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Learn about the different types of pet insurance, what they cover, and if it is worth it. You love your pet and want to make sure they have insurance coverage. If you are like most, you have no idea where to even begin assessing the different pet insurance plans on offer. Although some form of insurance has been around since ancient times, it was not until the 17th and 18th centuries the modern notion of insurance policies became a reality. Initially, most policies focused on property insurance, offering homeowners protection from the fires which often swept through towns in England and Europe. Now, there is insurance for animal companions.
Over the centuries, the type of coverage offered by insurance firms has diversified dramatically, and today there is no shortage of policy types for customers to choose from. Of all these options, pet insurance has been increasing in popularity over the last several decades. If you have been considering pet insurance for your fur baby, here’s all you need to know.
What Is Pet Insurance and What Does It Cover?
The first pet to become insured in the United States was a collie named Lassie in 1982. Since then, pet insurance numbers have skyrocketed, and according to The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), 2.82 million pets were insured in 2020, representing a 22.1% annual growth rate over the last five years.
So, what exactly does pet insurance cover? Well, the answer to this question depends upon what type of pet insurance you purchase. Most policy providers have two different options: Accident Only and Accident and Illness coverage.
Accident Only Protection
Accident Only policies cover a wide range of services to treat injuries caused by accidents, the most common being hospitalization, x-rays, blood work, surgery, sutures, medications, and ultrasounds. In most cases, accident-only insurance is purchased for pets whose age has made it ineligible for more comprehensive coverage. It is also for pets who have a set of pre-existing conditions that makes insuring them cost-prohibitive. Although most accidents are eligible for coverage, the most common types of claims include:
Injuries sustained from being hit by a car.
Torn ligaments from exercise.
Bite injuries, cuts, and broken bones.
The swallowing of a foreign object or toxic substance.
Luckily, the average cost of accident insurance has not increased very much over the last five years, and in most cases, it is very affordable. According to the NAPHIA, the average cost for accident-only insurance for dogs is $194.04 annually and $16.17 monthly. The cost is noticeably lower for cats, coming in at $126.08 annually and $10.51 monthly.
It is important to understand these figures are averages, and the actual cost varies depending upon the animal's age, breed, current health condition, and several other factors.
By far the more popular option, Accident/Illness insurance reimburses pet owners for costs associated with the diagnosis and treatment of major and minor illnesses, along with any injuries resulting from an accident. Each policy varies slightly in terms of what and how much is covered, but an Accident/Illness insurance policy generally covers the following:
Illnesses: Under an Accident/Illness plan, pet owners may expect to be covered for illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, digestive issues, urinary tract infections, ear/throat infections, and much more.
Genetic/Congenital Conditions: It is not uncommon for pets to inherit some type of health issue which does not show itself until later in life. Common examples of this include heart disease, hip dysplasia, eye diseases, and spinal disk diseases.
Prescription Medications: Depending on the level of coverage, some plans pay for part or all a pet's prescription medication expenses.
Behavioral Therapies: Although less common, many plans provide pet owners with partial coverage for behavioral therapies their pet requires.
Microchip Implantation: More and more pet owners are deciding to microchip their animals. Doing so allows the owners to easily locate the pet if they go missing. These days, most pet insurance plans cover this process.
Unlike Accident Only Insurance, the cost of Accident/Illness insurance has risen over the last few years. As of now, the average cost of Accident/Illness insurance for dogs is $585.40 annually and $48.78 monthly. For Cats, the cost averages out to $349.93 annually and $29.16 monthly.
Prices vary depending on the animal's age, breed, health condition, and a variety of other factors.
Top Pet Insurance Providers
Founded in 2009, Healthy Paws has quickly become one of the most popular pet insurance providers around. Not only do they offer unlimited annual benefits, but there is also no cap on claims payouts. Furthermore, 99% of all claims are processed within a two-day period, and, unlike many other options, their policies allow pet owners to visit any licensed veterinarian.
The major downside to Healthy Paws is they have a set of age limitations that may exclude some owners from purchasing a policy. Aside from this, they also exclude coverage for hip dysplasia for any animals enrolled after age six.
Cost: $15 a month for cats and $20 a month for dogs.
Embrace is known for providing some of the most comprehensive plans available, which they call nose to tail coverage. Unlike some other providers, Embrace provides up to $1,000 a year for dental illnesses, on top of all the standard Accident/Illness coverage you would expect.
Moreover, Embrace is known for being one of the better companies to deal with when it comes to pre-existing conditions, and they state such issues do not affect premiums. Their monthly fees are a bit higher than average.
Cost: $15 - $20 a month for cats and $30 - $40 a month for dogs.
Pet Assure is a lower-cost alternative that functions somewhat differently. Instead of offering complete or majority coverage for accidents and illnesses, assure insurance plans give a 25% discount on all services performed by an in-network veterinarian. While this does not seem ideal to some, the plans charge a low rate, have no age limitation, and can be used as many times as needed.
Cost: $9.96 per month ($6.58 if paid annually) for cats $11.99 per month ($8.25 if paid annually) for dogs.
As one of America's largest insurance providers, it is no surprise they also offer pet insurance. Since entering the pet insurance industry, Geico has become known for offering more discounts than its competitors, and this, along with low monthly premiums, flexible policy terms, and wellness plans, has made Geico a top choice.
While customers are overall very satisfied with the Geico pet insurance plans, some customers complain that all plans are administered by a third party. Further, other common criticism includes a lack of unlimited benefits options and a lack of value for wellness plans.
Cost: $10 - $15 a month for cats and $25 - $35 a month for dogs.