Pet insurance is a topic being discussed more commonly recently. This is potentially due to people worrying about their finances after the recent sudden rise in household bills. Here, we discuss pet insurance and the additional fees you may need to pay when making an insurance claim. 

So, pet insurance, what is it?

Pet insurance is widely recommended by vets. This is because it allows for most of your unexpected veterinary bills to be paid for by the insurance company. You pay a monthly premium and in return, should your pet need veterinary medical attention which is covered by your policy and costs above an agreed threshold, your pet insurance will pay the bill. The threshold value (known as the excess) will vary from policy to policy. Typically, cheaper policies will have a larger excess and more expensive policies will have a lower excess.

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But how does pet insurance work?

Different policies have different terms and conditions. As with any subscription product, you should be sure to read all the fine print so you know exactly what you are paying for. Ask any relevant questions before starting the payments. With many insurance companies, as soon as you stop paying for your insurance, your veterinary cover will stop.

Different pet insurance companies will cover different conditions and treatments. Understanding what your pet insurance will cover is vital. Some of the variations include accident only insurance, whether dental treatment is covered, paying out for the same condition more than once, or having an upper limit to the amount you can receive per claim. Those variations listed commonly cause complaints to be made. 

In addition to my monthly fee, what else will I need to pay?

For every single claim you make, you will always need to cover the excess cost. This is a smaller amount of money compared to the total veterinary bill and is paid separately from your monthly fee. You must contribute your excess towards the veterinary bill before your pet insurance company will pay anything towards it. Each different medical condition will contribute to a different excess fee which will need to be paid by yourself. In addition, you will need to pay a fee in most veterinary practices in order to submit an insurance claim due to the additional workload associated and time consumed by the veterinary professionals when creating these claims.

In some policies, there are also “copayments” which you have to make as a percentage of the bill, rather than a fixed sum.

So what do I have to pay on the day, as it were?

Most pet insurance companies will require you to pay for your entire veterinary bill upfront, first of all; and then claim the money back from your pet insurance company. Although it does vary from one policy to the next policy so be sure to check your fine print. Paying upfront first, before being reimbursed, can often be a problem for many people as veterinary bills can quickly accumulate to thousands of pounds. 

Communication is key when it comes to finances in the veterinary world

If you inform your practice that you are likely to struggle to pay the entirety of your veterinary bill, prior to being reimbursed, they may be able to arrange a payment plan. Equally, if you are able to communicate with your practice early enough, they may be able to contact your insurance company to obtain the payment directly from them. This is at the discretion of your veterinary practice and each practice will vary with their policies. 

If your pet is having planned surgery and you know the bill is going to cost more than you can afford, you could ensure your pet has the surgical procedure performed at a veterinary practice that is happy to form a direct link with your insurance company; so the larger sum of money never has to leave your bank. 

The value of Pre-authorisation

If you are going to pay the entirety of your veterinary bill initially but can only afford this due to the fact your insurance company is going to pay you back, then you need to be certain that your insurance company will pay out. And, additionally, how long it will take them to do so. You should ask these questions before the treatment goes ahead. Provide as much detail to your insurance company regarding your pet’s current health, previous health, what the medical treatment and diagnostic plan is. This is so your veterinary insurance company are able to give accurate advice about if and when they will pay the money back.

In many cases, your insurer will be able to give you a “Pre-authorisation decision” (i.e. “yes we will pay this”). However – this means that they have to have received the whole claim information before the bill comes in; which may not be possible in an emergency.

Budget, budget, budget!

Whilst obtaining pet insurance is highly recommended, not everything will be covered. You will still have additional payments to make. When budgeting, take this into account and be sure to keep some money aside to cover your excess or premium, those conditions that are not covered by your insurance and, if possible, larger sums for paying full veterinary bills prior to being reimbursed. 

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