Pet insurance checklist

In our guide, “Pet insurance 101 – the one stop guide to insuring your non-human family member,” we discussed how to know which type of pet insurance plan is for you, where and how to purchase a policy and also how to choose an insurance provider.

In this article, you will find a checklist that will provide you in details the right steps toward getting the right coverage. We also discuss the things you need to avoid when considering pet insurance.

  1. Decide on which type of plan. Establish what type of policy fits your situation best. If you go over our guide “Pet insurance 101...,” the four factors you need to consider are: a) your budget, b) your pet's pre-existing conditions, c) the breed of your pet, and d) your veterinarian.

  2. Check your alternatives. Check on the alternatives available to you in place of pet insurance. For certain pet owners, a limited budget can be a hindrance to purchasing a policy. For other pet owners, the hindrance could be pre-existing conditions or the age of their pets. In these cases, the alternatives may include the following:

    • Financial assistance programs – these include Cats in Crisis, Cody's Club, Angels 4 Animals, Help-A-Pet, The Pet Fund, The Mosby Foundation, The Magic Bullet Fund, United Animal Nations, etc. To get the details about these programs, do an online search on their names.
    • Credit financing – many banks offer extended payment, low interest rate credit financing that you can use for your pet's care. One example is the Chase Health Advance program offered by Chase Bank. Conditions differ from bank to bank and many require that your vet has to be enrolled in the program.
    • Put up a savings plan – a savings account to take care of your pet's low cost needs unless if you are able to set aside a large amount of cash.
    • Donations – you can ask for donations from friends and family or even start one online via social networking sites.
  3. Do check on the company. Again, as discussed in “Pet insurance 101...” look at key information about the company: a) its financial stability, b) its experience and knowledge in veterinary medicine, c) no limitations as to choice of providers, d) no delays on coverage, e) wellness coverage, d) scope of coverage, e) chronic condition coverage, f) away from home coverage, g) transparency on reimbursements, h) detailed explanation on coverage, i) requirements on physical examinations, j) no pre-authorization requirements, k) claims process, and, l) no penalty for cancellation.

  4. Be sure the company is licensed. Make sure that the company has license to sell policies in your state. Also, a check with the Better Business Bureau could provide you with an idea as to an insurer's business reputation.

  5. Check the limits. Policies can have more than one limit. For instance, a policy may have a limit in relation to a certain treatment; if you go over this limit you have to pay out of your own pocket. Another type of limit applies over a certain time period (for example, one year); if you have already been covered for one instance during that period, any further incidents will be paid by you.

  6. Do not forget about liability coverage. While many plans provide for this, it is always to you and your pet's best interest to make sure you are properly covered in case you pet happens to hurt a person or cause damage on his property.

What you should avoid:

  • Selecting a plan with low yearly limits or low per incident payments. These may be tempting because of their low premiums. However, you could end up spending a considerable amount out of your own pocket.

  • Selecting a plan that does not offer coverage of chronic conditions. If a plan does not cover this, you will be making payments out of your own funds for conditions such as arthritis, cancer and diabetes.

  • Forgetting to review your policy. If you cannot understand the fine print, ask questions and do not stop until everything is made clear to you.

  • Ignoring feedback. Go over the reviews about a company's plans, about how they handle complaints and claims and the general feedback about them. Focus on the latest feedback.

  • Forgetting to ask for a review of medical records. This will alert you of pre-existing health conditions that will not be part of the policy. Do this early on and not during the time when you already made a number of payments.

  • Assuming that your pet is covered. If your pet is a certain breed or specie, check the policy first if it covers your pet.

  • Ignoring your pet's age. Check your policy's age restrictions.

  • Ignoring special features. Some may be useful. For example, a feature that will provide you an amount to advertise or as a reward when your pet goes missing. This is handy especially if you own a rare breed.

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