Of the cases we see at Northwest Surgeons, 95% of these are insured for veterinary fees. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for. Even the insurance companies say this! So how do you know which insurance policy to choose for your dog or cat?
Lloyds TSB and Halifax have pulled out of the pet insurance market. This has left many consumers stranded. If your pet has an on going condition covered which has already been subject to an insurance claim you probably will not be able to get cover for this on a new policy.
The best insurance policies will of course be more expensive, but choosing a cheaper policy could leave you with inadequate cover or no cover at all. So where do you start?
The question how much can you afford can be viewed many ways! Firstly, work out how much can you afford per month for an insurance policy. Then check the policy limit. Consider what happens if you reach the limit on your insurance policy. Many people don’t realise that there may be a gap between what the insurance will pay out and the vet bill, and because there is no NHS for pets it will be you left to pick up this amount.
How much cover do you need?
Insurance policy limits vary from £500 to £12000. The days of limitless policies are gone.
Bills for specialist veterinary treatment can be somewhere between £2000-5000 so this gives you an idea of where to start, but bear in mind that certain conditions can be more than this.
In recent years there has been an increase in cheaper insurance policies and of course, at the same time veterinary fees are increasing. In many cases this is leaving a bigger gap between what the insurance covers and what the client has to pay. If your cover limit is £2000 and your vet bill is £4500 you need to find £2500 out of your own pocket.
What is an excess?
Most policies will have an excess. This is an amount, usually around £70-£100 which you have to pay yourself when you make a claim – so really it is not worth claiming on your insurance unless the bill is over this amount. The older the pet, the higher the excess will be. Some policies also require that you pay a percentage of the claim, usually 10-20%, although this is more common with older animals. Beware on a £3000 bill this will be £300.
How long will the insurance pay out for a condition?
Dogs and cats diagnosed with diabetes will need lifelong insulin treatment, to pick an example. The cheaper policies will only pay out for a year, so if you need the reassurance of lifelong cover make sure you get the right policy. Don’t make the mistake of picking the cheapest online policy. Phone the company and discuss your needs to make sure you fully understand what you are buying. And read the small print.
What is pre-authorisation?
Many private medical insurers insist on pre-authorising claims. This is a slick process whereby you are assured that your insurance will pay for your private healthcare. Some pet insurers request pre-authorisation for certain claims but the process is rarely a well-oiled one and can delay your pet’s treatment. It is not uncommon for our clients to have to wait several hours for this. Check when you buy a policy whether the company ask for pre-authorisations.
What not to do!
Cancel your policy – all of us have seen clients who, having never claimed on their policy decided to cancel it, only for the worse to happen and the pet become ill. Only do this if you can afford to pick up any subsequent bills!
How we can help you
If you are referred to Northwest Surgeons for specialist treatment, for certain insurance companies we will process the claim for you and the insurance company will pay us direct (known as a direct claim). This saves you having to pay us first and then claim back the money yourself. We do not do this for all companies because some have poor reputations for paying claims. (Although we would like to tell you which companies to avoid this is not particularly professional!) We have a dedicated Claims Manager to process claims and communicate with the insurers which is why we levy a small fee for doing so. You must provide us with your certificate of insurance and sign a direct claim agreement which allows us to act on your behalf to make the claim.
So think carefully when buying pet insurance and check exactly what you are paying for and what is not covered. If in doubt, ask your vet.Feature, General