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Pet Insurance: Is it the Right Choice for you?

 by jaime on 02 Jul 2014 |
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We often take out insurance for our home and contents, for our cars, when we go on holidays and to cover our own medical expenses. But what about our pets?

Like us, pets are living longer and are also benefitting from medical advancements, meaning for the first time, they can access medical treatments and drugs they never were able to before. But of course, it all comes at a cost.

Like other forms of insurance, pet insurance pays either fully or a portion of the costs associated with medical treatment on an insured pet. Policies and types of cover vary greatly between companies and location, with some even offering 'comprehensive' insurance, which helps cover costs for things such as routine check ups and even in some cases, if the pet dies, is lost or stolen or is involved in an accident. Policies are continually evolving to keep up with medical advancement, so some even cover medications and alternative therapies, or boarding costs (if owner is hospitalised).

Pet insurance is certainly on the rise, making the market more competitive - however there are still more pets uninsured than are, with many pet owners either not considering insuring their pet worth it or find it all too expensive. Fortunately, pet insurance companies are becoming more flexible in what they offer meaning they're able to cater to pet owners of all budgets and requirements. On some policies you can even deduct certain aspects of coverage depending on your needs. Pet insurance is becoming so popular, some companies will now offer it as an optional add-on employee benefit.

As mentioned, the types of cover you can receive differs depending on where you live. For example in the United Kingdom, where insuring your pet is very popular, many policies will pay 100% of vet fees, where as other companies may offer a discounted rate for a policy if the customer chooses to pay an "excess" (the amount you agree to pay before the insurance company pays.)

In the United States and Canada, policies can either pay off a benefit schedule or a percentage of the vet costs (sometimes as much as 90%), after reaching a deductible (the amount of expenses that must be paid out of pocket before an insurer will pay any expenses) - but again it depends on the the company and what policy is chosen.
Even though it is health insurance, pet insurance is viewed more like property insurance, where by you have to pay the upfront costs and are then reimbursed once you put in a claim to your insurance company. However, in some instances where fees are very high, veterinarians and health practicioners will agree to allow payment to be delayed until a claim is processed or the insurer pays direct to them.  

Choosing to take our pet insurance is no easy decision and it can be mind boggling to sift through the various policies and companies on offer. Your pet's existing health, their needs and your budget should all be considered when making a choice. These are some things to consider when purchasing pet insurance:

    •    Does your pet have any congenital or hereditary conditions? Will they be covered?
    •    How is reimbursement calculated?
    •    Is the deductible on a per-incident or annual basis?
    •    Are there any limits or caps?
    •    Is there an annual contract that decides that anything diagnosed in the previous year of coverage is not considered a pre-existing condition in the new year.

There are some great price comparison websites out there who can help make your choice a little easier.

There are definite critics of pet insurance who think it be far wiser just to put away money each year in an emergency account which you can access if a situation should arise, rather than paying for coverage that you can't be sure you'll ever need. For other pet owners, pet insurance can offer peace of mind for when unexpected things come up and allows them to give their beloved pets the chance to access all the medical assistance they need to not only help any accidents or sudden ailments but to also access a variety of medical treatments to help improve their overall health, wellbeing and longevity.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer - the choice is purely up to you and what you feel is best for you, your family, your pet - and your bank balance.

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