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Pet insurance is a great way to make sure you can provide veterinary care for your pet if they are diagnosed with an illness or get into an accident. But what about preventive care?
Unlike human health insurance, the typical pet insurance policy does not cover wellness and preventive medicine. This means that routine veterinary care, like checkups, screening tests, vaccinations, and parasite control, are probably not covered.
That’s where pet wellness plans come into play. Here’s some info on how wellness plans work, what they do and don’t cover, and how your pet could benefit from this type of plan.
What Are Pet Wellness Plans?
If you’re new to the pet insurance game, you may be thinking that pet insurance must be a lot like human health insurance. In some ways that’s true, but there are important differences.
Instead of comparing pet insurance to human health insurance, it may be better to think of typical pet insurance plans like homeowner’s insurance.
For example, you wouldn’t expect your homeowner’s policy to replace your roof just because the old one was worn and needed maintenance, and a new one would better protect your home (aka preventive care). Instead, homeowner’s insurance would only replace your roof if it’s damaged (aka injured) by something like hail.
The same applies to accident and illness pet insurance plans: they don’t cover routine vet care. This is where wellness plans fill the gap.
Wellness plans come in all different shapes and sizes. Some can only be added to a traditional pet insurance policy, while others stand by themselves. Some can’t really even be considered insurance.
What they all have in common, however, is that they will cost you extra, so it’s worth figuring out exactly what they cover and if they are worth it for you and your pet.
What Does Pet Wellness Insurance Cover?
“Wellness care” can mean a lot of things, but some of the things covered under wellness plans include:
Yearly checkups (sometimes twice yearly) and consultation with a veterinarian
Common vaccinations and vaccination titers
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) testing
Heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives
Fecal tests or preventive deworming for intestinal parasites
Routine lab tests to check blood cell counts, organ function, and more
Routine spay/neuter surgeries
Not every pet wellness plan will cover all of these aspects of preventive care, and a few will cover additional items, like grooming or discounts on products and services that aren’t covered.
Read the policy closely and contact the company with any questions you might have. Make sure you fully understand what is and what isn’t covered before making a purchase. Unexpected expenses are very frustrating!
How Preventive Pet Health Care Policies Work
Wellness plans can work in very different ways, depending on the type of plan.
Most commonly, you’ll pay a regular fee for coverage—either yearly or monthly—and then get reimbursed for some or all covered expenses.
Like traditional pet insurance, most wellness plans are deferred reimbursement plans. This means you’ll have to pay for the service at the time of treatment, then submit the invoice (claim) to your insurance company to get reimbursed.
Additionally, wellness plans often have a pre-determined payout amount for a certain type of expense—around $150 for a routine dental cleaning, for example. If the dental cleaning costs more, you’ll have to cover the difference.
Companies often base their payment schedule on the typical cost of the product or service in the United States, so in more expensive parts of the country, it’s not unusual to pay a bit more. A few companies do take location into account, so it doesn’t hurt to ask before purchasing a policy.
Some policies also have an annual expense cap, which means you’d cover 100% of expenses after hitting the cap in any given year.
There are some outliers you should also be aware of. Some types of “insurance” are actually discount plans. They don’t pay for anything, but after enrolling, you have access to discounted services, usually from in-network providers. Also, community pet health plans are available that put together groups of pet parents to spread out the risk of large expenses. Both of these options typically cover illnesses, injuries, and preventive care.
Whichever route you chose, the more that’s included in a pet wellness plan, the more you can expect to pay. However, unlike traditional pet insurance, pet wellness plans usually don’t have waiting periods, copayments, or deductibles.
How Much Do Pet Wellness Plans Cost?
Just like the cost of pet insurance, more traditional pet wellness plans (and community pet health plans) are more expensive, but you get better coverage in return. No-frills plans are available in the range of $20/month, while more comprehensive plans can cost around $60/month.
You can find anything from bare-bones plans to comprehensive wellness coverage. Even within the same company, you’ll often be able to find different levels of coverage, but here are some helpful generalizations:
Dogs are usually more expensive to insure than cats.
Your pet’s age may also play a role in how much you’ll pay for a wellness plan.
Higher coverage limits will cost more than policies with a lower cap.
Discount plans are the least expensive option, often costing around $10/month, but keep in mind that you’ll still be on the hook for the majority of your pet’s wellness care expenses.
Some plans have enrollment fees or other hidden fees, so make sure you read the fine print before signing up for a policy.
Should You Get a Pet Wellness Plan?
No one can decide if a pet wellness plan is right for you except you. If you’re independently wealthy or very good at planning for the cost of pet care, maybe you don’t need wellness coverage. However, these policies do have some significant advantages, including:
The ability to spread out most of your wellness expenses with monthly premiums rather than getting one or two large bills a year
Receiving other benefits, like discounts on care that isn’t covered
And most importantly, making it less likely that you’ll skip out on important wellness care, which means happier and healthier fur friends!
Featured Image: iStock.com/Yelena Shander
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