What's important to consider when choosing pet insurance?
As a nation of pet lovers who treat pets as members of our family, it’s probably not surprising that Pet Insurance has been available in the UK for many years, and the number of insurance providers and types of policy available continues to increase.
This amount of choice we have is great, but it can be bewildering when it comes to deciding if dog or cat health insurance is right for you and your pet and makes choosing a policy challenging!
We’ve summarised the factors we think are important to consider when you are deciding if pet insurance is worth it for you, or whether you could cope without it if the unthinkable happened.
- What types of pet insurance policy are available in UK?
- How important is it to understand policy exclusions and terms and conditions?
- What factors will affect my pet insurance premiums?
- Why do pet insurance premiums keep increasing?
- If I save the premium value each month is that a workable alternative to buying pet insurance?
- Where can I find out what pet insurance customers REALLY think about their insurer?
According to a survey by Mintel about 60% of dogs and 40% of cats are covered by pet insurance policies. Pet insurance policies break down into 4 main types:
Lifetime Cover, which provides cover for life bearing in mind policy exclusions and these vary policy to policy. This type of policy is the best type to buy as it will provide the most comprehensive cover and will keep providing cover for the treatment of long term conditions;
Time Limited Cover is cover provided for a set period of time for any one condition. Cover is also often limited to a total value of cover per condition too. You can claim for treatment for any particular condition or accident for a set time period, usually a year and then cover stops. This condition is then considered a pre-existing condition and is no longer covered when you renew the policy;
Maximum Benefit where the insurer will pay for claims for any one condition up to a limit and then that condition is no longer covered and is treated as a pre-existing condition;
Accident only where the insurer will cover claims related to accidents only. This type of policy can be useful if your pet is older and Lifetime Cover premiums are just too high, although it won’t cover your pet if they develop an illness.
All policies have exclusions, limits for different sorts of treatment or claim, and conditions so it’s always important to read the terms and conditions before committing to a purchase.
The policy pay-out limits quoted usually relate to vet fees (excluding routine check-ups and preventative treatments) and there will be special limits for particular types of claim such as complementary therapies, special diets or dental care.
Many policies have a policy excess which you will pay as part of each claim, but it is possible to buy policies where you can choose the excess you pay. Some insurers introduce a co-pay when your pet reaches a certain age (around 6 -ish but sometimes older or younger depending on the breed). This will mean for every claim you submit you pay the excess and a percentage of all other costs. Co-pay clauses usually ask you to pay around 20% of the remaining costs with the insurer covering the other 80%.
With so many elements of a policy to vary we do have a situation in UK where it seems no two policies are the same, so reading the terms and conditions is crucial to understanding exactly what you are buying.
Claims being unexpectedly rejected are one of the main reasons why people become disillusioned with their pet insurance. It’s vital to check the terms and conditions thoroughly to understand what is excluded and what the cover limits are by types of claim.
It’s a good idea to check the initial waiting period, which is the time that needs to pass after taking out the policy before you can claim. If your policy includes complementary treatments check what is and isn’t covered and if there are any restrictions on the number of sessions the insurer will pay for, or pay-out limits.
A common exclusion is ‘pre-existing conditions’. This means that if your pet was previously treated for a condition or accident and the issue re-occurs your insurer will not cover the claim. This is why it is a good idea to buy pet insurance as soon as you get your puppy or kitten to make sure they haven’t had a chance to develop any conditions! Don’t worry if you adopt a rescued cat or dog, some insurers will accept a vet examination and certificate in place of a medical history so it is still possible to get cover even if your pet is older when it joins your family.
Bi-lateral conditions are another common exclusion. This means that if your dog or cat suffers a condition on one side of their body the same condition will not be covered if it occurs in the other side of their body. This is often applied to cruciate ligament or patella issues.
If you have any questions about cover, please ask the insurer before you buy to make absolutely sure you are buying a policy that is right for you.
Please use our community to learn what it’s really like to be each insurers customer. You can visit each insurers page from our insurers home page and read genuine owner’s reviews and opinions about each insurer’s customer service and claim handling. This kind of information won’t be on the insurer’s purchase page, but it so valuable to know what it will be like to deal with them when you are coping with the stress of a poorly pet.
You can see our full list of reviews here and don’t forget to share your own experiences to help others make the right decision too.
The information above is non-specific to any particular pet insurance policy and should be regarded as a basic overview of the type of features that may feature in a policy. The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author. Always refer to an insurer for specific, accurate information on their policy features.