INTRODUCTION TO PET INSURANCE
From homes, autos, vacations and even our smartphones, we purchase insurance to protect our most precious possessions. A beloved furry family member certainly qualifies as ‘precious’ in any household.
Pet insurance means that you have to imagine the possibility of an unforeseen medical, worst-case scenario involving your beloved pets well-being. You shouldn’t have to worry about how to pay for the best veterinary medicine available when the unexpected arrives at your doorstep.
Serious illness or accidents can result in a severe financial hit for some people. Cancer treatments can run into the thousands. Fixing a broken bone from an ill-timed or less-than-elegant launch off the living room couch can exceed $3000.
Injury or Illness Typical Cost
- Hit by car $1987
- Foreign body ingestion $7552
- Poisonous plant ingestion $2247
- Lymphoma $3500 and up
- Bilateral cruciate rupture $5800
*costs reflect procedures in major metropolitan areas based on Trupanion’s research and experience.
Unless you literally keep you pet “on a short leash” and take every measure to keep them from harm, there will always exist the possibility of a large, unplanned bill you didn’t budget for. Not only do you feel the pain of your injured or sick pet, the pain in your bank account can be just as devastating. In some dire circumstances, we see pet parents put in the difficult position of considering “economic euthanasia” as an option. With pet insurance, this situation can be avoided.
Pet insurance helps to remove the sharp edges of uncertainty.
HOW DOES PET HEALTH INSURANCE WORK?
Pets aren’t cars, but the analogy holds true – pet insurance is similar to auto insurance. Unlike autos, it not illegal to walk your dog without insurance.
Quite simply, you select a coverage plan and pay a monthly premium. The coverage you select will depend on what you want to have covered. This can range from just accidents to the whole enchilada – accidents, illnesses and wellness components, such as vaccinations, prescriptions and exams.
Not only will the scope of the coverage matter in how much your monthly premium will cost, but other factors matter, too: this include your pet’s species, age, breed, area code and reproductive status.
Once you have decided on the level of coverage, you pick a deductible that makes sense for your unique situation. This amount is what you pay out-of-pocket when submitting a claim. The higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium and vice versa. The insurance company covers the rest.
In general, veterinarians do not directly process pet insurance claims. It’s important to mention that when a pet needs emergent medical care, you and your veterinarian make independent decisions on what treatments to pursue – not the insurance company.
Typically, the entire bill gets paid at the clinic and then you submit a claim to your insurance provider. If covered, the insurance company reimburses you for a percentage of the bill – this is all based upon your plan’s coverage at this point. The drawback is that this requires you to have enough cash or credit on hand to pay the bill while waiting to get reimbursed by the insurance company.
Some pet insurance companies offer to pay the vet clinic costs directly, as is the case for our preferred partner, Trupanion. No waiting for reimbursement.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PET INSURANCE?
Pet insurance companies offer a wide array of different products, but the main types of insurance products areas follows:
- Accident Only: As you might expect, accident only pet insurance covers the cost of treatment for your pet if it’s been involved in an accident. ie. hit by car, swallows a sock (hello Labs!)
- Accident and Illness: same as above, but also covers illnesses such as diabetes, heartworm and cancer.
- Insurance with Wellness Riders: covers accident and illness and may include a preventative wellness element such as vaccinations, annual exams and/or acupuncture treatments.
HOW MUCH ARE PREMIUMS? DEDUCTIBLES?
The monthly premium you pay is based on the species, breed, age and area code of your pet. In general, there is a small difference in cost between a dog and cat – a difference normally due to the types of veterinary services that each animal needs.
In Canada, the average monthly insurance premium for basic pet insurance is $39 for a dog and $29 for a cat. So, for your beloved canine or feline partner-in-crime, you can expect to pay between $350-$475 per year.
The advantage of a higher deductible is a lower monthly premium. However, this means that you’ll have to cover more out-of-pocket services first before the insurance kicks in.
A higher premium with a lower deductible could save you a lot of money a longer timeframe, if you have a pet known to have persistent health problems, such as French bulldogs (ear infections and conjunctivitis) or a German Shepherd (hip dysplasia).
In Canada, you’ll find three categories of deductibles:
- Per Condition (yearly): A deductible for each condition; resets every year
- Per-Condition (lifetime): A separate deductible for each condition
- Annual: One deductible for any condition.
Lifetime/Annual Payout Limits
Many pet insurance companies in Canada have limits on what the insurance will pay out in a calendar year or in a lifetime. Some companies offer an annual limits of up to $15000, while others will have no lifetime ceilings – Trupanion – after the deductible conditions have been met.
Most pet insurance plans allow you to customize a policy to placate your budget by varying the deductible amounts or the annual limit caps. This will allow you to factor in how much you would be likely to spend in veterinary bills versus the cost of the premium.
WHAT ISN’T COVERED BY PET HEALTH INSURANCE?
Pet health insurance plans DO NOT cover pre-existing conditions. A Pre-Existing Condition as defined by our preferred provider – Trupanion:
“A pre-existing condition is any injury or illnesses that your pet shows symptoms of before coverage begins.” They look for “any condition that presented before enrolling in a policy or during the waiting periods (5 days for injuries, 30 days for illnesses) to determine what is a pre-existing condition and not eligible for coverage.”
How an insurance provider determines what is considered a “pre-existing condition” will vary by company. Read the fine print for their definition of a “pre-existing condition”, ask questions and get a detailed list of what’s covered before you sign on the dotted line.
Half of all pets will have a major illness in their lifetime. That said, they have access to better treatment than ever before. Advances in technology and training have extended the lives of our beloved pets the world over.
However, treatment can be pricey – veterinary bills can add up to thousand of dollars. Is it pet insurance worth it? We’ve seen pet insurance significantly rise in North America and we see it locally in Cabbagetown – more pet parents are taking the step to protect their pet – and themselves – then ever before.
WE ♥ TRUPANION
Trupanion Canada is our preferred pet insurance partner and just happens to be one of the largest providers in Canada. They keep pet insurance simple by offering a single (and excellent) pet insurance plan that will cover the needs of most pet parents.
They have an industry-leading reimbursement rate of 90% with the ability to directly invoice your veterinarian through their Vet Direct Pay feature. This eliminates a potentially large upfront, out-of-pocket payment to your veterinarian, including us. Instead, the Cabbagetown Pet Clinic submits a claim when you check out – you only pay a portion of your bill while Trupanion pays the rest directly to our clinic. Easy-peasy…
- The deductible is per condition
- Direct payment to your veterinarian option
- Reimbursement is 90% of your actual veterinary bill
- No lifetime limits on accidents and illness coverage
Find out how to receive 30 days of FREE coverage at your next appointment.
If you believe your pet – especially a higher-maintenance breed – may put you in a position where you’ll have difficulty covering a large, out-of-pocket bill, pet insurance may be your ticket some peace of mind.
Like most insurance policies, it’s a bit of a gamble. Unexpected events happen – you just hope it doesn’t happen to your pet.
Make sure you grasp what is (and isn’t) covered, policy caps, reimbursement levels and any other fees you may need to pay if you need to use your plan, BEFORE you purchase a policy.
Take the time to research ALL options and get online quotes – arm yourself with information (there’s no shortage of it!) to help make a decision that suits your individual needs best.