Pet Insurance, the Mysteries Explained
Pet insurance is an important consideration of pet ownership, however, with many different policy options and insurance jargon, it can get confusing - especially for first time pet owners. All too frequently we see pets at the practice who are supposedly insured but the policy is not valid due to a technicality or oversight. What follows is brief guide to pet insurance which will hopefully clear some of the murky waters a little!
Which policy is which?
Broadly speaking there are 2 types of insurance policy:
Life cover policies pay out for the life of the pet. They are limited either by a total spend in the policy year or by a fixed total amount which can be claimed per condition over the life of the pet. (See policy limit).
Annual policies pay for one year only from the date that the condition started – they are cheaper than life cover.
Insurance Premium: The insurance premium is the amount you pay for the insurance cover for your pet. Payments can be made monthly or annually.
Policy Limit: The policy limit is the amount of money that your policy will pay out if your pet requires treatment. It is usually a set amount per condition, although some life cover policies have a limit per year which resets every time that the policy is renewed. Higher policy limits attract higher premiums.
Excess: The excess is the amount that you have to pay when a claim is made for treatment. The excess is usually a fixed amount, although some policies charge a percentage of the total claim – watch out for this! If you have an annual policy, you will only pay the excess once per condition claimed – even if several different claim forms are submitted for the same condition. If you have a long term condition being claimed on a life cover policy, then an excess is paid every policy year. Higher insurance excesses attract lower premiums.
Exclusions: Exclusions are conditions which the insurance policy will not provide cover for. Exclusions normally exist either because they existed before the policy was taken out or because the maximum amount that can be claimed for a particular condition on a policy has been utilised.
Things to watch out for:
Switching insurance companies:
If you decide to switch from one insurance provider, you need to beware of two things:
Firstly, the new insurance provider will not cover ANY previous conditions that your pet has suffered from, even if you have never made a claim. If it has been referenced in the clinical notes that we (vets) make when you bring your pet in to the surgery, then it will not be covered.
Secondly, when you take out a new policy, there is an initial period (usually 14 days), where your pet will not be covered. If you are going to switch, it is sensible to make sure there is an overlap from your original provider to cover this period. We often come across situations where pet owners find that their pet is not covered for treatment for one of the above reasons, so even if another company is offering a cheaper premium, it is not always the right thing to swap!
Which policy to choose?
You may well still be wondering what policy is best for you. As a rough guide, if you want peace of mind that your pet will always be covered, then a life cover policy is best.
If you just want cover for the large, unexpected cost such as a fracture repair but can cope with regular payments for a long term condition, then an annual policy will suffice.
A limit of £4000 per condition will be ample for most problems, although serious injuries or conditions requiring specialist intervention can be more expensive.
Hopefully the world of pet insurance is now a bit easier to understand! However, if you are still confused, please do not hesitate to contact the practice and we will be able to help you with any queries.