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Your beloved pooch or kitty is doubtlessly the light of your life. You spend a lot of your time and money on caring for your family pets, ensuring their happiness and longevity. However, when it comes time to go to the veterinarian’s office, bills can start mounting up quickly. The first ever insurance plan put on a pet was in 1982 on the ever-loved Lassie. Since then, pet insurance has become a relatively conventional coverage plan that pet owners are obtaining for the benefit of both their budgets and animals.

Pet Insurance is Reimbursement-Based

Unlike health coverage that you would have on your family, pet insurance is totally reimbursement-based. This means that you will pay any and all of the bills yourself, file a claim with the provider and then receive repayment by mail in the form of a check. This helps because you are getting money back for what you already paid, but it can be difficult for families that just don’t have the initial money to lay out for vet bills. There are no co-pays, deductibles or basic coverage, as everything needs to be paid in full before reimbursement can be made by the company.

Sick Pets Might Not Be Covered

If you have an older pet in poor health, you will most likely be denied health coverage. Pet insurance companies are legally allowed to deny coverage on any case, and they take advantage of this when it comes to sick animals that are going to need a lot of care. They may also drop coverage if your pet gets very sick while protected under their plan. You will have to submit an examination form signed by your veterinarian before you can be approved for a new policy. The insurance company has all rights to approve or deny your pet coverage.

Your Premium Varies According to Risk

Certain animals are at greater risk for health issues than others. For example, the American Bulldog needs to have a cesarean section if she ever gets pregnant, and this is a risk factor that insurance companies consider. Female dogs might cost more to protect than male dogs and cats might cost you less to cover than a dog. Risk factors determine what you’re going to pay each month on your premium.

Premiums Might Cost More Long-Term than Medical Bills

Some financial experts and veterinarians agree that pet owners are better off putting money aside into a savings account in case their pet gets ill instead of taking out insurance. Insurance premiums can be quite expensive over the course of time, costing you thousands of dollars before you even make use of the coverage. If you’re able to put money into an insurance plan for your pet, surely you can put that money into an emergency vet bill fund.

The Claim Process

When you take your animal to the vet and receive a bill, you will need to submit this bill to the insurance company in the form of a claim. Claims are normally handled in about two weeks, but this can vary depending on the specific company you’ve chosen to go with. In some cases, it can take months to get money back on a vet bill that has already been paid, putting the pet owner in a rather precarious financial situation. Researching pet insurance providers will give you an idea as to which ones are reliable and trust-worthy and which ones are slow to finalize claims and pay back their customers. Also, keep in mind that not all claims are approved. If you went with a more advanced treatment for pet care, the insurance company can deny it claiming that it should have been a cheaper level of therapy.

The bottom line with pet insurance is that it’s a great form of coverage for pet owners who have healthy pets that they take to the vet regularly for checkups and minor problems. It isn’t so great for owners who have older, sick animals that need lots of advanced medical care. Because there is no in-network provider list, you can keep using the veterinarian you have been bringing your pets to for years.