If you’re thinking about pet insurance, let’s face it, your dog is more than just a pet. Most likely, they play an integral role in your daily life and as such, they require the same health protection that you do.
Policy coverage will differ between providers and even different dog breeds. As such, you will require due diligence to select the right plan, from the right company that perfectly suited your dog’s needs.
The only way to know if your plan will truly cover your dog’s medical bills in a time in need is to do your research.
Below we outline our Top 10 things to consider when purchasing pet insurance for dogs, along with the reasoning behind why we recommend Healthy Pets Pet Insurance for USA residents.
1. How Fast Can You Make a Reimbursement Claim?
Why is this our #1 question? Because getting your money back is what makes insurance purchase worthwhile in the first place.
If your dog is injured or ill, the claiming process need to straightforward and quick, because more likely than not you will need that money back a.s.a.p.
Sure, some companies might offer unseemly low monthly premiums or promise a wide-range of treatment options that others don’t, but how easy is it to actually make a claim and get your money back?
Mobile Apps / Quick Turnarounds
In today’s world, everything can be done with a mobile phone and when it comes to pet insurance, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The most reputable companies offer easy access to make claims and quick turnarounds through Mobile Apps.
Check The Reviews
Words on a website mean nothing. Don’t simply believe what a company says about themselves, find out what other people are saying is true.
A truly dissatisfied customer will easily tell you everything you need to know about the process and if there are many of those, be sure to steer clear. Within the reviews, look for the following remarks.
- Are there any complaints about non-coverage?
- How easy is it to make a claim and file for reimbursement?
- Can the insurance company pay the vet directly?
- Are the payments quick and painless?
The Healthy Paws mobile app allows you to simply take a picture of your invoice and submit a claim for processing right away. Payments are usually made within 10 days of claim receipt and can be paid directly to your vet.
2. What are my Monthly Premium Costs?
Pet insurance policies do not come in a one-size-fits-all package. You can, however, easily get an estimate of the costs these days by filling out a quick online form.
While pricing is usually a deciding factor in the decision on whether or not to purchase pet insurance, but do make sure it’s not the only one. Monthly costs will vary from provider-to-provider, but so will the fine-print attached to them.
Depending on your dog’s breed, age, and where you live the monthly insurance premiums can vary from $20-$150+.
In general, as your dog gets older and disease and injury become more prevalent, your insurance premiums will increase. Some breeds are also more disposed to injuries/illnesses than others and as such their insurance premiums are higher.
Choosing the right provider can save you thousands of dollars and that is why we recommend getting a quote from Healthy Paws. They have some of the lowest rates in the industry along with 5-star ratings from websites like Consumer Advocates in almost all categories.
3. Does the Insurance Policy Offer Comprehensive Coverage?
You can never predict unforeseen circumstances, so you’ll need the policy you purchases has comprehensive coverage. In general, this should include:
- Illnesses and Accidents
- Hereditary, Congenital and Chronic Conditions including Cancer
- Diagnostic Treatment, X-Rays, Blood Tests and Ultrasounds
- Surgery, Hospitalization and Emergency Care
- Specialty Care and Alternative Treatment
- Prescription Medications
If an insurance provider does not clearly state what is fully covered, chances are they’ve added hidden charges into your policy which will make it much more expensive just when you need it the most.
Healthy Paws is very upfront about what they cover and it includes everything listed above. If your pets need treatment for an accident or illness, as long as it’s a condition that pre-dates your policy, you’re covered.
4. Are There Payout Cap Limits on Reimbursement Claims?
Most cheaper insurance policies will limit the number of claims you can make in three different ways.
- Per Incident
When an injury or illness befalls your dog, it’s hard to tell the severity at a simple glance or how many treatments it will take. There is a lot to consider if needing to cover the cost of imaging, diagnostic tests, hospitalization, surgeries, etc. and you need to know that your insurance will cover it all.
If your policy has cap limits, anything above them will have to be paid out of pocket, so make sure they either unlimited or at least very, very high.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts with Healthy Paws coverage. You get unlimited reimbursement with no payout caps per incident, annual or lifetime. When they say, you’re covered, you’re truly covered.
5. What are the Policy Exclusions (Things not Covered)?
You shouldn’t have to dig through the fine print of your insurance policy to know what is and isn’t covered. The last thing you need is to only find out when making a reimbursement claim that you’re not actually covered for it.
In general, you should insist on anything in the comprehensive coverage being included while knowing in advance that the items below are generally excluded from coverage.
This means a condition that first occurred or showed clinical signs or symptoms before your pet’s coverage started, including the waiting period. Basically, you need to purchase insurance before something happens, not afterward to be covered for it.
This is a regular occurrence and not something that is accidental or requires preventive insurance.
Pre-existing Cruciate Ligament Injury
If the cruciate ligament on one leg is injured prior to policy enrollment or during the policy wait period, injuries to the other leg are excluded from coverage.
This is what’s called a bilateral exclusion, where one injury can be the cause of the other. Again, this is to ensure that claims are not made for an injury that has already happened.
This is what’s considered, elective procedures, meaning you can choose to do them to prevent future problems. The cost of doing so, however, is up to you as are any associated fees related to these procedures (i.e. boarding).
