Our furry friends are part of the family and there's no question that we'll do whatever it takes to keep them healthy. But if an unexpected health issue arises, bringing with it large unexpected costs, one big question may spring to mind: How can I pay for all this? Many pet owners wonder if pet insurance is the answer.
"You'll get the lowest price if you buy when the animal is young," states Herb Weisbaum, the award-winning columnist of MSNBC's weekly column Consumer Man.
Furthermore, you save significantly if your pet is in general good health. Many plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, and according to Weisbaum, "Most policies do not cover congenital or hereditary conditions."
Even though you the best benefit is obtained by getting insurance prior to your pet developing a condition, you can still make sure the odds are in your favor by talking to your vet. Many breeds are prone to different conditions or are known for being hearty and long-lived, and your vet will be able to give you a good prediction regarding your pet's health, which can help you identify if an insurance policy is right for your pet.
The insurance providers are aware of these breed trends too, however, and many consider hereditary or congenital conditions to be pre-existing conditions, so they are therefore excluded. Be sure to read all the details of the plan and its exceptions before you sign up and determine if there is additional coverage you can purchase for hereditary and congenital conditions.
In addition to determining which conditions are covered, it is important to determine exactly which healthcare providers are covered, as some insurance providers consider primary vets to be only those who are licensed and members of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
"Vets don't have to join the AVMA in order to practice; it's voluntary," says Bark magazine contributing editor Rebecca Wallick. "Some choose to join the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association instead, yet under such a policy, if your vet chose HSVMA over AVMA, her services wouldn't be covered."
Lastly, be aware of the manner in which the policy provider pays for covered expenses. Many pet insurance plans require the policyholder to pay the veterinarian up front and then seek reimbursement afterward, a feature that can be surprising for many people and a source of aggravation at a time that may already be stressful.
Regardless of whether you have insurance, having an emergency savings account set up specifically for your pet is still advisable and may even be necessary to cover emergency health costs. In fact, since insurance holders may be required to pay large sums up front-the very thing they were hoping to avoid-many pet owners choose to skip out on insurance and instead put the money they would have spent each month on premiums right into a savings account, where it can grow with interest to cover unexpected future costs and provide peace of mind.
Make sure to talk to your financial institution about setting up a savings account to guard against any unexpected health costs for your pet, regardless of your decision about insurance.