How to evaluate a pet insurance policy: 2 proven steps to help you make the right choice
We dive into the top elements you need to know and understand before you sign on the dotted line.
Are you struggling to compare pet insurance plans? These days, the options seem somewhat endless when it comes to choosing a provider, let alone a plan. Which is why I decided to break down everything you need to know. From the kinds of plans available to you, levels of coverage to expect, and other terms and conditions to pay attention to before making your final decision.
Let’s make one thing clear - choosing a pet insurance provider is no easy task and it shouldn’t be taken lightly either, because your pet’s health (and your budget) will depend on the choice you make.
But before you start to experience a minor panic attack and feel as though this massive task has been bestowed on your shoulders, you can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing this blog has got you covered with everything you need to know. Deep breaths everyone. I’ve got you. Now, let’s begin.
1. Decide what level of cover you’re after
The types of pet insurance coverage available
Typically, there are 3 different types of cover that most pet insurers will offer to their clients. These classifications form the basis of your level of cover and in some cases, there might be some add-ons you can add to your plan to boost up your benefits. But I will get more into that in a bit.
- Accident-Only Plans
- Accident and Illness Plans (sometimes referred to as pet hospital plans)
- Pet wellness plans
The cheapest pet insurance plans typically only cover accidents. A more comprehensive pet insurance plan will include cover for accidents, illnesses and wellness care such as vet visits and even scripted medication.
Add-on products to boost up your benefits
In some cases, wellness care can be purchased as an additional product to a hospital plan. For example, Oneplan Pet Insurance has a product they refer to as their Routine Care Plus Benefit. For a small monthly fee, this add-on product acts as a booster to your routine care benefits.
The insurer defines routine care as “preventative care for your cats and dogs and includes, voluntary sterilisation, vaccinations, deworming, flea control, and anal gland expression, dental scaling and polishing and nail clipping.”
Oneplan also includes another add-on product known as an Excess Buster (if your purchase the Routine Care Plus Benefit the Excess Buster is automatically included). This product waives all in-hospital excess fees charged by the insurer. Which could potentially save you from having to fork out thousands of rands in excess fees.
Many pet parents who purchase a pet insurance plan with routine care benefits are always happy to have done so as the costs of preventive pet healthcare tend to quickly add up and leave a dent in your budget.
Adding to this, the benefits of wellness care (also referred to as preventive care or routine care) help to ensure your pet lives a long, happy and healthy life. Regular vet visits help your vet to screen your pet for any underlying health concerns, allowing him or her to detect and treat any issues found before they develop into something more serious and in turn, more expensive to treat.
Accident and illness coverage
Choosing a plan that only covers accidents and illnesses is often the more affordable alternative to a more comprehensive plan. In some cases, healthy adult pets can benefit greatly from a plan such as this. Keep in mind, however, that any consults and other day-to-day costs that do not typically result from in-hospital care will come out of your own pocket.
These types of plans will only cover veterinary care fees when your pet is admitted into hospital for an overnight stay.
These unexpected costs are known as being the biggest bills that pet owners will face. Which is why having cover in place for these events will benefit your pet’s health and your budget.
2. Read the fine print
Other factors to take into account when choosing a pet insurance plan
Once you have decided on the level of cover you’re after, it’s now time to do some reading. Get your hands on as much information you can from your potential insurer. This also includes doing some online digging to find out about their customer reviews and ratings.
Here’s what you need to find out
How easy is it to make a claim? How long does it take for the insurer to reimburse you?
Oneplan Pet Insurance actually fronts their clients with cash for vet visits and routine care before visiting the vet.
Apart from knowing exactly what you are covered for, you also need to pay attention to what you are not covered for. The last thing you want is to be caught in an unexpected situation where you assumed you could claim for a certain event when in actual fact, your chosen plan does not include cover for said event.
This is the maximum payout your insurer will cover for claims. Different benefits will have different limits. Your chosen insurer should inform you of these exact amounts for you to be able to budget and accommodate for any shortfalls.
Network of vets
The majority of insurers will have a select network of vets for you to choose from. Should you go to a vet outside of this network, you’re unlikely to be covered for these claims. Which can come as a nasty surprise to a number of unsuspecting clients. In some cases, this means you might have to find a new vet if your current one is not included in your insurer’s network.
This isn’t the case with all insurance providers. Oneplan, for example, allows their clients to go to any registered vet of their choosing.
This is the amount of time that has to pass before you can claim for a certain event. Accidents do not typically have any waiting periods that apply. However, vet visits and illnesses will be subject to specified waiting periods.
These are conditions that your pet presents clinical signs of before you purchased a pet insurance plan. In most cases, pet insurers will not cover these conditions, ever. Oneplan is one of the few providers who cover costs related to pre-existing conditions after a 12 month waiting period.
Where to from here?
Once you have determined the type of coverage you’re after, I suggest you get some quotes from a few insurers. Compare the prices, benefits, annual limits, claims system and read the fine print before you make a final decision.
Until next time,
The Pet Insurance Team