Last week, we considered this question about the younger, healthy pet. I’ve seen a number of references in the comments to this blog about having older pets and wondering if they were insurable or not.

There are several pet insurance companies that will insure pets at any age, so age itself isn’t a hurdle to getting health insurance for your pet. But, let’s look at a couple of other factors that may determine if your older pet is insurable, or that may give you pause about purchasing pet insurance for your older pet. Then I’ll give you some possible solutions to the hurdles pet owners face when contemplating whether to insure their older pets.

1. Is my pet insurable for illnesses?

Generally, a pet can be insured with an accident-only policy regardless of age or health status. However, with older pets, you are usually more concerned with coverage for illnesses — particularly chronic illnesses. Some insurance companies won’t insure a pet for illnesses if they have been previously diagnosed with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, Cushings disease, cancer, etc. The reasons that disqualify a pet for illness coverage can vary from company to company.

Whether your pet can be covered for illnesses will be determined after you apply for coverage during the underwriting process. When you enroll, you will be asked a series of questions about your pet’s previous medical history. The pet insurance company may also request a copy of your pet’s medical records. If you’ve recently adopted an older pet, the company may require a physical examination and/or laboratory testing performed by a veterinarian to determine if there are any conditions present that would disqualify the pet from coverage for illnesses. Even if your pet qualifies for coverage, this examination can also determine if there are any specific pre-existing conditions that will be excluded from coverage. I recommend requesting a medical records review when you apply for pet insurance if your pet has previously been treated for one or more problems.

Recently, I’ve had a couple of guests post on my personal blog about their experiences with purchasing pet insurance for their older pets. One purchased pet insurance for the first time for her seven-year-old dog. The other decided to switch pet insurance companies when his dog was ten years old.

2. I can’t afford the higher premiums for older pets.

Another issue that comes up is higher premiums associated with insuring an older pet. The older your pet is when you first purchase pet insurance, the higher your premium will be. Although not all companies raise premiums just because your pet ages, many do, and the increase can be significant. Of course, there are other factors that cause companies to raise premiums besides the age of the pet; inflation, for example.

So, what can you do about the premiums? If the company you have pet insurance with allows you to customize your policy, you can lower your premium by opting for a higher deductible and/or coinsurance. If your company doesn’t allow you to change the deductible or coinsurance, you may have to downgrade to a less expensive policy. I’ve had to do the same thing over the years with my own health insurance. I’ve raised the deductible several times so that now I have truly catastrophic coverage for my family. Of course, taking these actions will result in a greater out-of-pocket expense when you file a claim. I have designed some worksheets that will help you determine your out-of-pocket expense with every policy that each company offers. You can plug in different combinations of maximums, deductibles and coinsurance to determine your total out-of-pocket costs, including the premium with various claim amounts.

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I hope that the information about pet insurance that I’ve written about the past three or four months has given you a basic understanding about how pet insurance works. In my opinion, it is essential information to acquaint oneself with before purchasing pet insurance. You will still need to apply the information by doing diligent research to make sure that your purchase is a wise one — before you sign anything.

I am sorry to say that this is my last post for the Healthy Assurance blog. I want to thank petMD for giving me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned about pet insurance with their audience. I also want to thank you, the readers, who have faithfully read and commented each week. If you have further questions about pet insurance, I would be glad to try to answer them via e-mail.

Dr. Doug Kenney

Ed. Note: We also want to thank Dr. Kenney for sharing his profound knowledge of pet insurance. Rest assured, we are hard at work creating the next phase for Healthy Assurance -- and it will be awesome. Until then, please take a look at the archived Healthy Assurance blog posts, and all of the other great resources the Pet Insurance Center has to offer.

Pic of the day: You gonna take me out? by Omega Man

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