When it comes to selecting a pet insurance policy you will find yourself in a bewildering minefield. There are dozens of companies, each with their own type of policy and pricing structure. It is important to remember that you cannot safely choose on price alone. The cheapest policies are usually those with the lowest level of cover, which may be insufficient for your needs.
Types of policy
Life long policies. Provided the policy is renewed every year, all conditions will continue to be covered for life up to the policy's maximum. In other words, no new exclusions will be added. This type of policy is the most expensive and covers both short and long term treatment.
Individual condition policies. Each condition has a limit, a maximum amount that will be paid out over time. Once this limit is reached all cover for that condition stops but continues for other conditions. This is fine for small treatments but, if a pet gets a long term condition, such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, after a while the cover will run out.
Annual policies. After twelve months any condition claimed for will no longer be covered. This type of policy is usually the cheapest and most widely advertised but is only suitable for short treatments and is unlikely to be sufficient for most pet owner's needs.
With Annual and Individual Condition policies there is greater potential for disputes between insurance company and policy holder about whether a condition is new or related to one already claimed for.
With all types of policy the premium and the excess may rise sharply as the animal gets older. We have known clients who have had to abandon their policies because the premiums rose to unaffordable levels.
You will normally pay the vet's fees then fill in a claim form to send to the insurance company. If they agree with your claim you will receive repayment less the stated excess. Some companies pay up promptly and others can delay payments for long periods.
Once you have made a claim or your animal has developed a medical condition it becomes more difficult to change policies so it is important to get the right company and policy at the beginning. It is extremely difficult to obtain independent advice on pet health insurance because providers can usually only legally advise about one company. You should therefore be very careful to compare the small print of each policy before making your choice.
Orchard Vets' Pal For Life health scheme was set up as an alternative to pet insurance. With this Scheme, unlike insurance policies, there is no limit to the cover so all treatments are covered for life. For more information about the Scheme, including a comparison with insurance policies, press the link below.