COLUMBUS — Summer is here and that not only means more daylight and better weather to enjoy outdoor activities, but it also brings an increased risk of injury or illness for your pet enjoying the warm weather with you. Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Director Mary Taylor said that those considering purchasing pet insurance to help pay veterinary expenses should become familiar with it before making a purchase.
“Just as you would with insurance for yourself, you need to shop around to determine what product you are most comfortable with and that’s the most appropriate for your pet,” Taylor said. “You should also add up the costs of the policy for the expected life of your animal, taking into consideration how much you could afford to pay for emergency treatment or a long illness.”
Some medical services and treatments for animals have become more advanced and therefore more expensive, and according to a recent Associated Press/Petside.com survey, more than 40% of pet owners surveyed said they’re worried they wouldn’t be able to afford health care for a sick dog or cat.
Before you make your choice, the Ohio Department of Insurance has provided information to help you make an informed one.
Pet Insurance Options:
Pet Health Insurance – Just like health insurance for you or a family member, there are several types of pet insurance policies. A pet health insurance policy reimburses the pet owner for covered veterinary care. As with your health insurance, these policies typically itemize covered treatments, and have deductibles and lifetime or per illness maximums. The cost of a pet health insurance policy will vary based on the amount of coverage, the type of coverage, the species and age of the pet, and even what breed of animal.
Pet Life Insurance – This type of policy covers end of life costs for your animal. This can include burial or cremation expenses and even bereavement counseling for you and your family.
Pet Injury Insurance – This is a new type of coverage that may be part of your auto insurance policy. It covers the treatment of a pet injured in a car accident up to a set limit. Check with your insurance agent or company to determine if your auto policy includes coverage for a pet traveling in the car with you.
What to Compare:
Covered Conditions – Some pet health insurance policies may reimburse covered medical expenses for accidents, illnesses, surgeries, X-rays, prescriptions, hospitalizations, emergencies or cancer treatments. Other pet insurance plans may only cover accident and illness after a waiting period.
Pre-existing Conditions – Hereditary conditions and certain medical conditions are considered pre-existing. Ask about pre-existing conditions and review the policy to see if they are covered. Look to see if the conditions are considered curable or incurable. For curable conditions, the company may choose to enforce a waiting period before coverage begins. Incurable conditions such as diabetes or cancer may be excluded entirely or may be covered on a limited basis. A vet may have to examine your pet to certify its health before it can be insured.
Renewable Benefits – If your pet is treated for a covered condition during the policy term, some companies will then consider that condition a pre-existing condition when the policy renews and will exclude coverage for that condition in the renewal policy.
Exclusions – Treatments not covered by pet insurance can vary by type of pet or breed. Not all pet insurance plans cover preventative care, dental care not associated with an accident or injury, treatment of behavioral problems, breed-specific hereditary conditions or elective procedures. Treatment of congenital conditions or hereditary conditions may have a limited benefit.
Reimbursement – What the insurance company will pay per treatment is explained in a benefits schedule. This list outlines how much by percentage of cost or dollar amount the company will pay for treatments. You may also be responsible for co-payments or deductibles. Make sure you understand how the policy makes payments. Some companies will pay the vet for services, but often you’ll be responsible for the full amount at the time of treatment and then the company will reimburse you for the covered amount.
Veterinarian Networks – Some pet health insurance policies will require you to use a specific network of vets. Check to make sure there is a vet in your area or that your family vet is in your network if you don’t want to change.
Questions to Ask the Insurance Agent or Company:
- Can I choose any vet?
- Does the policy cover annual wellness exams?
- Is there a dollar limit for vet office fees?
- Are prescription drugs covered?
- What about spaying or neutering charges?
- Does the policy have renewable benefits?
- Is there a waiting period before coverage becomes effective?
- Does my pet need a health exam to get the policy?
- If my pet has a pre-existing condition or chronic condition, how is that covered or excluded?
- How long do you take to pay claims?
- Does this plan cover advertising costs and rewards if my pet is lost or stolen?
- Does this plan have end of life benefits?
The Ohio Department of Insurance regulates pet insurance sold in Ohio. If you have any questions about the coverage or want to check that a company or agent are licensed to sell the coverage, call the Department at 1-800-686-1526. You can follow the Department on twitter @OHInsurance and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OhioDepartmentofInsurance.