Over my 20-plus years of consumer reporting, one of the most common questions has been if pet insurance is worth the cost.
Unforeseen veterinary bills can come as quite a financial blow, so having pet insurance can well be worth it. But it wasn’t until I adopted my own dog that I realized the benefits and peace of mind that comes along with pet insurance. So, now the question becomes what type of pet insurance is best.
If you are on a budget, you can look for a policy that would take care of your pet in the event of something catastrophic. Each company will have their own list of what qualifies as catastrophic. Find out the deductibles and find out if all related care is covered.
For a general pet insurance policy there are certain questions you should get the answers to before signing up. There are policies in which once you pay the deductible for a particular condition, that deductible lasts for the entire time your pet is being treated for the condition. One advantage is if the condition is going to be with your pet for the rest of its life, you won’t have to pay a new deductible every year. This type of policy worked out very well for me. My dog developed a heart condition that was luckily caught very early. I paid the initial deductible, which was basically the cost of the echocardiogram, so I no longer will have to pay a deductible for this condition. Additionally, the medication that he will be on for the rest of his life, future echocardiograms and anything else related to this heart condition will be covered at 90%. That can add up to a significant savings. Compare the deductible plan for each policy you are considering. Some plans may offer annual deductibles which could work better for your needs.
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One of the most important things to check before signing on the dotted line is the pre-existing condition clause. I have heard from a lot of people over the years that when it came to getting treatment for their pets, they were denied coverage because the treatment was for a pre-existing condition. Another question to ask is how the insurance company deals with diseases or conditions that are inherent to a particular breed. I did a story once on a woman who had a Bernese mountain dog. Her dog needed to have a surgery, but the insurance company denied the claim because certain genetic conditions were not covered. The bottom line is to find out if there are any exclusions for your pet.
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I always suggest calling the customer service of any insurance company you are considering to see how helpful they are. If they are knowledgeable, friendly and responsive you will most likely receive similar service once you are a policy holder.
If you live near a veterinary school, they may have a clinic offering low-cost procedures and services. As students near their graduation, they need the real-life experience of working with animals and pets. It can be a win-win for someone who doesn’t have pet insurance, or their insurance denies something such as an expensive surgery. Find out the school’s procedure for supervision by instructors and veterinarians are during any surgeries.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $ aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her money saving tips and ways to give back on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $ aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at JeanettePavini.com.