Pet insurance has gained huge popularity overseas in the last decade and it is starting to increase in popularity here in New Zealand with an increasing number of insurance firms offering policies. The benefits for pet owners are huge and it certainly provides peace of mind.
Routine veterinary care is affordable and most people can budget for this. However injuries and illnesses may result in unforeseen medical expenses. Pet insurance can help you budget for these unexpected medical expenses. It is prudent to look at your budget and work out what you need in an insurance policy. There are several companies offering pet insurance policies in New Zealand, sorting through the various plan choices and options can be daunting. Asking your vet is a good start. Below are some tips to help you through the process.
It is all about you! Are you worried about being able to afford emergency care for accidents or sudden illnesses? Are you worried about paying for medications and tests for ongoing conditions? Some of these may be costly, and this is where pet insurance may help you. Each insurance company has different benefit packages, it is good to do a little research into them until you find one that best matches what you want. Standard plans typically offer cover for illnesses and emergencies – for example treatment for toxin ingestion or car accidents. More comprehensive policies may include day-to-day care such as neutering, health checks, vaccinations and dental procedures etc.
Always read the fine print. As an example make sure you know whether they cover any pre-existing conditions. Also whether the company places age limits on cover and any other exclusions might be important points to check. Some companies may charge more for certain breeds or if you live in certain areas of the country. And make sure it offers you coverage for any specialty care such as referral to a dermatologist, advance imaging or ophthalmologist.
Avoid surprises! Ask for a breakdown of your premium or quote. Premiums may increase with the age of the pet. Some companies increase you premiums as you submit claims and some companies may have a high excess per claim. Check and compare these costs and find one that suits you. A good insurer should be ‘transparent’ about what they will pay for and how much they will cover.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask your vet for recommendations and ask the insurers themselves. Find out how long the insurance company has been in business and how stable it is. Find out what the company’s claim submission process is, it should be easy to use for you and your vet. Does the prospective insurer offer multi-pet discounts? Does the policy cover your pet whilst travelling or in the care of a pet sitter or boarding facility?
Pet insurance is well worth it, happy investigating.
Yolande Howell BVSc(Hons)
Selwyn Veterinary Centre