Pet insurance is amazing. Sure, we would say that, but honestly, it really is. It saves pets’ lives and pet parents’ money. If every pet was insured, the world would be a better place.
However, like any insurance, there’s an immense amount of associated jargon, not least in an insurer’s terms and conditions. This can be baffling, especially if you’re a first-time buyer, and may put some people off.
This is the last thing we want. That’s why we’ve put together this glossary of terms that pop up regularly, so you can be fully informed when buying pet insurance – and ultimately make the best decision for your dog or cat’s long-term health and wellbeing.
A-to-Z of pet insurance terms
Accident and illness coverage
This is the most common policy taken out by pet parents, simply because it’s the most comprehensive, covering both long-term conditions and emergencies alike – as the name suggests.
Sometimes referred to as emergency coverage this type of policy will only provide coverage or only reimburse in the event of an accident – your dog swallowing a foreign object or your cat suffering from a broken leg, for instance. It’s nowhere near as comprehensive as accident and illness coverage, but a good second choice if that’s not possible.
This is the total amount that’s available to be reimbursed by an insurer over a 12-month period. For example, Paw Protect offers a choice of $5,000, $10,000 or Unlimited coverage annually.
Put simply, a bilateral condition is something that affects both the left and right sides of your pet’s body. There are some injuries, like hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament damage, that start on one side and become increasingly likely to affect the other side over time.
A benefit schedule is like an insurance provider’s ‘menu’, on which the fees it’ll pay out for certain procedures and conditions are laid out in advance. This set-in-stone approach doesn’t reflect the complexity of real life, though.
If you’ve taken out an insurance policy and your circumstances change, don’t worry – it’s still possible to stop your coverage. The refund you receive will depend on when you cancel and your insurer.
The amount you pay towards treatment before your pet insurance provider begins to contribute. Some companies have a per-incident deductible, while others have annual, which means you only pay the agreed amount once a year regardless of the number of claims made.
Similar to a benefit schedule, this is the insurer setting out beforehand the maximum amount it will reimburse customers for a specific illness or accident.
Any illness, injury or condition diagnosed or symptomatic before you take out a policy, or that occurs during the initial waiting periods. These are usually excluded from pet insurance, although some curable conditions may be covered if treatment- and symptom-free for a set period of time.
This is the amount that the customer pays, typically monthly or annually, for their insurance policy. The figure is reached by the insurer once a huge range of factors are taken into consideration, including a pet’s age and breed, its location, the annual maximum, reimbursement percentage and deductible.
If you’ve got more than one cat or dog in your household, you don’t have to take out separate insurance policies for each animal. Some insurers offer a discount on multi-pet policies.
Once you send off your vet’s bill to the insurer and the claim’s approved, this is the amount you’ll receive back.
Reimbursement percentage (or co-payment)
You may know ‘copay’ from other insurance – a pre-determined fee or percentage that customers pay towards a claim, regardless of the total amount. With pet insurance, it tends to be set as a reimbursement percentage: the amount the insurer will pay towards a claim after deductibles.
E.g. a $2,000 covered vet bill with a 90% reimbursement level and no deductible will see you pay $200 and the insurer pay $1,800.
Once you take an insurance policy, it’s usually not possible to start making claims right away. Instead, there’s usually a short length of time during which coverage is restricted and this is called the waiting period.
An accident and illness policy is for the unexpected and will cover most conditions. However, it won’t cover routine or preventative care such as spaying and neutering, grooming, training, and vaccines. A wellness plan, which some insurers offer as an additional add-on, helps you save money on these routine necessities. Paw Protect, for example, offers Wellness Rewards, which is an optional, non-insurance product that works as a budgeting tool for wellness care.