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The pet insurance industry is one whereby, first and foremost, the consumer must forego and disregard their personal feelings and the values that they project onto their pet, in aid of a much more financially structured viewpoint.
As the world becomes more connected and pets become more exotic, with pet owners choosing to invest in pure breeds which are more expensive to purchase upfront yet are easier to train with more predictable temperaments, so insurance providers have had to adjust and adapt their policies in line with these more expensive animals – both purebreds and exotic species from all over the world. For a pet owner who has invested hundreds of pounds in a purebred cat or dog, suddenly the premiums associated with high level pet insurance do not seem so outrageously expensive – however it is not always as simple as just selecting an insurance policy and expecting the provider to pay out in the face of medical bills and accidents.
For consumers seeking support in the face of vet bills and even accidental injuries caused by their pets, insurance is a must – and yet there will always be those who look to cut corners and find the cheapest plans possible with the lowest premiums payable upfront. This is where consumers must take extra care to understand the rules and regulations associated with their policy, with sites and providers such as Pet Plan creating specialist pet insurance policies which are designed to make the process much easier for consumers to understand.
While today we tend to associate pet insurance with those animals that live alongside us in our daily lives, be they moggies, purebred dogs, exotic mammals and reptiles or even specialist cat breeds, the earliest pet insurance policy was actually taken out in 1890 by the Founder of Länsförsäkrings Alliance; focussing primarily on the coverage and protection of his horses and livestock. If you were to explore and look back over the history of pet ownership in particular, you would see how our attitude to animals has changed over the years – with horses and other valuable livestock which served to create and bring in an income being the most valuable animals to a family or consumer.
It wasn’t until 1947 that pet insurance arrived in the UK, and since then it has grown to cover between a quarter and half of all the pets owned in the UK. In comparison, the quantity of pets covered in the USA by pet insurance is vastly lower, in 2009 sitting at a mere 0.7%.
The earliest examples of pet insurance were designed to provide coverage should the animal require some kind of medical support – though in many cases, with medicine in such early stages, the vast majority of insurance policies were created in the understanding that they would pay out if the pet died or was lost or stolen. This is because, in those earliest days of pet insurance, when coverage was mainly purchased for horses and livestock, it was not a personal loss that was being covered – rather, it was the loss of a business tool.
Fast forward to today, and it seems as though the huge developments made in the field of animal medicine and medical science has actually served to increase the expectations of consumers, with many expecting more from their insurance policy now that healthcare is better and the standard of living has vastly increased.
When a consumer purchases a new pet, whether it be a purebred or a moggy, or something in between, they will be asked by the vet and the breeder if they are planning on purchasing pet insurance. Of course, as consumers can ascertain by the percentages explored above, pet insurance is not compulsory – and in many cases, it may not even be something that the provider can offer depending on the breed or animal and their age.
The most basic pet insurance standard policies tend to cover medical bills and veterinary treatments, though the percentage that the insurance provider will pay towards these bills is largely dependent on the policy taken out by the consumer. Excess payments are rife in the pet insurance industry - just as they are with regards to car and home insurance – with most providers giving their clients and consumers an option to pay a higher excess and thus lower the premium that must be paid on a regular basis to ensure that financial support if and when it is needed.
Many consumers make the mistake of assuming that this financial support will be received upfront – however one of the main things that consumers fail to understand is that pet insurance is a form of property insurance – that is, payment from the claim can only be paid after the medical bill has been settled, thus making insurance claim payment more of a reimbursement than a direct payment towards the medical bills and treatments. What this means for consumers is that they must still be able to front the cost of the treatment when it is required, on the basis that they will hopefully then receive a percentage of it back.
On top of this, there are instances when pet insurance will no longer be viable, and when a provider may turn around and say to a consumer that covering their pet is no longer possible. One of the main instances where this may be the case is when the animal reaches a certain age – for example, when a dog reaches the age of 9 and is from then on seen as uninsurable and too much of a risk for the provider. Animals are living much longer now than they used to, but that doesn’t change the fact that animals still have a standard life expectancy and that when they reach a certain age, the possibility of medical bills, illness, aches and ailments, and death are all too high to be covered by a standard policy.
Other things which are often covered as part of a pet insurance policy include:
Once a consumer has understood the terms associated with various providers and insurance policies, they have a choice between two main types of pet insurance: lifetime, and non-lifetime.
Lifetime pet insurance covers a pet for ongoing conditions across their lifetime – though most providers put limits on the amount of times that the same pet can be insured for the same issue or condition over the course of a year. That is, if a consumer selects a pet which has breathing problems and it continually has to go to the vet for support in light of breathing issues, the provider may at some point decide that the limit has been reached and the pet is no longer covered any more during that year.
The non-lifetime insurance is a policy which covers pets for most conditions during the course of the policy year; if the policy is then renewed for another year, any condition that has been claimed against by the consumer will be struck from the list of conditions available for claims. This means that if the same issue were to occur again, the consumer would be liable for the payment themselves.
For those consumers who have pets that suffer from the same conditions again and again, the obvious solution is to go for the lifetime insurance which costs more but provides more consistent coverage – however the exact terms will depend on the individual provider and what they are offering as part of each individual package.
We have already discussed how Pet Plan is one of the top insurance providers for specific pet insurance, promising a service which empathises with and understands the need that consumers have to cover their pets and ensure that they are supported fully in light of injury or medical conditions.
Some of the top rated pet insurance companies are those which, like Pet Plan, sympathise with the consumer and do all they can to acknowledge the value of pets to their owners. These are the retailers and companies who understand the humanisation of pets and are committed to delivering a high end service for an animal – in the same way as they would for a pet. Some of the best extra service delivered by top retailers in the pet insurance industry include instant cancellation of a policy, specialist care for different breeds and animals, diagnostic and treatment plans as part of the promised service, and a high customer service quality for consumers to lean on when they need to.
Some of the best examples and why consumers use them include:
One of the main things that consumers should make themselves aware of when buying a new pet is which are the best pet insurance providers for that specific pet. Consumers are often guilty of finding a provider they like, and which delivers a great service for their cat, following that up by adding a dog to the same policy or purchasing a policy for their dog under the same provider. However, one of the key things to understand about the pet insurance industry is that nothing is a given and the breakdown of services and provisions is not as simple as it is with car and life insurance – thus a policy which works for one animal may not work so well for another, dependent on what the policy includes and how much treatment it covers.
Another thing that many consumers do not realise is that pet insurance is only liable to pay out in the face of illness and injury – any ongoing treatments which support the life quality and health of your pet are not covered as part of any pet insurance policy or plan. If a consumer is looking for coverage to support these ongoing treatments dedicated to health, they should be looking at Wellness Plans rather than Pet insurance policies.
And finally, we have the simple breakdown of which animals and pets are most likely to benefit from the provision of a pet insurance plan – and contrary to popular belief, this is in fact the younger pets rather than the older ones. Younger pets are the least expensive to insure and they are unlikely to run into common issues and injuries – thus, consumers are only likely to need to draw on their insurance policy in the face of an accident or unanticipated injury – the coverage of which will make the policy hugely worthwhile.
Most of all, it is important for consumers to realise that not all pet insurance is the same – far from it – and that the more research they can do into the ideal insurance plan and provider for their pet, the better the deal they will get. Insuring an old pet makes no financial sense – but insuring a kitten or puppy may just be worth the investment.
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