Some insurance providers do offer extra coverage in what known as a Wellness Package, but once added to your monthly premiums, your annual totals will skyrocket.
- Vaccinations and titer tests
- Spaying and neutering
- Anal gland expression
- Nail trimming and grooming
- Flea control, parasite control, heartworm medication and de-worming
- Dental health care outside of injury (i.e. brushing, cleaning, etc.)
- Dog training, therapy or mental health care
- Behavioral modification or medications required for it
When not specifically related to accident or illness coverage.
Healthy Paws clearly states what they do not cover and it’s consistently above industry standards. While there is no extra Wellness Package, their comprehensive coverage is both affordable and top-notch.
6. What are the Policy Deductible Amounts?
Each insurance company will offer different types of deductibles with either per-incident, annual or lifetime values. This is the money you will have to pay out of pocket before you will receive any reimbursement.
In general, these deductibles will range between $200 and $1000 and the lower the value, the higher your monthly premiums will be.
Once you meet your policy deductible in health care costs, the insurance company will pay a pre-determined percentage (usually 70-090%) of your remaining veterinarian bills.
While policies that contain them are usually cheaper, they can be problematic if you have to pay several deductibles due to several root causes of illness.
The true benefit of a low deductible is that you only pay it once, while per-condition means you pay it every single time. In essence, you are saving a few monthly dollars with this type of deductible while gambling that only one thing will happen to your dog in a given year.
This is an annual amount that is minus from your treatment coverage reimbursement. As in, a lump sum that you will pay out of pocket for any treatments over one year.
Once you used your deductible, all other treatments are fully covered up to your reimbursement level. The deductible amount then resets on the anniversary of your pet’s enrollment.
This does not mean you have to wait a year to get reimbursed, just that you have to reach a minimum in spending within a particular year to receive reimbursement.
$500 ? Covered treatments
x 90% ? Reimbursement Level
– $200 ? Annual Deductible
=$250 ? Reimbursement Amount
These are the same as annual deductions but calculated over your pet’s lifetime. These limits are usually quite high and meaning that you have pay all of your vet bills prior to reaching this amount before they will reimburse you.
There is an advantage to only having to pay the deductible once, but it also means you have to pay a lot of money upfront before you will ever be able to claim reimbursement.
Healthy Paws coverage has options for annual deductibles of $100, $250, $500 or $750. Choosing a higher amount will lower your monthly premiums, but also lower your initial reimbursement amount.
7. What are the Reimbursement Model Percentages?
Typically you’ll see reimbursement levels from 60-90%. This is the amount of money you’ll get back when making a claim.
As your pet ages and the risks become greater, the number of available levels will decrease. Choosing a higher reimbursement level will increase the return on your claim, while also increasing your monthly premiums.
If you choose an 80% reimbursement rate, then you will only have to pay 20% of the remaining bill beyond your policy deductible.
Some insurance company may not include the full bill or even the taxes in your reimbursement, so be careful of hidden charges and the sordid details only found in the fine print.
Healthy Paws coverage has reimbursement levels of 60%, 70%, 80% and 90% with payment based on the actual veterinarian bill. Whatever the bills says, minus your annual deductible is what you’ll be reimbursed (see deductible calculation above).
8. What is the Policy Waiting Period?
For protection against fraud, most pet insurance policies will have a waiting period before you can make a claim. This means that any accident or illness that happens to your dog prior to enrollment or during the waiting period is NOT covered.
The waiting period is usually 2-3 weeks from the start of your policy. The earlier you enroll, the quicker your coverage begins.
At Healthy Paws your policy takes effect on 12:01am the day AFTER you enroll your pet(s). The waiting period is 15-days, meaning your coverage only starts on the 16th day.
9. Does the Policy Include Lifetime Coverage?
It only goes without saying that you don’t want your insurance policy to run out before you need it.
Not all policies will cover the complete lifetime of your pet and the cutoff age will vary from company to company. Others will offer lifetime coverage with increasing monthly premiums as your pet gets older.
The cutoff for new policies on aging pets is wide-ranged, but if your pet is already in double-digits, expect a hefty monthly premium.
Healthy Pets offers lifetime coverage as long as premiums are paid and their new enrollment cutoff is quite high at up to 14 years of age.
10. How Accessible in the Customer Service?
You might ask why we left for last, but it simply because there is little to separate available companies that we haven’t already mentioned.
In general, you’re looking at customer service hours from early morning business hours (7-8 am) with late afternoon closing (4-5 pm). Weekend times usually shift to being one hour later.
Websites and their FAQs are always online and if your insurance provider has a mobile app, you can file a claim 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.
Emails contact addresses like email@example.com are pretty standard, toll-free 1-800 numbers. Chat and social media are also possible options.
All-in-all it’s the third-party reviews of customer service that hold the most weight and if you’ve already done your research to this point you will already know.
We wouldn’t be recommending Healthy Paws if their customer service was not exemplary and their FAQs extensive. They are simply one of the best! We do however recommend using their mobile app as it’s the easiest way to make a claim.
Quick Summary of Why We Recommend Healthy Paws
At Healthy Paws, you can be sure you’ll receive exceptional coverage, fast claim processing, and unmatched customer service. The flexible plan focuses on giving the best value and it’s well worth saying goodbye to unexpected veterinarian bills.