1) Not getting a quote from and researching all pet insurance companies.
How do you know you purchased the best available policy for your pet if you don’t look at all your options? There are about a dozen pet insurance companies in the United States, and although it will take time to obtain quotes and research all of them, it’s still doable. While no choice is 100% foolproof, you’ll make a wiser choice by being thorough in your research.
2) Selecting a policy with a low per-incident and/or annual maximum.
It can be tempting to select such policies because the premium is usually lower than for policies without a per-incident limit or with a higher annual maximum. A seriously injured or ill pet can end up with a bill of $5,000 to $10,000 and potentially even more. Studies show that most claims that pet owners file are much lower than this, but pet insurance is all about risk management to protect you from the more expensive bills. If you need to lower the premium for a policy with more comprehensive coverage, the best way to do that is by selecting a higher deductible if the company allows you to customize your policy.
3) Selecting a policy that doesn’t cover chronic conditions.
These are problems e.g. diabetes, cancer, arthritis, etc. where treatment is expected to last beyond the current policy term. Some pet owners have been surprised when they renew their policy and a chronic condition isn’t covered because it is considered a pre-existing condition during succeeding policy terms. Ideally, you want to purchase a policy from a company that covers these conditions in future years and up to the full limits of the policy just like any other condition. Some companies have lower limits for chronic conditions and/or offer it only as an add-on rider for an additional premium.
4) Selecting a policy that doesn’t cover hereditary or breed specific conditions.
You might be surprised just how long the list can be when considering these conditions. Every company has its own list and it usually varies from company to company. Some companies make the list of what they consider hereditary conditions available while others don’t. As with chronic conditions, some companies cover hereditary conditions just like any other condition and up to the full limits of the policy while others either have lower limits for these conditions, make coverage optional for an additional premium, or don’t cover them at all.
5) Not reading a sample policy.
Never purchase a pet insurance policy without reading a sample policy. You have to read the fine print. Most of the companies have a sample policy available for viewing on their website. If not, call or email them to get a copy. I’ve seen clients get upset when a claim is denied, but upon reading their policy, the exclusion was right there in black and white. Therefore, also read your new policy as soon as you receive it in the mail. If it’s not what you thought you bought, you can usually cancel your policy within 30 days and get your premium refunded if you’ve not filed any claims yet.
6) Not reading reviews.
I usually don’t purchase anything of significance (even a headphone from Amazon) without reading a bunch of reviews. Why pass up the opportunity to hear from people who’ve actually used the product and/or dealt with the company? Since some of the pet insurance companies have been around for many years, they may have well over a thousand reviews. And since pet insurance companies change their policies from time to time to stay competitive, you should concentrate on reading the more recent reviews e.g. the last couple of years.
7) Not requesting a medical record review.
Unless you are insuring a new puppy or kitten with no known previous medical problems and whose first examination with your veterinarian resulted in a clean bill of health, it is wise to ask the company you’re purchasing a policy from to review your pet’s previous medial records and let you know up front if there are any pre-existing conditions that will be excluded from coverage. You will usually only have to send them the last year or two of your pet’s records.
This is usually done during or immediately after the underwriting process and waiting period for the policy to become effective. You may not think your pet has ever had a previous problem, but you might have forgotten something you casually mentioned to your veterinarian during a visit that he or she could have made a note of in the record – even if it wasn’t treated at that time. What the company decides is pre-existing is what counts regardless of whether you and/or your veterinarian disagree with them. Most companies will eventually request your pet’s medical record anyway when you file a claim. It would be better to know early rather than find out later after you’ve paid months to years in premiums that something is considered pre-existing and not covered.