Besides coverage for congenital and hereditary conditions, almost all pet-insurance companies now have plans that cover cancer and chronic diseases, such as heart or kidney diseases. That’s good news, because cancer and chronic diseases are common among all cats and dogs, starting in middle age. (The cost of a cancer diagnosis, therapy and treatment starts at $4,000.) We also recommend that you make sure that your plan covers continual coverage for chronic diseases. We found that most plans do. You should ask a prospective pet-insurance provider whether it limits the amount of money that it’ll reimburse you for your pet’s treatment. If you don’t, you might discover that a chronic disease might be covered only during the year that it was diagnosed, and you’ll be on the hook for the full cost of your pet’s treatments for that disease for the rest of its life.
MORE OPTIONS. Although pre-existing conditions aren’t covered, most pet-insurance plans now cover some congenital conditions, which are conditions that a pet has at birth, and some hereditary conditions, which are conditions that are passed on through genes.
Experts say continual coverage also is good to have in your pet-insurance plan in case the pet is injured in an accident. For example, if you have continual coverage for your dog, and it has to have surgery to repair a broken bone, you’ll be reimbursed for the cost of its post-surgery rehabilitation as well as medication to treat arthritis that the dog might develop later in life and even acupuncture and chiropractic care to keep the dog comfortable. Otherwise, you could face at least $8,000 out of pocket to cover those expenses. Acupuncture, chiropractic care and other types of alternative therapy for senior pets weren’t covered 5 years ago, but experts say most standard plans now cover these types of treatments.
One more note about new types of coverage: Almost all pet-insurance companies now provide so-called wellness coverage for an additional cost, which starts at $13 per month, on top of your monthly premium. Wellness plans differ by company, but they typically cover annual examinations, suggested preventative medications, such as flea, heartworm and tick control, and suggested vaccines.
What’s good news is that experts tell us that most pet-insurance companies now defer to your veterinarian’s recommendations in this regard. In other words, if you have a dog that spends a lot of time in the woods, your veterinarian might recommend that your dog receives vaccines that might not be necessary for a dog that typically stays inside. Five years ago, wellness plans covered only standard procedures and medication programs.
PAYMENT PROCESS. When you have health insurance, your medical provider bills your insurance company. However, when you have pet insurance, you typically pay the veterinarian, file a claim with your pet-insurance company and get reimbursed after the pet-insurance company approves your claim. Seven veterinarians tell us that the process typically takes less than a month.
Trupanion is the only pet-insurance company that provides direct payment, which means that the company will work directly with your pet’s veterinarian to pay a bill for treatment.
Trupanion started its direct-pay program in 2013. We haven’t heard of any other pet-insurance company that plans to introduce direct pay, but we believe that Trupanion’s direct-pay system takes the bite out of an unexpected veterinary bill.
Debra M. Eldredge is a retired veterinarian who has written about pets since 1994.