Choosing a Pet Health Insurance Provider: 14 Smart Questions You Need To Ask
There are many pet insurance companies and choosing between them can be pretty daunting, especially for first-timers. Here is a list of 14 smart questions you should ask before you decide on a particular pet health insurance provider;
Are they licensed to sell pet insurance?
As a general principle, you should only purchase pet insurance from a licensed insurance company in your state. Licensed insurance companies are regulated by the insurance department at the state level, although some issues may be designated for federal regulation. This means you can rely on your state insurance department if there any difficulties with your policy.
Find out if the insurance company is licensed in your state or any other state you may be planning to move to by contacting your state insurance department.
Do they offer a medical review?
Pet insurance companies provide a medical review by offering a list of exclusions based on the medical history of your pet. If you dislike the provider’s list of exclusions, you can cancel the policy before your money-back guarantee period expires.
The medical review procedure varies from company to company, but all insurance providers must have one. It is important for your pet insurance company to perform this medical review before your money-back guarantee period ends.
Can you choose your own vet or must you choose within their network?
Most insurance companies give you the freedom to choose any licensed veterinarian, specialist, or emergency clinic. Some companies with veterinarian networks require you to choose one of their in-network vets.
Is the company financially stable?
In order to protect the public interest, each state stipulates solvency standards that insurance companies must maintain, failure to which their license will be revoked. Although insurance providers are heavily regulated, not all of them manage their finances wisely.
Understanding your insurance provider’s financial strength is critical to determine whether they can support the insurance coverage in the future. You wouldn’t want to hear that your insurance provider cannot reimburse your claim because of their poor financial health.
There are several insurance rating agencies that offer insights into the financial health of an insurance company and their ability to cover future claims such as A.M. Best, and Fitch Ratings.
How long is their waiting period?
This is the initial period you must wait before your coverage comes into effect. Waiting periods vary with different pet health insurance providers and are usually between 0 to 90 days.
During this period no benefits will be payable for veterinary bills so it’s important to choose a provider with a shorter waiting period of one month or below.
How strong is the company’s underwriter?
Underwriters in insurance evaluate risks and exposures from potential clients. They decide whether to accept the risk, how much coverage you should receive, and how much you will get paid in claims.
Insurance companies have their own set of underwriting guidelines and often go for underwriting services offered by certain major financial institutions such as investment houses and banks.
These financial institutions guarantee payment and acknowledge the financial burden of responsibility arising out of such a guarantee. It is therefore important to check the financial strength of your insurance company’s underwriter. Keep in mind that some providers may have more than one underwriter.
How good is their customer service?
Your pet insurance is of no use if your provider is not available 24/7 to service it for you. Your pet health insurance provider, through their representatives, should be available at all times to answer your questions, handle your claims swiftly, fairly, and efficiently. Be sure to choose an insurance provider with an online customer portal for submitting claims.
How long does their reimbursement process take?
Usually, it takes up to 2 weeks to receive your funds but may take longer for more complicated claims. Some insurance companies pay the reimbursement in just 2-3 business days.
How competent is the company’s management?
The executive staff in an insurance company should not only have top-notch skills and qualifications but also stay up to date on state regulations and policies. To know the competency levels of the company’s management, just visit their website. Insurance providers with skilled staff take pride in showcasing staff profiles on their websites.
What is the company’s reputation?
This is a critical area you need to look at when choosing a pet health insurance provider. Your state insurance department/ Bureau of Insurance should be able to tell you the percentage of complaints the insurance company has and how most of those complaints were resolved.
Another way of researching a company’s reputation is by reading online reviews to see what existing customers say about the company. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find only positive reviews, but if the information provides you with more doubts and answers, then it might be best to go with another company.
How will the premiums increase over time?
It’s quite frustrating to open up your insurance bill only to find that your premium has increased on renewal. The harsh truth, however, is that all insurance premiums increase over time and it’s better to be financially prepared. Each pet health insurance provider deals with premium calculations in its own way. Make a point to know the factors that will raise your premiums.
How do they Calculate reimbursements?
When buying a pet insurance plan you select a detectable and reimbursement formula which makes a huge difference in the final amount you receive from the insurance company. The payout amount can be based on;
Usual, Customary and Reasonable (UCR)
UCR is the amount that a veterinarian clinic or specialist would usually and reasonably charge for the medical treatment or procedure.
For instance, assume that your veterinary bill is $200 and the insurance company has decided that more than 90% of veterinarians would charge below $180 for the same procedure and service. The insurance company will pay your claim up to $180 minus your deductible and co-payments.
Reimbursement in this system is kept within a specific amount for each condition regardless of the actual veterinary costs. Insurance companies will have shown you a list of diagnoses and the maximum amount they can pay for each treatment.
Actual veterinary bills
If your insurer uses the actual bill system, they will reimburse the veterinary bill excluding your deductible, co-payments, and uncovered medical expenses. This is considered among experts as the best system of reimbursement.
What Optional Extras do they provide?
It’s important to choose an insurance provider that has appropriate coverage for your pet’s needs.
Besides covering essential medical costs, optional extras that can be included by your provider in your pet health insurance cover are;
- Overseas travel cover in case your pet needs veterinary treatment while traveling abroad
- Cattery and kennel fees- provides funds to put your pet in a put in a cattery or a kennel if you are hospitalized and there is no one else to care for your pet
- Death due to illness or injury- covers the cost of your pet but a good policy should also provide for euthanasia, burial/cremation
- Bilateral conditions- These are conditions that can affect either the right or left side of your pet or both such as; cruciate ligament issues, hip/elbow dysplasia, cataracts, etc.
Most pet insurance plans will view bilateral conditions as one issue. This means when you hit the maximum payout per incident on one side of the body, your pet insurance cover will not cover the same condition on the other side of your pet’s body. Some insurance companies have plans that normally cover bilateral conditions.
Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
You have a right to reconsider your pet insurance policy within the first few days. Most pet health insurance companies provide a 100% money-back guarantee if you cancel the policy within ten days after signing. This gives you the chance to review the terms and conditions of your policy.
Picking a pet health insurance provider requires careful consideration. You need a provider who will be able to offer the financial security you need when your pet needs unexpected medical treatment. Adequate research on the questions posed above will help you proceed in the right direction.