Monon Animal Hospital

1403 East 86th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46240


How Does Pet Insurance Work?

Pet insurance is actually quite flexible. All pet insurance companies in the United States permit you to visit any veterinarian in the country including general, specialist, and emergency veterinarians. Some pet insurance companies will even cover you in Canada, Mexico, and other parts of the world when you are on vacation.

Insurance for your dog or cat is what is known as a indemnity insurance where you pay the claim up front and the company reimburses you after applying your deductible and co-pay, until you reach your policy's annual or lifetime maximum.

Step 1: Get a Policy

Most pet insurance companies will issue a new policy to pets aged 8 weeks to up to 8 or even 10 years old, sometimes older if your pet undergoes a medical exam. Usually there is a waiting period and some pre-existing conditions may be excluded temporarily or permanently from your policy.

Step 2: The Waiting Period

The waiting period is the time between when you first sign up for cat or dog insurance and when your full coverage kicks in. For example, if you sign up and begin coverage on March 1st then your waiting period for accidents may be two or three days after, say March 3rd, and for illnesses as long as 4 weeks later, say March 31st.

Most pet insurance companies have a waiting period of between 2 and 14 days for accidents and between 14 and 30 days for illnesses. The waiting period is there so that no one takes out insurance immediately after an accident or illness.

The waiting period only applies in your first policy year, after that there is no waiting period on your pet insurance.

Step 3: Making a Claim

Once you've gone to the veterinarian, you pay the bill and fill out a claim form that your veterinarian signs. You fax or mail this form in to the pet insurance company along with your paid and itemized veterinary bill.

Some pet parents wonder why the pet insurance company can't reimburse the veterinarian directly like in human health insurance.

The main reason is that pet insurance is a very, very small industry compared to human health insurance. The computer systems aren't in place that would allow direct reimbursement to the veterinarian and these networks are incredibly expensive to build.

Step 4: You Receive Your Claim Check

Once you've sent in your claim form, it is assessed and you usually receive a check or direct deposit back into your account minus any deductible or co-pay that applies to your policy, until you reach your policy's annual maximum.

If you paid for additional coverages like routine care or prescription drugs, these will be reimbursed on your claim according to your pet insurance plan's limits.

Myths and Facts About Pet Insurance

Myth: You can't get pet insurance for an older pet.
Fact: Just because your pet isn't a puppy or kitten anymore doesn't mean you can't insure him. Pet insurance companies will usually issue a new policy to pets up to 8 or 10 years old, sometimes older if your pet undergoes a medical exam first. Your premium might be higher than on a younger pet and some pre-existing conditions may be excluded. The best thing is to enroll your pet when he's young and healthy and avoid pre-existing condition exclusions.

Myth: Since my pet is well now there's no point buying pet insurance.
Fact: Precisely because your pet has been well means that now is the best time to buy pet insurance because your pet has no pre-existing conditions. Why wait until after your pet becomes sick and you wish you had pet insurance? Why wait until your pet gets a pre-existing condition that pet insurance won't cover? No matter how well your pet is today, there is always a chance that your pet will get sick or injured. Wouldn't you want them to have protection in that case?

Myth: I have to wait until my pet's current medical condition has resolved before getting pet insurance.
Fact: Your pet's current condition may be considered a temporary pre-existing condition but that doesn't mean you can't get pet insurance to cover everything else. For example, if your pet recently cut its leg badly and is still undergoing treatment, conditions relating to this cut - and this cut alone - may be excluded for your first year of insurance but if everything resolves and clears up you will be eligible for full coverage again in the second and subsequent years.

Myth: Pet insurance is only worthwhile if you have a very active pet or an older pet that is likely to develop problems.
Fact: While it is true that an older pet is likely to require a greater level of medical attention than a younger pet, that doesn't mean younger pets don't get sick or injured. And just because a pet isn't highly active doesn't mean it can't get sick. Even indoor cats benefit from pet insurance.

Myth: I don't need pet insurance because I can save a small amount each month to pay for anything that might happen.
Fact: Setting aside a small amount each month as an alternative to pet insurance can definitely help. But there are two downsides to consider: one is that many of us find it hard to save something every month, the other is that you need to wait a long time before you've built up enough savings to pay for a serious illness or accident. For example, if you save $25 each month at 4% interest (paid monthly) after 5 years you will have saved $1,657. But your cat or dog is not going to wait until you've got enough money saved up to get sick!