21 May What You Need To Know About Cat Insurance
There have been some amazing advances in veterinary care over the past decade. Many conditions that would have caused a pet to be euthanised in the past can be treated now.
But the downside is that veterinary care has become very costly. A broken leg can cost £2,000 to £5,000 to treat. Surgery costs can be in the thousands. And if your cat develops cancer, treatment can cost up to £10,000.
We all hope that our kitties will always be healthy. Nobody want to think about their cat being injured in an accident or developing a serious health condition. But the reality is that one in every three pets will need emergency vet care every year. And two out of three will have a serious health problem during their lifetime.
Is pet health insurance a good idea? Maybe. There are many different plans and policies available. You need to consider deductibles, limits on benefits, and how much coverage you want. Your pet’s age will be a factor also. Some companies won’t insure older pets at all.
Do your homework so you can make a wise buying decision and not have any unpleasant surprises later.
Do I Really Need Cat Health Insurance?
Any insurance is a gamble. You buy it, thinking you may need it. The company is selling it, thinking that you won’t. A lot of people feel that if their kitty has one big health problem in her lifetime, the insurance has paid for itself. With the cost of veterinary care today, this is a good point. If you never use the insurance, that means your pet has never had a serious health problem, which is good, too.
Take into account the monthly cost of premiums over the life of your pet. For example, if you pay $15 a month, this is $180 a year. Over ten years, that comes to £1800. One surgical procedure or broken leg would exceed that. But remember that you will have out-of-pocket costs for co-pays and deductibles.
If you spend over £180 a year for vet care for one pet, insurance may be a good deal. But you need to take into account your kitty’s age, any chronic health conditions she may have, and the type of coverage you want.
Some people open up a special savings account for pet medical care. This may be a good idea if you can stick with it and not use the money for anything else. But if your kitty needs expensive care before you have enough money saved up, it could be a problem.
Obviously there are many factors to consider. Read the fine print of any policy you’re considering and be sure of what is covered before you sign on the dotted line.
If you decide to buy pet health insurance, choose a company that has been in business for at least ten years. Ask your vet if he or she has ever heard of them. Companies come and go, and you don’t want to find out that your insurance company is no longer in business when you need to file a claim.
How Does Pet Medical Insurance Work?
It’s a little different from human health insurance. You take your kitty to the vet for treatment and pay for it at the time services are rendered. Then you fill out the insurance form (your vet’s office may need to fill out some or all of it), and submit it to the company yourself.
You are reimbursed by the insurance company, usually within two to four weeks. It’s important to know ahead of time how your reimbursement is calculated. Some insurance companies will pay you a certain percentage of your vet’s bill. Others have a benefit schedule that limits the amount they will pay. They will only pay you a percentage of this amount, NOT a percentage of how much you actually paid. Be clear on this point BEFORE you buy the policy to avoid surprises later.
Every insurance policy has exclusions, or things that are not covered. We’re all familiar with the “pre-existing condition” clause. This can include neutering or spaying, hip dysplasia and other hereditary conditions, vaccinations, flea control, heartworm meds and treatment, dental care, past injuries, and any chronic condition your pet has.
If your cat has been treated for an ongoing condition, and your insurance company paid for it, be careful at renewal time. This condition may be considered a “pre-existing condition” when you go to renew the policy and won’t be covered again. Ask specifically if the problem will still be covered.
There are pet insurance companies who do not list what is and isn’t covered by their policies. Get in writing exactly what conditions are or are not covered.
Insure Your Pet’s Health For Pennies A Day!
All insurance plans have deductibles. If you choose a higher deductible, you will have lower premiums. But you’ll pay more each time your kitty goes to the vet. The size of your deductible probably depends on your pet’s health. If your kitty rarely needs vet care, a higher deductible would be better. But if she has a chronic problem requiring frequent vet visits, you would probably want a lower deductible.
Your insurance company may charge a deductible of £50 or more for each procedure, depending on how old your cat is.
Others require that you co-pay 10% to 20% of the vet’s fee. The companies say this is to prevent unnecessary procedures and tests, and there’s probably some truth in this. But it also cuts down on the number of claims paid.
You will want to know if there is a penalty if you need to change your plan or deductible due to financial problems.
Are There Caps?
A cap is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay each year and/or for each condition. Many companies have a cap for each covered condition. There may be an annual cap too. If you exceed this cap, you won’t be covered.
A lifetime cap is the maximum amount a company will pay out over your cat’s lifetime. One company has a lifetime cap of £12,000. They say that only one in 50,000 cats ever goes over that amount in a lifetime. This may or may not be true as the cost of vet care, especially specialty care, continues to increase.
Be sure you are aware of the caps on your cat’s coverage.
Can You Go To Any Vet You Want?
Most companies do allow you to choose your own vet. But some do require that you use only vets on their list. This can be a pain if there are no local vets on the list.
If your pet get sick in the middle of the night or has an accident, is emergency care covered? Is any follow-up care covered too?
How about treatment by specialists? If your cat needs specialised treatment for, say, an eye problem, or for cancer, you want to be sure she’s covered.
Should I Get Insurance For My Kitten Or Wait Until She’s Older?
It can be very difficult to find health insurance for an older kitty. Many companies either charge high premiums for a senior cat or they won’t even cover her if she’s nine years old or older. This is because, like us, kitties are more likely to develop cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, and other problems as they get older. And some of these problems take years to develop, meaning that they would be considered pre-existing conditions which wouldn’t be covered.
If you buy health insurance for your kitten, the premiums will be lower. Plus you may be able to lock in the premium rate until she’s 12. This depends on the company, so be sure to ask. Plus, if your kitten develops a problem as she gets older, she’ll probably be covered.
You also want to know if you can continue the policy as your cat gets older. Will premiums increase? How much? Increases of 40% for older cats are common. Find out now, not later, when it may be impossible to insure her with another company.
How Long Does It Take To Settle A Claim?
This is a good question to ask. Some companies take over a month, while others settle within 15 days. Since you’ve already paid the vet’s bill, you want to be reimbursed as quickly as possible.
The Bottom Line
Whether or not to buy pet health insurance is a decision every cat owner must make for themselves. You may want to consider a policy that covers catastrophic events like accidents or serious illnesses, and pay for regular vet care yourself.
In any event, do some research when you get a quote for pet insurance. Some companies have so many restrictions that they avoid paying most claims. Read the policy carefully and understand what is and isn’t covered BEFORE you sign it.
If you decided you are interested in pet health insurance, a company I recommend that you consider is QuickCare Pet Insurance. Be sure to do your homework before buying any health insurance policy for your pet.