Can You Use Your Pet Insurance at the Drug Store?

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Written by:
Published: August 8, 2017
Can You Use Your Pet Insurance at the Drug Store?

Have you ever gone to a “human” pharmacy to fill a pet prescription? Perhaps your veterinarian didn’t carry the medication that your pet needed, or maybe you thought that since your vet prescribed a human medicine, you had to get it from a pharmacy. Whatever the reason, there’s a good chance that while you were waiting in line you thought, “I wish this could be covered by my health insurance.” You’re not alone.

On several occasions, clients have asked me if I would write pet prescriptions under their names so they could use health insurance to offset the cost. Doing so would be illegal, but I do have some good news for those of you who have or are thinking of getting pet insurance. Medication costs are covered by most pet insurance policies regardless of whether the prescription is filled at a human or veterinary pharmacy.

There are some caveats, of course. First of all, every pet insurance policy is different. Some are quite comprehensive and cover drugs as part of their “regular” policy. Others offer a more a la carte approach, and you might have to purchase optional prescription drug coverage to pay for medicines that you give at home (drugs given while a pet is hospitalized are generally covered). Also, the policies that I’m familiar with all state that the medication has to be prescribed by a veterinarian, even if it is available over-the-counter. It can’t just be something that you’ve decided to give on your own…which is rarely a good idea anyway, right?

Also, the coverage provided by pet insurance plans usually involves deductibles, co-pays, and annual limits. You’ll probably still be on the hook for some portion of your pet’s medication expenses. For example, if your policy is written so that you have a 20 percent copay and the drug in question costs $60, you are responsible for $12 and the insurance company will cover the remaining $48. But if you have surpassed your annual limit or you haven’t yet met your deductible for the year (or for the incident, which is how some policies work), you may not be covered at all.

The process of getting the insurance company to pay its share of the bill is usually quite straightforward. If you got the medication from a local or online pharmacy, simply provide the insurance company with a copy of the prescription and an itemized receipt showing how much you paid. If you got the drugs directly from your veterinarian, a separate, written prescription should not be necessary. An itemized invoice is usually sufficient.

Even if you have pet insurance that covers medications, shopping around for the best price never hurts. This is especially true if you plan on getting them from a local pharmacy. Be aware that the cost of your pet’s prescription is going to be much higher than what you would pay if the prescription was for you and you are insured. Compare the prices offered by your veterinarian, local pharmacies, and VIPPS-accredited online pharmacies to get the best deal, and don’t forget to ask your pet’s doctor if a generic version of the prescribed drug is available.

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