Veterinary medicine has, in recent years, become increasingly sophisticated. We are able to diagnose and treat many conditions that a few years ago would have remained undetected, with often fatal consequences, especially for older pets. The downside of these advances is cost. Several cases especially where a referral for “consultant” treatment is made can run into several thousands!
One of the most distressing situations we find ourselves in, is where a pet’s problem is curable, but (understandably in some cases) the cost is too high for the owner and the animal has to be put to sleep. A less serious situation is when the owner has to opt for the less than best treatment available for their pet, owing to money constraints.
That’s where pet insurance comes in, as veterinary fee cover can help you to avoid such situations, but when choosing an insurance company, there are a few things you should look out for:
- Be careful to check that the amount of veterinary fee cover is adequate. Over time, a single illness can cost many hundreds or thousands of pounds.
- Check that there is no limit on how long you can claim for each illness. (This is called a Lifetime cover policy for EVERY illness renewable yearly). Some insurance companies place exclusions on an illness after a year. Chronic conditions can go on for life, not just 12 or 24 months.
- Check that your pet will be covered in later years, when he or she may need it most.
- What won’t be covered: like your household and car insurance, pet insurance has an excess, which you will have to pay on each claim in each claim year. Vaccinations, routine treatment i.e. neutering, worming and most foods are not covered.
Some insurance companies include a pensioner and multi-pet discount.
Our practice endorses the concept of pet insurance and we thoroughly recommend it to our clients. Our only interest is to ensure that we never have to compromise the quality of veterinary care on the basis of cost.
Switching insurance could cost you more!
Pre-existing conditions may not be covered. Pet insurance is designed to cover costs associated with unforeseen injuries or illnesses. Most policies will automatically exclude any condition that occurred before the start of a policy. If you change insurance companies, the new policy insurer is also likely to exclude pre-existing conditions. This is particularly relevant for clients who move from a Covered for Life policy which would have continued to cover treatment costs for the rest of the pet’s life (providing the client renews each year). Clients will have to find the money themselves to cover further treatment costs for any pre-existing conditions which are excluded, which could actually end up costing thousands of pounds during their pet’s lifetime.
Not all pet insurance is the same. It is very important that you are clear about the type of cover you are switching to. If you move from a Covered for Life policy to a 12 month or Maximum Benefit policy it is essential to understand the difference.
If your pet develops a skin condition such as eczema, it may require treatment for the rest of its life. On a 12 month policy, you would only be able to claim for 12 months of treatment, then the condition is excluded. On a Maximum Benefit policy, you would be able to claim until the cover limit is reached, before the condition is excluded. Many insurance companies advertise the fact they offer cover for the life of your pet, but it is not clear that this means with exclusions on these types of policies.
There are now hundreds of different pet insurance policies available, provided by a wide range of companies, from supermarkets to garden centres. Some providers are new to pet insurance and do not have the experience yet to price and underwrite policies. You may be tempted by a cheaper premium in the short term, but could find your premiums increase significantly at renewal, or if you make a claim.
Insurance forms and claims
Our practice policy is that you the owner claim direct from the insurance company. It is your responsibility to settle your pet’s bill in full at the time of treatment/collection.
You should obtain a claim form from your insurance company and complete the policyholder sections and sign in the correct locations. Our insurance administrator will then complete the Veterinary Practice sections and print out any relevant receipts. Unlike many other practices, we do not charge you for this. Once we have completed our parts of the claim form it will either be returned for your approval and submission to the insurance company or sent to the insurance company directly. A stamp-addressed envelope, with your name and address, should be provided to us with your claim form to facilitate a quick return.
In some circumstances, depending on treatment cost and insurance company, we will authorise a direct claim. This is where the insurance company pays us directly for the treatment carried out within the practice on your pet. There is an administration fee for this of £25.00, which is not reclaimable from your insurance company. A minimum payment must be made to the practice of £250.00, plus the £25.00 administration fee. Card details are taken and should your insurance company not settle our account within 60 days, the balance is taken from your card. Once the claim is settled, should there be any balance on your account, this will be returned to you immediately, via your original payment method.