How to Pay for Pet Insurance in the USA

How to Pay for Pet Insurance in the USA

Pet insurance usually works a little differently than human health insurance. You pay the vet bill upfront and then submit a claim to your provider for reimbursement.

You get to choose factors like deductibles, annual limits, and reimbursement rates — giving you a custom plan that fits your budget.

1. Premiums

Many companies sell pet insurance, and premiums vary widely. The type, age and gender of your pet will influence the cost, as well as your location and average veterinary costs.

Like other types of insurance, you’ll pay a monthly premium in exchange for reimbursement when your pet is injured or sick. A deductible and annual coverage limit also influence the cost.

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You can cut the cost of your pet insurance policy by increasing your deductible, lowering the percent reimbursed or choosing an annual cap instead of unlimited coverage. However, these tactics shift more of the risk of expensive vet bills to you.

2. Deductibles

When you purchase pet insurance, deductibles are one of the first things you’ll need to consider. By requiring policyholders to share the cost of initial vet bills, deductibles encourage responsible use and help keep premiums affordable.

The type of deductible you choose will also impact your monthly or annual premium. For example, a higher deductible will typically come with a lower premium, while a lower deductible will likely come with a higher premium.

In addition to deductibles, you’ll also want to understand copays and reimbursement rates. Copays and reimbursement rates are different from deductibles in that they only apply to specific types of claims. For example, if your pet requires emergency surgery for a swallowed toy lodged in their stomach and later gets an ear infection, you will need to meet the deductibles for both incidents.

3. Coverage

Depending on the type of policy you choose, pet insurance can reimburse for costs related to accidents and illnesses. Some policies include wellness coverage, which reimburses for things like annual vaccinations, teeth cleaning and spaying/neutering.

When comparing policies, pay attention to the annual coverage limit, deductible and reimbursement rate. You also want to ensure that the policy covers your pet’s breed-specific health risks.

NerdWallet editors evaluate pet insurance providers and their plans to make sure they meet our high standards. We consider factors such as reimbursement speed, deductibles and pre-existing condition exclusions when making our recommendations. In addition, we look at companies’ history and initiatives to help pets in need. Click through to find a plan that’s right for you. And don’t forget — always keep emergency savings in reserve.

4. Reimbursement

While comparing pet insurance plans make sure to look at plan costs, exclusions and coverage options. Then, consider how each provider reimburses policyholders for vet visits. For example, some companies require you to pay the bill at the time of service then submit a claim. Other companies will reimburse you an annual percentage of your total vet bill after the deductible is met.

Many providers also offer direct pay, which means that they will pay your veterinarian directly at the time of service. This can eliminate the need to submit a claim and helps you avoid running up your credit card or draining your savings. However, this type of coverage is not available from all pet insurance providers. Some only provide it for certain conditions and at certain hospitals.

5. Pre-existing conditions

Taking care of your pet can get expensive, especially when there’s an illness or injury that requires medical attention. This is why many pet owners consider getting pet insurance to help cover the cost of veterinary visits and treatment.

Pet pre-existing conditions are a significant factor in deciding whether or not a pet insurance policy is right for you. The definition of a pre-existing condition usually includes any health issues that occur or show symptoms before your coverage begins or during a waiting period.

Many companies also distinguish between curable and incurable conditions. For example, if your pet has had an ear infection in the left ear before your insurance kicked in, but a new one develops in the right ear, it would probably be covered since it’s considered curable.

6. Waiting periods

Pet insurance waiting periods are the amount of time between when you purchase a policy and when coverage starts. If your pet experiences an accident or illness during this period, the insurer won’t cover it (or pay back your claims). Accident waiting periods typically last one to 14 days. Illness waiting periods usually last a few weeks, although some policies offer shorter wait times.

Pet parents who have pets that are at a higher risk of orthopedic issues like cruciate ligament damage or hip dysplasia may want to consider a plan with a short orthopedic waiting period. However, keep in mind that no pet insurance provider offers immediate coverage for pre-existing conditions. This is to prevent fraud by pet owners who buy pet insurance just to cover known conditions.

7. Exclusions

Pet owners need to understand that pet insurance has exclusions, deductibles, annual coverage limits and other limitations. Generally, pet insurance covers expenses for accidents and illnesses. It does not cover routine care like exams, vaccinations or dental cleanings. It also does not usually cover costs for grooming, behavioral training or prescription food.

Some of the most common pet insurance exclusions include pre-existing conditions and waiting periods. Pre-existing conditions are injuries or illnesses that happened before the policy started and are not covered. However, some chronic conditions that were cured may be eligible for coverage after a specified period of time.

Bilateral conditions (those that affect both sides of the body) are generally not covered, and hereditary or congenital diseases are also excluded. Most insurers have a waiting period before covering certain diseases, such as cruciate ligament issues or orthopedic problems.


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