Your brand new puppy is a furry bundle of fun, energy and love and the decisions you make in these first days will lay the foundation for a long happy life to come. Along with the most nutritious food and the safest toys, you may want to consider taking out a pet health insurance policy to safeguard your new friend’s health now and in the years ahead.
What is Pet Health Insurance?
Like health insurance for humans, pet insurance can help to cover a range of health care services for animals. Pet insurance is offered both by dedicated providers and by general insurance companies handling a range of different policy types. Policies operate in ways similar to other kinds of insurance, too. Buyers choose a plan and pay monthly premiums. After the plan’s deductible, the insurance company pays out on covered services and procedures.
Just like health insurance for humans, a pet insurance policy covers some services and procedures while excluding others. Buyers can choose plans for accidents only, or for illness and accidents. Some plans may also include extra features such as dental services or a routine wellness visit each year.
But there are some big differences. Pet insurance has no provider networks. That means policyholders can choose their vet without restrictions, although not all vets may honor all policies. Policies are generally simpler and less expensive, with options for multi-pet households and different kinds of pets.
Although people may only pay a copay when they go to the doctor, pet insurance policy holders typically have to pay for services up front, and then file a claim with the insurer to get reimbursed. Pre-existing or chronic conditions are usually not covered, and there’s typically a waiting period before coverage kicks in, even for accidents and emergencies.
Should You Get Insurance for Your Puppy?
Puppies may be young and healthy, but they can end up in the vet’s office too. Along with routine checkups and puppy shots, active and curious puppies can be at risk for accidents and injuries of all kinds. Some can also suffer from early onset of genetic conditions like hip dysplasia.
Because it’s impossible to predict when, or how, your puppy might need medical care, you may want to consider taking out a pet insurance policy before those circumstances arise. Since there’s often a waiting period before coverage becomes effective, and because it can be difficult to find coverage for pre-existing conditions, having insurance in place early in your puppy’s life will make coverage available when you need it most. And since premium costs for many plans increase with the age of your dog, your premiums will likely be lower for a young and healthy puppy. You’ll also have the flexibility to shop around for the insurance plan that best suits your circumstances.
Choosing the Right Pet Insurance For Your Puppy
Most pet insurance plans operate in similar ways, but it’s important to shop around before buying a policy. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Consider the services that are most important, not only now, but also in the future. Do you have other animals in the household? You may want a policy that covers not only your new puppy but also a couple of cats and a senior dog. Your pet family might include a turtle or a ferret. Will they be covered as well? Not all plans include coverage for exotics, reptiles or birds.
Consider, too, the scope of services you might need. Look carefully at lists of exclusions and limits on covered services. Policies can be limited to accidents only, or accidents and illness. Some can cover routine vaccinations or checkups, while others omit “wellness” visits. Coverage for hospitalization can also be limited. Does the policy require a vet visit before you can be approved? Are there limitations on claims per year?
Although it’s impossible to predict what the future holds, consider that as your puppy grows older, he might need longer-term care for a number of age-related conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. Look for flexible policies that can adjust to your changing circumstances.
Depending on the number and kind of animals covered, and the services you want, pet health insurance policies can be relatively inexpensive, with premiums starting at under $20 per month. Compare insurers and plans to find the most affordable option with fewest restrictions. Plan how you’ll handle out of pocket costs that the policy won’t cover.
Consider how claims are handled. Most pet insurance policies reimburse for services, so you’ll want to know how to submit a claim and how long it can take to receive payment. If your policy does cover point of service costs, make sure that your veterinarian can accept that plan. Be sure you’re clear on policies for co-pays and deductibles as well.
A new puppy’s nose for adventure can quickly get him into trouble and as he grows, you’ll want to be ready for any health problems that arise. Getting pet insurance for your puppy can be a smart move for a long and healthy life.