A question I am often asked is “What is the cheapest pet insurance”.
The simple answer is you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t mean that you can’ get a great deal that suits your budget and gives you the insurance cover you need. Let me explain.
Basing your choice of pet insurance coverage on price alone is a recipe for disaster. Sure you will get cheap monthly premiums but it is simply false economy because you will end up paying for a policy that fails to provide you with enough to pay your vet bill when you need it.
There are ways to swing the odds in your favor so that your monthly premiums are kept at a minimum while you still enjoy a level of coverage that safeguards you against costly veterinary medical bills.
The first rule in getting a good value pet health insurance policy is to make sure you get five very important medical conditions included in your policy.
These are a must:
- Coverage for Chronic disease
- Continual coverage for chronic disease
- Coverage for Hereditary/congenital conditions
- Cancer Coverage
- Coverage for Breed specific conditions
Why do you need these inclusions?
If you do not include these five essentials in your pet insurance plan, you are wasting your money because without them you will not be fully protected.
These pet medical conditions can and probably will affect your pet during its lifetime and each of them is singularly difficult and expensive to treat.
A handful of good pet insurance companies provide cover for these elements in their baseline plan. Others have them as add-ons for which you pay extra and yet others do not include them at all.
Here is a short list of some of the Pet Health Insurance Companies that include the five conditions in their baseline policy.
- Healthy Paws
- Purina Care
OK then. So we have identified a few insurance providers with have these important medical conditions included in their baseline plan. The next step is to look at their price to see how their premiums compare. The baseline premiums will likely range from around $5 per month to $15 per month. This is their starting point however there are other factors that will affect the monthly premiums such as the coverage levels you choose, your breed of animal, your pet’s age, your location and so on.
Generally speaking you should expect to pay from $15 to $40 per month, or even more if you select a premium plan.
This is the part where I teach you how to save money on your monthly premiums.
Most pet health insurance companies base their pricing structure on a few factors.
- What’s Covered
- What’s not Covered (exclusions)
- Maximum Payout
It’s the last two I want to focus on for now.
- Deductible is the amount of the veterinary bill you must pay before the insurance company starts paying.
- Co-Pay is the percentage of covered expenses that you must pay after the deductible is met.
You can raise or lower the amount you pay monthly by adjusting the levels of these two elements. In other words, if you choose a higher deductible or co-pay, you will lower your monthly premium but your out of your pocket expenses for medical treatment will be higher.
On the other hand, a low deductible or co-pay will push up the cost of monthly premiums but your out of your pocket expenses will be reduced.
This is a bit of a balancing act so here’s a couple of things to ask yourself that will help you arrive at the right balance that suits your budget and your pet’s well being.
Take a moment to think about your pet. How old is he? Does he live indoors or out? Is he a naughty pet that is always getting into mischief? Is the breed susceptible to any hereditary diseases? Is he overweight? Does he have road sense and so on.
By asking yourself these questions you should be able to determine a level of coverage that is affordable, will most likely meet all of your pet’s medical needs, and save you money along the way.
The higher the deductible and co-pay, the lower your monthly premiums.
The lower the deductible and co-pay, the higher your monthly premiums.
You are much better off to adjust the deductible and co-pay slightly to bring the premium down, than to remove any of the five important coverage elements mentioned above.
There is one more thing you need to consider: Maximum Payout Structures.
At the high end of the scale, medical costs for serious illness or injury can be as much as 10 or even 20 thousand dollars Since it is impossible to know in advance what injury or illness your pet will suffer, you will want to focus on plans that give you the most flexibility when it comes to Maximum Payouts so you are not left short.
There are a number of ‘maximum payout’ structures offered by pet insurance companies including
- Maximum Payout Per Incident
- Maximum Payout Per Year
- Maximum Lifetime Payout
- Maximum Payout Per Body System
- Maximum Payout Based on a Predetermined Benefit Schedule
- Unlimited Maximum Payout
Maximum Payout per Body System and Predetermined Benefit Schedules are not recommended. They will cap how much of your Annual Maximum Payout you can spend on any one illness, accident or injury. Simply avoid them.
Better to go for Maximum Payout Per Year (the ‘Maximum Annual Payout’ gets reset annually so you will have this amount available to you every year), or Maximum Lifetime Payout (the maximum amount you will be reimbursed during your pet’s lifetime).
Let’s take a look at some of the leading insurance providers. Embrace Pet Insurance has an annual maximum payout of $15,000. Purina Care insurance, $20,000 per year, and Trupanion insurance $20,000 per year.
* There is one stand out. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance offer an Unlimited Maximum Payout Structure as part of their baseline plan. Not many pet insurance companies offer unlimited payout structures at no extra cost. This is by far the best structure to have particularly if you are considering a plan with lower monthly premiums.
Lastly, you should find out about the reputation of each pet insurance company. There are a few websites that provide Pet Insurance Comparisons and ratings based on actual customer satisfaction reports, real experiences, testimonials, Better Business Bureau Ratings etc. Using the information gathered by these sites will take out a lot of the leg work for you and help you to plot a straight line to the best pet insurance coverage that suits your pocket and the on-going health needs of your pet.