accident-only coverage or accident and illness coverage.
You can usually select the veterinarian of your choice, but this isn't an across-the-board provision so check with any pet insurance company you're considering and read the fine print of your contract.
You're basically insuring against a catastrophic event with this type of plan, but it can certainly provide some peace of mind.
Extra Coverages May Be Available
You're not necessarily limited to just health care coverage for your pets. Some insurers also offer policies that cover you in the case of theft of your animal. They may also offer death benefits for these animals. Some insurers will let you add travel insurance or dental insurance to your plan.
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Liability coverage is typically provided by your homeowners or renters insurance. This type of coverage protects you against financial fallout if your aggressive dog injures a guest or the mailman and you're sued. In fact, many homeowners' associations require that you have additional liability coverage in place if you own certain dog breeds.
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How Much Does This Cost?
Comprehensive coverage will cost more than basic coverage, and the age of your pet and its breed can factor in as well. Older animals are more expensive to insure because they're more prone to illness. It costs less to insure cats than dogs. Your premium might also be affected by your zip code because vet care is more expensive in some areas than it is in others.
All told, you're probably looking at paying about $350 a year for a cat and up to $585 or so annually for a dog on average. Some insurers who don't shy away from covering multiple pets will offer discounts if you're insuring more than one.
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Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Paying $500 a year in insurance premiums for your pet works out to about $41 a month. That $41 can be a great deal less painful than paying out of pocket for an expensive surgery or illness that could cost as much as $5,000. But there's another big catch here.
You pet insurance policy probably won't actually pay your vet bills. You must still do that, then your insurance company will reimburse for you a percentage of that cost – although probably not immediately. There are usually waiting periods for reimbursements.
You might ask yourself how likely it is that your pet will suffer a major injury or serious illness during its lifetime. Maybe you have cats that get no closer to fierce predators and the great outdoors than your living room window, so needing emergency vet care isn't highly likely. You're basically insuring against a catastrophic event with this type of plan, but it can certainly provide some peace of mind.