According to the 2021–2022 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, 70% of U.S. households, or nearly 90.5 million homes, own a pet.
These households spent $123.6 billion in 2021 and $103.6 billion in 2020, increasing their expenditure every year from 2018. In 2021, veterinary care was the second-largest component of pet owner spending, accounting for $34.3 billion, or about 30% of annual spending.
The soaring cost of veterinary care has caught the attention of Americans. In 2021, more than 4.41 million pets in the United States were insured by a pet insurance policy, at a cost of $2.6 billion.
It’s a young industry: it wasn’t until 1982 when the famous canine Lassie obtained a pet insurance policy, that pet insurance became a formalised alternative.
Nonetheless, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) reports that “since 2017, the average yearly growth rate of insured pets has been 21.5%.”
Finding the finest pet insurance is very dependent on your pet’s situation and the type of coverage you require. Despite its growing popularity, just 25 companies in North America offer pet insurance in 2022, with 99% of them being NAPIA members.
Here’s what you should know.
Advantages of Pet Insurance
You treat your pet as if it were a member of the family, but the insurance business regards Fido or Fluffy as property.
As a result, pet insurance works more like property insurance than health insurance. However, before you inform someone that your pet isn’t property, keep in mind that this status works in your favour.
When compared to health insurance policies created for humans, reading and comprehending the policy is a piece of cake. Consider the following benefits:
- Choice of Vet: As long as the vet is licensed, pet insurers won’t tell you whom you can and can’t see. There are no out-of-network doctors such as those your own health insurance policy probably dictates.
- Simple Policies: Most companies have only three tiers from which to choose. There is accident-only (basic coverage); accident and illness (comprehensive coverage); and wellness coverage, which is for preventative procedures only and doesn’t cover emergencies.
- Cheap Premiums: Insurance costs vary with coverage and policy but, in general, wellness coverage costs about $10 per month, accident-only coverage runs about $11 (for cats) and $20 (for dogs) per month, and accident and illness coverage averages about $29 (for cats) and $49 (for dogs) per month. Of course, the cost depends on a host of variables, including the breed and age of the animal, where you live, and the options you choose as part of your policy.
You can figure out a pet insurance policy if you understand insurance jargon.
You will pay a monthly or annual premium, a deductible (the amount you must pay before the policy takes effect), and perhaps a co-pay.
Deductibles can range from $50 to $250, although high-deductible plans are available to save money on premiums. Co-pays range from 10% to 30% of the total cost.
There is one significant difference between this policy and many human healthcare policies. The first person to pay is you, not the insurance company.
In other words, as some doctors’ offices advertise, “payment is payable at the time of service.” Following payment, you file a claim with your pet insurance provider and await payment.
Some vets may permit you to postpone payment until the insurance company has paid its half.
However, before you consent to that high-priced surgery, make sure you understand the payment plan.
Also read: 10 Ways to Make a Claim for Pet Insurance
What to Watch for
First, if your pet has prior problems, your coverage may not cover them, but they must advise you of this.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners passed the Pet Insurance Model Act in August 2022 to establish regulatory guidelines for the expanding pet insurance market.
One of the key aspects dealt with preexisting conditions, stating that the insurer bears the burden of evidence for preexisting conditions and that insurers are limited in their ability to deny certain claims.
Furthermore, any condition covered by the insurance cannot be considered a preexisting condition at the time of policy renewal.
However, it should be noted that the NAIC is a regulatory support organisation administered by top insurance regulators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories and does not have legislative authority.
The waiting period follows. You cannot purchase pet insurance if your pet requires a pricey surgery. That is a tactic that insurers are aware of.
While waiting periods vary by state, they cannot exceed 30 days, and there are no waiting periods for accidents. Before a consumer obtains insurance, insurers must disclose their waiting period policy.
Furthermore, waiting periods and veterinary exams are not permitted as criteria for existing policy renewals.
Inquire about the maximum awards. Maximums may apply per occurrence, per year, or throughout the life of the insurance. In general, the highest-level insurance pays out the most.
Finally, most insurance will raise your premium to account for rising costs as well as your pet’s condition and age.
Some businesses, however, do not. Before signing the policy, inquire about rate increases.
Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?
The answer, according to one well-known consumer publication, is that it depends.
In 2015, Consumer Reports compared pet insurance policies from three major insurers—Embrace, Healthy Paws, and Trupanion—to a lifetime of vet expenses for Guinness, a 12-year-old Labrador mix from Westchester County, N.Y., and Freddie, a nine-year-old mixed-breed cat from Fairfield County, Conn.
According to the magazine, only one policy would have paid out more than his healthcare costs for Freddie, who was in quite good health.
All three approaches, though, would have been worthwhile for Guinness, who was diagnosed with skin cancer.
ConsumersAdvocate.org discovered in 2017 that pet insurance for wellness care is not worth the expense.
According to the survey, the cost of routine treatment is usually low, especially early in a pet’s life, and the yearly insurance cost is around what you can expect to spend directly with a veterinarian.
What Isn’t Covered by Pet Insurance?
Exclusions differ from one company to the next. They are typically outlined in a sample policy that is available on company websites.
Pre-existing conditions are the primary reason that the great majority of claims are refused.
Pet owners should inquire whether a pet insurance company will evaluate their pet’s medical history and notify them upfront if any conditions are considered pre-existing and will not be covered.
Regrettably, not all businesses do this automatically.
So, before you choose a firm to insure your pet, make sure to ask for a review.
Is There Pet Insurance for Exotic Animals?
If you have an unusual pet, you may only have one or two insurers to choose from. The majority of dog and cat insurance policies.
If you have a bird, an iguana, or another type of pet, you should look into Nationwide pet insurance, which is the largest and most well-known supplier of exotic pet insurance.
When something truly catastrophic occurs, insurance is well worth the years of payments spent.
You’re definitely better off placing the monthly premium into a kitty or doggie emergency fund to compensate for such unexpected costs for routine or relatively small problems.
If you decide to buy pet insurance for emergency care, choose the largest deductible you can easily afford.