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How Does Pet Insurance Work?
Pet insurance is actually quite flexible. All pet insurance companies in the United States permit you to visit any veterinarian in the country including general, specialist, and emergency veterinarians. Some pet insurance companies will even cover you in Canada, Mexico, and other parts of the world when you are on vacation.
Insurance for your dog or cat is what is known as a indemnity insurance where you pay the claim up front and the company reimburses you after applying your deductible and co-pay, until you reach your policy's annual or lifetime maximum.
Step 1: Get a Policy
Most pet insurance companies will issue a new policy to pets aged 8 weeks to up to 8 or even 10 years old, sometimes older if your pet undergoes a medical exam. Usually there is a waiting period and some pre-existing conditions may be excluded temporarily or permanently from your policy.
Step 2: The Waiting Period
The waiting period is the time between when you first sign up for cat or dog insurance and when your full coverage kicks in. For example, if you sign up and begin coverage on March 1st then your waiting period for accidents may be two or three days after, say March 3rd, and for illnesses as long as 4 weeks later, say March 31st.
Most pet insurance companies have a waiting period of between 2 and 14 days for accidents and between 14 and 30 days for illnesses. The waiting period is there so that no one takes out insurance immediately after an accident or illness.
The waiting period only applies in your first policy year, after that there is no waiting period on your pet insurance.
Step 3: Making a Claim
Once you've gone to the veterinarian, you pay the bill and fill out a claim form that your veterinarian signs. You fax or mail this form in to the pet insurance company along with your paid and itemized veterinary bill.
Some pet parents wonder why the pet insurance company can't reimburse the veterinarian directly like in human health insurance.
The main reason is that pet insurance is a very, very small industry compared to human health insurance. The computer systems aren't in place that would allow direct reimbursement to the veterinarian and these networks are incredibly expensive to build.
Step 4: You Receive Your Claim Check
Once you've sent in your claim form, it is assessed and you usually receive a check or direct deposit back into your account minus any deductible or co-pay that applies to your policy, until you reach your policy's annual maximum.
If you paid for additional coverages like routine care or prescription drugs, these will be reimbursed on your claim according to your pet insurance plan's limits.
Myth: You can't get pet insurance for an older pet.
Myth: Since my pet is well now there's no point buying pet insurance.
Myth: I have to wait until my pet's current medical condition has resolved before getting pet insurance.
Myth: Pet insurance is only worthwhile if you have a very active pet or an older pet that is likely to develop problems.
Myth: I don't need pet insurance because I can save a small amount each month to pay for anything that might happen.