Just bought a pet? You can’t afford not to read this article…
A good pet insurance policy can be a literal lifesaver. Unless money is no object (and let’s face it, for most of us it can be a significant object). Being covered for events of pet illness and injury out of your control can mean your fur-friend gets the best veterinary care and stands the best chance of recovery. Which is why it’s so frustrating, nay, often disastrous, when an insurance company seemingly refuses to pay out. Why does this happen? Let’s have a look at some of the reasons.
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Two types of policy
Broadly speaking pet insurance policies can be divided into two categories: annual policies and lifetime policies. Annual policies can on the surface seem enticingly more cost effective than lifetime policies. But you shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover. Annual policies will pay out a predefined maximum sum (or sums) of money for ill or injured pets over the course of 12 months. A lifetime policy promises to pay out for the entirety of the pet’s life; (although are still subject to potential fee increases) as long as you keep paying the premium.
Annual policies can provide excellent short-term cover with decent maximum spends. However, say your pet develops a skin condition one year, when the policy renews at the end of the term, the chances are that it will no longer cover your pet for that skin condition going forward. The skin problem suddenly becomes a pre-existing condition because every year you are essentially entering into a new contract. So, you’re left with the prospect of shelling out for your unbearably itchy pet for years from your own pocket thereafter. A lifetime policy holder would continue to enjoy providing the most appropriate care for their pet for as long as they paid the insurance premium, saving themselves a packet.
A pet owner might believe that they have this whole pet insurance thing sewn up as a sensible and consistent lifetime cover holder, shopping around every few years to find the best price. However, let’s say your pet breaks their left front leg and develops heart disease one year, whether or not you claim for these conditions on your policy. Should you move to a new company later down the line, and even if you purchase another lifetime policy, that front left, with its weakened bone, and that ticker, with its now diagnosed problems, suddenly become pre-existing conditions; chances are, they would be deemed as uninsurable.
Insurance companies base the price and availability of cover on risk. They know from your pet’s history that that forelimb and that heart are now high risk. If you were to find a company that will cover pre-existing conditions, we’d hazard a guess that the premiums will be significantly higher. Worse, you might not discover this discrepancy in cover until your pet’s time of need, when the full vet’s history is submitted to the insurance company who later refuse to pay out. This adds a financial stress to an already stressful situation.
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Surprises lurking in medical histories
This one’s a right pig for any unsuspecting owner, but also logical and generally fair. In the past, you might have decided not to submit an insurance claim for an injury or illness; maybe your pet wasn’t covered at the time, or maybe the vet’s fees weren’t much more than your excess so you didn’t deem it necessary. In which case, the fact that your pet was even unwell, probably left your consciousness not long after they recovered.
But if for example, a bout of gastroenteritis is recorded on your pet’s medical file, and years later you decide to take a policy out, you might find that subsequent bouts of gastroenteritis will not be covered. This is because when a claim is submitted, an insurer will initially ask for a full veterinary medical history from your vet, going back years. That tummy trouble might just become a pre-existing condition and therefore unclaimable. Just another thing to be aware of.
Reaching your maximum spend
Insurance companies generally either agree to pay out a certain amount in total over a year, or a certain amount per condition (guess which many pet owners find to be helpful when it comes to the crunch…). Either way, if you max out the spend, you’ll unlikely get another penny until your policy renews. What’s more, some get caught out with low maximum spends. A thousand pounds per condition might sound like a lot to the average pet owner.
However, when you consider that a grand might only just about stabilise a patient after a nasty accident, bringing them back from the brink, but not covering a week-long hospital stay, or cover X-rays and pain relief for a broken bone, but not the surgery required to fix it, it might be wise to check that you’re getting a decent maximum spend per condition. A single injury or illness could wrack up bills into the thousands. It seems a shame to pay out for years on premiums that in the end don’t help adequately when required.
It’s always worth checking the small print on any given policy for its take on unvaccinated pets. If they develop a preventable disease, could anyone really blame a company for not paying out for its treatment?
Different companies and policies have different takes on dental work too. Some cover routine dental procedures as well as emergency ones, and some cover none at all.
In conclusion, the moral of the story here is to get a good insurance policy; adequate to cover all of your pet’s needs. If you choose a lifetime policy and make a claim, you might find it better in the long run to stick with that company. So choosing wisely in the first place is vital. One final tip: Insurance policies aren’t just for old pets, illness and injury aren’t reserved for the aged. Young pets also do silly things, get into scrapes and can even develop serious, costly to treat, lifelong illnesses.