Pet Insurance 101

By March 14, 2017Uncategorized

Pet Insurance got ya down? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Our technicians, assistants, veterinarians, and receptionists each field a multitude of insurance questions every day.  From careful listening, we have isolated some of the questions we seem to get on repeat. In this post we will discuss these hot topics, plus offer additional information to help you and your pet feel reassured and secure. (Technically, only you will feel these things. Your pet likely does not understand the principles of insurance.)

1. Should I get it?

Yes! Insuring your pet is one of the smartest things you can do. If you choose a plan with accident and injury coverage, that broken bone surgery can become much more manageable. And with illness coverage, that new* repeating ear infection won’t cost you nearly as much. More serious conditions like diabetes and cancer treatments are also covered under most illness plans.

*Emphasis on “new”, as pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions; something we will explore later in this post.

2. How does it really work?

First, find a plan that suits you best. Analyze the lifestyle of your pet and decide on whether you need accident and illness coverage, wellness coverage – or both. Next, choose from the varying combinations of annual deductibles, monthly fees, and percent reimbursement. As always, you pay up-front at every animal hospital, and then they will submit the claim to your insurance. Depending on your plan, you will be reimbursed by your insurance.

3. Which company should I use?

Here at Heart of Chelsea and Lower East Side Animal Hospital, we have had good success with Trupanion, ASPCA, and several other companies including Healthy Paws, Petplan, and Embrace. Each company usually offers a variety of plans with differing combinations of annual deductibles, monthly fees, and percent reimbursement. In general, we recommend researching each company and finding a plan that suits your lifestyle and budget.

4. When should I get it?

I don’t have my pet yet: You can get insurance before you even get your pet. (This is a little known fact that is pretty awesome.)

I just got a new pet: If you want to wait until picking up your new pet, we still recommend getting insurance as soon as possible. The reason for this is that pre-existing conditions are not covered through pet insurance. So, if your little guy is new to the world and diagnosis-free, now is the ideal time.

I have an adult pet: If you have an adult pet, we still recommend insurance. If you are concerned about pre-existing conditions and what plan to choose, we recommend speaking directly with an insurance agent.

5. How much does it cost?

That depends. Monthly fees can range from $10-$100, with annual deductibles between $0-$600 and sometimes more. Each company has different rates that vary depending on the plan you choose. In general, we recommend speaking with an insurance representative and discussing your pets’ lifestyle and your budget.

6. What does it cover?

This also depends. Certain plans will only cover accident and illness, while others have the option for adding wellness. That’s right; those vaccines can be covered under some plans. (One company offering wellness coverage is the ASPCA.)

7. Does every hospital accept it?

This is a question we get a lot, but it doesn’t really have an answer. Hospitals don’t “accept” insurance. This is one of many ways in which pet insurance differs from human insurance. Rather, you pay upfront at every veterinary hospital, and then the hospital will submit a claim to your insurance. Depending on your plan, you will be reimbursed afterwards.

8. When does it kick in?

Most plans have a waiting period of around 10-30 days. This means that you will not have coverage for this time period after enrollment. Additionally, any conditions that arise during this waiting period will be henceforth considered “pre-existing” and will not be covered in the future.

Fun Facts 

  • Cats are generally less expensive to insure than dogs.
  • Some plans have annual or lifetime coverage limits. Other plans, like those with Healthy Paws, do not have coverage limits. This is very important to note, as a low lifetime coverage limit is not ideal.
  • Pre-existing conditions are bigger than you think. An ear infection may preclude you from allergy coverage in the future.

Have additional questions? More specific questions should be fielded directly to your insurance agent. If you need assistance getting started, we are here to help. Give us a call at 212-924-6116 or reach out to our claims specialist at

Written by Lauren Gamiel, Veterinary Assistant

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