Owning a pet can be expensive. Dogs will cost their owners on average £21,000 over their lifetime and cats, around £17,000. Even rabbits don’t come cheap as they should be kept in pairs. Meaning the lifetime cost for two could amount to over £15,000. So it’s no surprise that many owners opt to take out pet insurance to help cover at least some of the veterinary fees. Many companies now will advertise ‘direct claims’ as a benefit of their policies. But what does this actually mean for you and your vet?
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What is the difference between an indirect and a direct claim?
If you need to claim on your pet insurance, there are often two ways the insurance company can pay out. An indirect claim involves you settling the full bill with your vet. Then arranging to have the insurance company pay you back. A direct claim is where the insurance company will pay your vet directly. Though you will still have to pay your vet the excess amount on your policy and the cost of any treatments that aren’t covered. Some policies will also require you to pay a percentage of veterinary fees.
Each way has it’s pros and cons for both client and vet. For the client, often a direct claim is most appealing. As it means they don’t have to pay out potentially large amounts of money in one go to their vet. And they are not left out of pocket as they could be with an indirect claim. However, for the vet, direct claims can involve more paperwork, interrupt cash flow and end up being problematic if the claim is rejected. Because of this, not all vets will allow direct claims. Some may only allow direct claims from certain insurance companies. So even if your insurance company promotes direct claims, it is at the vets discretion whether they will permit a direct claim to be carried out – there is no guarantee!
If my vet agrees to do a direct claim, what do I need to do?
You will usually still need to complete a claim form, either on paper or online. Then pass the information to your vet so they are able to complete their section too. Then either yourself or your vet can send the claim to the insurance company. Your vet will likely request that you pay them your policy excess and any other known fees before submission of the claim. If accepted, the insurance company will usually pay your vet the rest of the claim amount within a few weeks. They should let you know when this has been done.
What happens if my direct claim is rejected?
If you have undertaken a direct claim but the insurance company have rejected it, you will be liable for full payment to your vet. The contract is between you and your insurance company though your vet may be able to provide evidence to help with any disputes. If a dispute is ongoing around a direct claim, it can leave your vet out of pocket. Although an outstanding bill of a few hundred or even a few thousand pounds may not sound like it would make a difference to the running of a veterinary clinic, serious cash flow problems can occur if multiple clients have either ongoing or rejected direct claims.
As with anything to do with insurance, it is worth reading those terms and conditions and being very clear on what your insurance policy covers and what it doesn’t so that you are not caught out. If you do need to make a claim, always speak with your vet who will be able to help you through the process.