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Do Your Homework Before Buying A Pet Insurance Policy

Originally Posted: June 30, 2010

Stella, aging gracefully (16+) might also benefit from insurance for costly procedures. (Katherine Henning)

Southampton - Is pet insurance a good idea?

Pet insurance policies are designed to help pay for veterinary care when a pet suffers an unexpected illness or injury. Some policies even compensate consumers when a pet dies unexpectedly or is lost or stolen.

Only an individual consumer can decide if the cost of insuring a pet makes sense as a hedge against expensive veterinary care. As with any other form of insurance, however, consumers should first do their homework before buying a policy.

The New York State Insurance Department urges consumers considering pet health insurance to shop for insurance by examining the policies offered by more than one insurer and to take the time to read the terms and conditions of policies.

Nikki, just two and a half, may need insurance to keep her youthful figure and energy. (Mary Wilson)

The Insurance Department suggests consumers consider these and other issues before buying a policy:

Covered conditions - Some insurers may reimburse covered expenses for accidents, illnesses, surgeries and X-rays, while other insurers may exclude coverage for certain illnesses or impose waiting periods for coverage to kick in.

Pre-existing conditions - Hereditary conditions and certain other conditions are considered pre-existing conditions, so ask about them and review the policy to see if they are covered, involve a waiting period before coverage begins, or are entirely excluded.

Renewable benefits - If your pet is treated for a covered condition during the policy term, some insurers will then consider that condition pre-existing when the policy renews and will exclude coverage under the renewed policy.

Exclusions - Treatments not covered by pet insurance can vary by the type of pet or breed. Not all plans cover preventative care, dental care not associated with an accident or injury, treatment for behavioral problems, or breed-specific hereditary conditions.

Reimbursement - Make sure you understand how the insurer makes payments, if you will be responsible for the full amount at the time of treatment, and whether co-pays or deductibles will apply. The insurer should provide you with a benefits schedule that lists what the company will pay per treatment.

Consumers who need help understanding their insurance needs should contact their insurance agent, broker or company. They should always feel free to use Insurance Department consumer resources. Detailed information on insurance is available on the Department's website, www.ins.state.ny.us. Consumers may also speak with Consumer Services Bureau personnel between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-342-3736.

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