Pet Insurance: Is it for you?

Category: Copywriting Example

January 29, 2023

Are you thinking of getting pet insurance but need some answers?

You aren’t sure of the cost/benefit ratio, but you do care deeply about your pet and want to do the right thing?

Let me put it to you straight. For most pet owners, not having pet insurance is like playing Russian Roulette. In other words, you are taking a dangerous gamble. But frankly, you are not alone.


Approximately 85 million households in the United States have at least one pet.


Roughly 2 out of every 3 households in the U.S. have pets. This is 85 million households.  It is estimated that only 3% of these households have pet insurance.  While 3% is barely a blip on the charts, it is up from only 1% just a few years ago. 

In addition to the uptick in the number of pets covered in recent years, another positive is that some employers are offering pet insurance through their employee benefit plans. And more employers are lining up to do the same. 

A handful of companies now offer pet bereavement pay, too. 

Are there any exceptions to this dangerous game of Russian Roulette a pet owner plays by not having pet insurance?  

Yes, of course. 

  • If you have sufficient financial resources, and can afford a large, unexpected expense, say $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, or even more for the most serious illnesses and procedures, you get a pass.

  • If a family member is a veterinarian, you might also get a pass. Assess this carefully, however. Even though your family member may not charge for his or her time and expertise, medicines and diagnostics can be more expensive than you would want for an out-of-pocket expense.  Pet insurance may still be the best option.

  • For some, it may be too late to purchase the coverage.  While the coverage may still be available to you, the age and health of your pet may render it prohibitively expensive. 

Only 20% of pet owners can afford to pay a $5,000 veterinary bill.
The Zebra

If you want to stay out of the poor house and/or you do not want to be financially forced to surrender your pet to euthanasia or a shelter, please do your homework and get the insurance policy that best suits your budget and needs.

Each year, 6.3 million pets enter animal shelters, and
920,000 animals are euthanized.

Petpedia

Although long-term personal finances are a significant impetus for buying pet insurance, finances are not the only important consideration.

Early purchase in a pet’s life has strong advantages. Your pet’s health will likely be monitored better.  This leads to earlier detection of illnesses or even some injuries.  Your pet will live a longer, healthier, and happier life, and you will too.  

Owning a dog may decrease the risk of heart
disease-related death by 36%.

Petpedia

A Primer on the Pet Insurance Policy

1. Policy Period

Pet insurance policies are annual policies. Once you decide on the policy, you will have an effective date.  This is the date the policy starts.  The policy will typically renew every year on that same date provided you don’t cancel it and you make the premium payment.   

Policies can typically be canceled during the effective period if desired.

2. Exclusions

Just because you have a policy that is currently in effect, don’t assume that a particular illness will be covered.  There are four typical reasons why an illness won’t be covered. 

a. You may have a pet that has pre-existing conditions* and your policy excludes pre-existing conditions.  

  • My dog, Harry, has a pre-existing condition.  He grows fatty tumors at a pace similar to the dandelions in my neighbor’s front yard.  The good news is that the tumors are not cancerous.  The bad news is that when he needs to have them removed, the procedure is not covered.  Had I purchased my policy before the onset of this condition, the removals would be covered.

b. Some policies, including mine, have a waiting period. 

  • When you first purchase the policy, certain conditions will be excluded for a specified period, typically 30, 60, or 90 days. The insurance carriers want to make sure there are no pre-existing conditions that have not yet been diagnosed.  

c. You may opt for certain exclusions.  Pet owners do this largely to keep the premium lower.

  • For instance, you might purchase an accident-only policy.  Why might you do this?  Although accident-only is certainly not the best coverage, it has a lower cost and is better than having no coverage at all.
  • Or you might exclude wellness benefits from your policy, thus opting to pay for annual checkups, vaccinations, and grooming out of pocket.

d. The insurance company may have some standard exclusions, such as no coverage if the pet is out of the country, no coverage for some hereditary conditions, no cosmetic coverage or dental coverage, and more.  

  • The list of possible exclusions is lengthy. Be sure to review the exclusions of the policy before purchasing  

3. Premiums

The policy you select may allow for monthly, quarterly, or annual payments.  Most people pay monthly with an automatic payment from a credit card or bank account. 

Premiums will vary in amount based on your coverage and exclusions, your pet’s breed and gender, your geographic location, your claims history, and pet health, your deductibles, and your co-pay.  

Because many variables influence premiums, do not assume any published so-called ‘average’ cost of pet insurance will apply to you. There is no good rule-of-thumb to help understand your potential premium.  Simply, get yourself some quotes.    

