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Shop for pet insurance carefully

Shopping for pet insurance plans is a lot like shopping for human health insurance.

Like humans, pets are susceptible to accidents and illnesses, both serious and minor. Pet insurance plans are one way for consumers to ensure their ability to provide proper medical care for their pets under these circumstances.

When navigating pet insurance policies, pet owners must first consider the illnesses, accidents and care that the plan actually covers.

Some insurers will exclude illnesses related to pre-existing conditions in the animal’s health history. German shepherd owners, for example, may not be reimbursed for treatments concerning hip dysplasia, a genetic condition common to the breed.

Health coverage varies widely by plan, and generally corresponds to the amount of money the owner must pay every year. Called an annual premium, the yearly cost of pet insurance is usually broken up into monthly installments ranging from $10 to $50.

Nina Torres has worked at Queens Animal Hospital on 56-12 Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing for ten years, and advises sticking with an insurance plan with a cheaper premium.

“[Spend] no more than $10 a month, because unfortunately, you might not be able to claim everything at the end of the year,” said Torres.

However, that extra money may make a difference in how much the pet owner will be reimbursed for expensive medical treatments, and whether the insurer is willing to cover hereditary conditions.

Pet insurance plans must be renewed every year, and some insurers will tack on additional rate increases at this time. For that reason, Torres recommends buying pet health insurance only for the pet’s first year.

“Insurance companies do give back a lot in terms of wellness visits, such as check-ups and shots,” said Torres. “After that, I think it’s a waste of money if you’re only going to come in once a year for preventative care.”

The reimbursement process differs from health insurance for people. When people bring their pets to the vet’s office for care, they must pay for the service upfront and file claims with the insurance company later. As the cost for pet care may be quite steep, it is also worthwhile to ask how long the company will take to reimburse claims.

Ultimately, the worth of a pet health insurance plan depends entirely on the owner.

“If a client brings [their pet] in every time they sneeze, they should buy pet insurance,” said Torres. “It really depends on the client.”

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