When your pet is unwell it can be reassuring to know that they are insured and their veterinary fees will be covered. However, there is a great deal of choice for pet owners when they are looking for insurance for their companion. And different types of policy will vary in terms of how much cover they provide. The different terms used by insurance companies in their policy documents can also be confusing. So it is important to research what types of insurance are available for your pet. And to understand exactly what your policy will provide if a claim is made.

Many insurance companies are now offering policies with “co-pay”; so what does this mean?

Most people are familiar with the idea of paying an excess when they make an insurance claim. Co-payment policies take this one step further. “Co-pay”, co-payment, or sometimes co-insurance, is also known as cost sharing. It basically means that you will share some of the costs of any veterinary fees with the insurance company. Therefore, in addition to paying your excess when you make a claim, you will also need to pay a certain percentage of the remaining veterinary invoice yourself. Usually, this is around ten to twenty percent of the bill which remains after you have paid your excess.

What are the advantages of co-pay?

Co-payment in pet insurance does have some advantages over more traditional insurance policies; where you would simply pay an excess for each claim. Then your insurance company would cover all the remaining veterinary fees up to your limit. 

One of the most obvious advantages of using an insurance policy with co-pay is that the monthly premiums you need to pay are usually lower than the regular payments for more traditional types of pet insurance. This can make the monthly premiums much more affordable. Lower premiums are possible because the amount your insurance company will need to pay for any claim is reduced if payments are shared between you and the insurance company. These lower premiums can be a help for the monthly household budget. But don’t forget to plan ahead for the excess and co-payment; which will be required if you should need to make a claim.

The “old pet” issue

Another advantage of pet insurance with a co-pay clause is the ability to insure older pets where more traditional policies would not generally allow for this. Since older animals are more likely to require veterinary attention than their younger counterparts, insurance companies have been traditionally reluctant to provide cover for them. Owners of senior pets have often found it difficult or impossible to find insurance for their aged companions in the past.

In order to overcome the problems of providing insurance for older pets many insurance companies now offer policies for these older pets with co-payment clauses. This allows these pets to be insured, since although the likelihood of a claim is greater for these animals the insurance company and the owner will share the costs of veterinary care between them. 

As more companies use this type of insurance policy the owners of older animals have a much greater choice for their pets. However, after your pet reaches their senior years it may be difficult to find traditional insurance policies without co-pay clauses.

What are the disadvantages of co-pay?

The most significant disadvantage with “co-pay” in pet insurance is that you will need to plan ahead for your own part of payment for any veterinary fees incurred. When calculating what your potential costs could be, remember to think about the excess as well as the percentage of the additional costs you will need to cover. Some pet owners may find that they are comfortable to rely on their financial circumstances; allowing them to cover any veterinary treatment costs as and when they arise. Other people may be happier if they set aside a specific amount each month; which can be used in the event that their pet requires veterinary care.

However you decide to plan for the co-payment it can be difficult to know exactly how much money you will need to cover your side of the costs in the event of an insurance claim being made. Vet’s fees can mount up quickly, especially if your pet has a severe injury or illness. Your part of the co-payment could potentially become quite expensive. So it is certainly wise to plan ahead for any unforeseen accidents or illnesses your pet may experience. 

If you would prefer more certainty about how much you would need to pay for in the event that your pet needs veterinary care you may wish to consider a more traditional insurance policy. This will pay the fees up to the limit after you have paid the excess.

Check your insurance policy documents for co-pay clauses when you take out a new policy and at each renewal.

When taking out any insurance policy you should always check your insurance schedule to find out exactly what is covered; including if there is a requirement for co-payments. Some insurance companies will start to apply co-payment requirements when your pet reaches a certain age. This means that it is always necessary to read all the terms and conditions of your intended policy before you take out the insurance and every time you renew your policy. It can be easy to forget to “read the small print”. But your care and diligence at this stage will ensure that you know exactly what you will be able to claim for; and what contributions you will be expected to make personally towards your pet’s veterinary fees.

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