Harry and friends

The breeds listed below are known for having specific ailments that can affect the premium.

Dogs:

  • Pomeranian – skin and dental problems
  • Boxer – heart and cancer issues
  • Great Dane – cancer and hip dysplasia
  • Shar Pei – skin problems and cancer
  • German Shepherd – cancer and hip dysplasia
  • Golden Retriever and Labrador Retrievers – cancer and hip dysplasia, weight
  • Rottweiler – cancer and hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Dachshund – back problems and disc disease
  • Bulldog – skin and breathing problems
  • Bernese Mountain Dog – cancer and hip dysplasia

Cats:

  • Siamese – respiratory and skin problems
  • Sphynx – skin and dental problems
  • Persian – respiratory and dental 
  • British Shorthair – heart conditions
  • Maine Coon – hip dysplasia and heart problems
  • Scottish Fold – musculoskeletal problems like arthritis
  • Bengal – hip dysplasia and heart problems
  • Ragdoll – bladder stones and heart problems

Talk to your vet to understand your breed’s propensity toward any specific illness. 

4. Deductibles

This is the amount that you as the policyholder pay when a claim is filed.  After your deductible has been paid, the insurance company will contribute to the cost of the claim.  

A higher deductible puts more of the financial responsibility on you, but only up to the amount of the deductible, and the amount of any copay which is discussed next.  

Higher deductibles will have lower premium payments.  

Generally, a policy will allow you to select your deductible from a few options.

5. Co-pays

Not all pet insurance policies have co-pays, but some do. As the policyholder, you can opt for the percentage of the cost you are willing to pay above the deductible. 

If your co-pay is 70/30, you pay 30% of the claim’s cost and insurance pays 70%.   If your co-pay is 90/10, you pay 10% and the insurance company will pay 90%.  The 90/10 policy will have a higher premium than a 70/30 policy with the same coverage.

6. Maximum limit (also called maximum coverage or benefit limit)

This is the maximum amount of coverage you have for your pet in any given year.  For example, you may opt for a $5,000 or $7,500 limit.  There are other available options.  

The higher the limit the more financial responsibility the insurance company has. Hence, the premium will be higher, too.

Some folks will increase the maximum limit as their pet ages.  (Yes, changes, called endorsements, can be made to a policy with the approval of the carrier.)

My dog, Harry, is 14 now.  He develops new ailments and needs new procedures every year. This year he had a tumor removed.   It was biopsied and found to be cancerous.  Thankfully, the cancer was contained, is low density, and is not likely to spread to his organs.  I am happy to say Harry could have a few good years left.

The cost for his tumor removal and testing was $2,016.  It is the beginning of the new policy period, and who knows what will happen next?  But I am glad I increased the maximum annual coverage to $7,500.

7. Optional Coverage

Policies can come with optional coverage.  For instance, do you want illness coverage in addition to accident coverage?  Do you want wellness benefits in addition to standard medical expense coverage?  

Wellness benefits will have different policy variables than the standard health benefits. For instance, there may be no deductible and the maximum limit is often less.  Wellness benefits allow you to file a claim for vaccinations, annual checkups, in some cases even grooming. 

Now that you know the main components of a policy, how do you go about purchasing one?

Obtaining a Pet Insurance Policy

There are four possible ways to purchase your policy:

1. Online

You can search online, compare quotes and policies, and when your decision is made, you can complete the application online.   A good insurance carrier will have this easily streamlined for you.  

When searching try to find a good comparison chart.  It might save you some time and energy, but be sure to confirm the accuracy of the information before purchasing as the information may be outdated or inaccurate. 

Here is another good way to kick-start your online search for the perfect carrier: 

Forbes has a quote app.  It seems quick and easy enough. There are many such apps online. These apps can be a good way to compare policies.  

However, do not rely solely on any available app.  Always check with the carrier, either directly or through an agent, for accuracy.  The third-party apps likely do not know a policy as thoroughly as you might think.   

A downside of using an app is getting on someone’s calling or emailing list.  

Take a look: Best Pet Insurance Of 2023 – Forbes Advisor

2. Veterinarian’s Recommendations

Some vets may work closely with an insurance agent or carrier.  My vet doesn’t, but yours may.  It doesn’t hurt to ask.

That being said, remember that your vet is an expert in pet health care.  Don’t expect your vet to be an insurance expert, too.  Get information directly from the insurance company or agent whenever you have a question.  If your vet makes an erroneous assumption about your coverage, it could cost you money.

