In my opinion, there is no “one size fits all” pet insurance company. They all bring something a little different to the table. That’s one reason it can be so overwhelming to choose a company from the dozen or so that offer policies in the United States.
When considering pet insurance, the first thing you’ll want to decide is if it’s right for you and your family. If you decide that pet insurance is for you, the next question you should ask is: “Which company and policy is the best one for me and my pet?”
There is no “one size fits all” pet insurance company
- From a veterinarian’s perspective, coverage for chronic, ongoing conditions and hereditary conditions are absolutely essential in a pet insurance policy.
- If you have to compromise to get a premium you can afford, raise the deductible first, the copay second, and lower the policy maximum last.
Many pet owners choose the first pet insurance company and policy they come across, and then may have second thoughts later. I recommend that you look at all the companies that offer policies in the United States before making a final decision. Right now, with only a dozen companies, that’s doable. That way, you know you’ve reviewed all the options and have chosen the one that is right for you.
And because no company covers pre-existing conditions, it’s much better to make a wise choice the first time, because if you decide to switch companies later, any conditions your pet has been diagnosed with may not be covered going forward.
From a veterinarian’s perspective, coverage for chronic, ongoing conditions and hereditary conditions are absolutely essential in a pet insurance policy. Coverage for wellness care, prescription diets, alternative therapies, behavioral therapy, and dental care are also offered by some companies. The limits for coverage will vary from company to company.
I recommend a 5-step approach to gathering information and comparing companies. By the time most pet owners reach the 4th or 5th step, they are typically down to only 2 or 3 companies from which to choose, and this made it much more manageable. In the Pet Insurance Toolkit, I provide the links you’ll need to complete these 5 steps. I also provide worksheets to make it quick and easy to compare companies side-by-side.
There is so much variation in policies; it is hard to compare apples to apples. But there is one factor you can control when comparing companies — the premium. I recommend you pick a premium range (e.g., $30–$45) you are comfortable paying monthly before getting a quote. Then it’s a matter of comparing what kind of coverage each company has to offer you and your pet within that range.
Fortunately, virtually every pet insurance company now allows you to “customize” your policy by choosing from several different policy maximums, deductibles, copays, and optional coverage options. You can literally design your own policy. This enables you to get the coverage you want for a premium that fits your budget.
Cost is typically the first thing pet owners evaluate when they start shopping for pet insurance. Keep in mind, however, the reason for purchasing pet insurance is to limit your total out-of-pocket expense for your pet’s healthcare — especially if you had a large and unexpected expense. The main factors that ultimately determine your out-of-pocket expense are what’s covered and not covered (exclusions), and which combination of policy maximum, deductible and copay you chose. I’ve designed a Company Comparison Worksheet (part of the Pet Insurance Toolkit, linked above) that shows the coverage limits for several important factors and automatically calculates the out-of-pocket expense for the policy you select when you get your quote.
How to Prioritize the Customization of Your Pet Insurance PremiumThese are the priorities (in order) that I recommend when getting a quote and customizing a policy. Make adjustments in the reverse order to get a premium you can afford and live with.
- Get the highest per-incident and/or annual maximum you can afford. After all, the reason you are purchasing pet insurance is to cover that worst case scenario.
- Get the lowest copay you can afford. Unlike the deductible which is a fixed amount, the copay is a percentage of the total claim. Unless your copay is 0%, you’ll pay it for every claim - even after you’ve met your deductible.
- Get the lowest deductible you can afford.
In other words, if you have to compromise to get a premium you can afford, raise the deductible first, the copay second, and lower the policy maximum last. This will generally ensure you the lowest out-of-pocket expense should you have to file a large claim.
Most pet insurance companies offer several policies to choose from. After choosing a company, you should then use the Policy Selection Worksheet (part of the Pet Insurance Toolkit, linked above) to determine which policy fits best with your expectations and budget.
You can see examples and explanations of these worksheets, and the other tools in the downloadable Pet Insurance Toolkit, here.
This system will help you find the best pet insurance policy for your unique situation; and with the right policy, you can rest assured knowing your pet will have the opportunity to receive the best veterinary care available if he or she becomes sick or injured.