By Frances Wilkerson, DVM
1. Never buy pet insurance without doing your own research.
2. Do not pick pet insurance solely based on the cost of the premium.
It is important you take the monetary and medical coverage it provides into consideration.
3. Read the terms and conditions of the pet insurance plan.
This includes all the exclusions and requirements listed in the policy.
4. Ask the insurance company for a list of exclusions based on your pet's past medical history and breed.
Typically, you have to purchase the policy first to receive this type of review; this includes submitting medical records. Also, not all pet insurance companies offer this option … but if they do, it will give you a list of the exclusions you can expect based on your pet's prior history. If you don't like what is on this list, you can cancel the policy within the money back guarantee period.
5. Do not wait until your pet has an illness or injury before you buy pet insurance, as it will be considered a pre-existing condition and will not be covered by your policy.
The fewer the number of pre-existing conditions or medical problems your pet has before you apply for pet insurance, the better.
6. Know which states are covered by the plan. Not all pet insurance companies are licensed to sell insurance in all states.
Therefore, before buying a pet insurance plan, make sure the company sells plans in your state and any state you may be thinking of moving to. Also, make sure the coverage will be the same in the new state. If you do have to switch pet insurance companies, any medical conditions your pet had under the old company may be considered pre-existing by the new company.
7. Know the enrollment age range of the plan.
This is the age your pet must be to sign up for a new policy. There is usually a maximum as well as minimum age. There can be one range for dogs and one range for cats. There can also be ranges for certain breeds.
8. Ask the insurance company how and when your premium can increase.
9. Ask the insurance company what their waiting periods are, as it will vary from company to company.
10. Ask the insurance company what their policy is on pre-existing conditions, as it will vary from company to company.
11. Make sure you understand the company's bilateral conditions policy.
A bilateral condition is any condition that can happen on both sides of the body. Some companies have restrictions on how much they will cover for these types of conditions. Examples of bilateral conditions include -- but are not limited to -- hip dysplasia (could happen in both hips) and cruciate injuries (could happen in both knees).
12. Pet insurance companies are businesses.
As such, one of their top priorities is to be profitable. They can and may change your rates and terms to meet that priority. A change of business ownership or underwriters can also be a catalyst for changes in your rates and terms. When you purchase pet insurance, make sure you have a realistic understanding of this and how it can affect you.
Dr. Wilkerson is the author of Pet-Insurance-University.com. Her goal is to help pet owners make informed decisions regarding pet insurance. She believes that everyone can make great decisions when given good, reliable information.