3. Insurance Agent

Insurance agents are a great source for pet insurance, especially if they offer more than one carrier option.  The agent can prepare your quotes, explain everything to you, and process your paperwork.  

Although agents don’t make much in commission on pet insurance, they like to enhance existing relationships with additional policies, and they like to obtain brand-new customers in the hopes of additional business in the months and years to come.

4. Contact Insurance Carriers Directly

Call a few pet insurance carriers and request quotes.  They should email them to you within 24 hours.  You can compare, ask questions, and make your decision.

If they don’t take the time to talk with you and get you a quote, don’t assume they will be there to help you with a claim either.


The carrier you ultimately select is likely to request your veterinarian’s contact information.  They will contact your vet directly for medical history.  

Although each carrier will have its guidelines, you will want to make sure that your pet has seen the vet within the last year. 


 Here is a partial list of pet insurance carriers to help kick-start your search:

  1. Petplan
  2. Trupanion
  3. Nationwide
  4. ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
  5. Healthy Paws 
  6. Embrace 
  7. PetFirst
  8. PetAssure

For full disclosure, I use Embrace and am extremely pleased.  I submit claims every month, and each claim is submitted online in less than 3 minutes.  Embrace has been as reliable as the rising sun.  (They do not provide me any compensation for this endorsement.)


Filing a Pet Insurance Claim

Filing a claim is all about the documentation:

  • Receipts
  • test results
  • the vet’s diagnosis

The process should be streamlined and easy.  

When you leave your vet’s office or the pet hospital or emergency care, you will receive a receipt.  The receipt typically includes the name of the pet, the date of service, services provided, diagnosis, medications, and the cost.  You may not have a full diagnosis until test results are returned.  However, this receipt should be sufficient to file your claim directly with the carrier assuming your carrier does not pay the vet directly.  

You may have the option to fax the claim in or to upload the information online.  If the carrier needs more information, they may let both you and the vet know.  Veterinarians upload information on the diagnosis to the carriers as needed.  My vet usually completes this within 24 hours of the request.

A good carrier will reimburse for the allowable costs of the claim quickly, provided the required documentation has been submitted.   In many cases, you can check on the status of the claim online. 


We hope to have given you sufficient information to get started on your quest for the best policy for you and your pet.  It is important to review the policy you purchase so that you understand the costs and the coverage.  This article is intended to give you a kick-start in that journey by identifying basic considerations.  

Be certain to review all decisions with a qualified agent or with the carrier directly.

Happy Dog courtesy of Mid-Journey

*see FAQs below

FAQs

Q: What is pet insurance?

  • Pet insurance is a financial tool used by pet owners to defray the health costs of a pet.  It is similar to health insurance for humans.  There are numerous options for coverage.  When a pet has a procedure that is covered by its insurance, a claim is filed to recover allowable costs.  Without pet insurance, the owner bears the entire cost of health care which can be prohibitive.

Q: What is typically excluded (called an ‘exclusion’) from coverage in a pet insurance policy?

  • A policy can exclude nothing or can exclude several medical conditions.  
  • It is imperative you review quotes for those conditions that are excluded.  Typical exclusions are pre-existing conditions, dental care, cosmetics, some hereditary predispositions, and more.  
  • Check exclusions on any policy you are considering, before purchasing.

Q: What is a pre-existing condition?

  • A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that was diagnosed in a pet before the effective date of the pet’s insurance policy. 

Q: How much does a pet insurance policy cost?

  • Many variables contribute to the cost.  These include your pet’s breed, age, gender, health history, deductibles, co-pays, and even geographic locations.  Urban areas have higher premiums than rural regions.  
  • Sometimes articles on pet insurance will state an average premium for a cat or a dog.   This is an irrelevant number as there are far too many factors contributing to the calculation.  In other words, do not assume your premium will even approximate the average.  Rather, get yourself some quotes specific to your geographic location and your specific pet.

Q: Can a policy be canceled?

  • Yes.  You typically do not have to wait until the end of a policy period to cancel the policy.

Q: Will my vet get payment from my insurance?

  • Some carriers will pay the vet directly and some will pay the pet owner.  Be sure to understand your policy before purchasing. 

Q: Do wellness benefits give any financial benefit?

  • For this, you have to do a calculation.  If your annual checkup and vaccinations cost $500 and you can purchase $500 in wellness coverage, your wellness coverage premium would have to be less than $500 to offer a financial benefit. 

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