Revisiting the ins and outs of getting insurance for pets

I am the queen of procrastination. Often that comes back to bite me big time. When we adopted Rio, our 17-month-old German shepherd, last year, I started to explore pet health insurance. I figured if any of our pets were going to chew, destroy and ingest the wrong item, it would be her.

Luckily, while she has chewed, destroyed and ingested many items she shouldn’t have, we’ve been so fortunate that she hasn’t required a trip to the vet.

Our furniture is in shambles, her toys have seen better days (having been replaced multiple times) and who knows what she’s ingested. How long that good fortune will hold out for us is to be determined.

All it takes is one sock, ingested to clog up the stomach and intestines and we’re looking at emergency surgery and a bill higher than $3,000. That’s not even to say the surgery will be 100 percent successful.

When Rio is out of her crate, we’re not far behind her, watching her every move. We catch her more times than not, but she is sly and quick. She can swipe one of my husband’s shoes or hats without us even noticing — and, we’re constantly watching!

So, I’m back to contemplating pet insurance. Now that she’s a bit older, the premiums go up a bit but I think I’m ready to navigate the world of pet insurance again and learn the pros and cons.

As I reported the last time I looked into pet insurance, what started with a few insurance companies offering coverage for dogs and cats has now expanded to more than a dozen top-rated firms.

Pet health insurance premiums can be much more affordable than many human plans, but it can still prove to be as complicated to sort through and understand.

Consumersadvocate.com helps to alleviate some of the headache of research by offering their review and comparison of the top consumer-rated policies.

Your best bet is to consider what kind of coverage you are most interested in having (accidents, illnesses, wellness exams, medication, etc.) and then compare policies either online or with an agent. I highly recommend working with an agent as I did with Farmers Insurance.

Thanks to the team at PetsBest — Farmers’ pet insurance — I was able to wade through the pages of policy samples and make some heads or tails out of all the information.

Pet health insurance plans have several things in common. No company covers pre-existing conditions — defined as any illness or injury that your pet had before coverage started.

For example, our Hope was diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome last year.

If I were to take out a policy on Hope, Cushing’s would be considered a pre-existing condition and would not be covered.

Once you understand the jargon, the actual process of selecting a policy and filing a claim seems to be much less painful.

You select the insurance company, the plan, then the reimbursement level and deductible that you want, go to any vet that you choose, pay the vet up front, file a claim and get reimbursed within a very short period of time.

When looking for a pet health insurance policy consider these five points:

n What is the policy coverage and exclusions?

n Are deductibles per incident or annual?

n What is the reimbursement method?

n Are claim limits applied per incident, annually or over a pet’s lifetime?

n How is the company’s customer service reputation?

Again, it all depends on your comfort level, what type of coverage you want and how much you can afford or can’t afford not to have covered.

Policies can be as simple as the accident policy offered by PetsBest or as intricate as a policy that you add routine care supplemental riders to for additional coverage, such as office visits, over-the-counter medications or chiropractic care and acupuncture.

Just like human insurance, there can be waiting periods for certain coverage and your plan has to be in good standing to remain active.

Most come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can cancel the policy at any time.

The first step is to dive in and explore some of the top companies out there, along with their coverage plans and premiums. Don’t hesitate asking a lot of questions until you feel comfortable.

As with humans, pet emergencies can crop up at the most inopportune time.

Having the peace of mind that pet insurance can provide may be well worth the investment.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna

@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.

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