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Whether your pet needs emergency care following an accident or has an issue that you want to get checked out, you’re probably wondering where you should go.Do you have to go to a specific licensed veterinarian or stay within a network to ensure your pet insurance provider will cover you? And if not, where can you take your pet?Let’s find out.
Do All Vets Accept Pet Insurance?
Pet insurance works a little differently from health insurance. It’s not a case of whether or not a vet accepts insurance, but whether the insurer accepts them.With health insurance, you only pay the deductible and copayment. The healthcare provider will then file a claim with your insurance company, the latter will negotiate with the former, and the bill will be paid.With pet insurance, the policyholders (the pet parents) are the ones who receive and pay the bill, after which they take the bill to their insurer and are then reimbursed for the cost.Pet owners typically don’t need to worry about “in-network” care like they do with health insurance. Most pet insurance plans cover all licensed veterinarians nationwide, and some extend to Canada as well. That typically includes any care provided by an emergency clinic or specialty care provider, but it depends on the specific provider and policy.
Do All Pet Insurance Companies Use This Model?
Although the aforementioned reimbursement model is used by most pet insurance companies, there are a few exceptions that use the Vet Pay Direct model. In such cases, the insurance company will handle everything and pet owners don’t need to worry about fronting upfront costs.However, these models only work if your vet accepts pet insurance directly.This service is provided by Healthy Paws, Trupanion, and Pets Best. You can check their websites to see which vets accept direct payment. These providers also offer a reimbursement option when direct pay is not available.
How Does a Pet Insurance Company Pay?
If your insurance company uses the reimbursement model, you must first pay for the treatment and then submit a claim. Bear in mind that this is only possible after the waiting period is over.The claims process varies by insurer, but here are some examples:
Nationwide Pet Insurance
- Upload a photo of your invoice.
- You can submit a claim online or by email at the following address: [email protected]
- Claims can also be faxed to 714-989-5600 or sent by snail mail.
- Answer a few questions about the vet visit.
- Wait for up to 30 days for the claim to finalize. You can check the status of your claim by logging in to your Nationwide account.
Spot Pet Insurance
- Complete a claim submission form through the Spot website or app.
- Include the invoice from your vet.
- Wait for a check or a direct deposit reimbursement on the 15th of the following month.
Lemonade Pet Insurance
- Make sure the claim is filed within 180 days of treatment.
- Take a picture of the invoice or a paid receipt.
- Get a copy of your pet’s medical records.
- Download the Lemonade app and look for the “File a Claim” link.
- Answer questions asked by “Jim”, a chatbot.
- Record a video describing what happened.
- Upload everything and submit.
ASPCA Pet Insurance
- Use the Free My Pet Insurance App.
- Select “Claims”.
- Describe what happened.
- Include a picture of the invoice.
- Submit your claim.
Figo Pet Insurance
- Log into the Figo Pet Cloud.
- Look for the “Claims” icon.
- Answer questions relating to your vet visit.
- Upload a copy of the paid invoice.
- Click “Submit”.
MetLife Pet Insurance
- Prepare your claim within 90 days of treatment.
- Complete and sign the claim form.
- Include medical records and notes regarding the treatment.
- Include an itemized invoice.
- Submit via the online portal, mobile app, email, or fax.
What is the Waiting Period?
Your coverage doesn’t start immediately after purchasing a policy. It is subject to something known as a waiting period. Insurance companies set waiting periods to reduce the risk of fraud, otherwise, the policyholder could just wait until there is an injury or illness and then purchase pet insurance.Waiting periods vary. They are usually set at just a few days for accidents and a couple of weeks for illnesses. Some conditions, such as long-term orthopedic problems, are subject to waiting periods of several months. These timeframes differ considerably across the industry.
What if an issue develops during the waiting period?
Although waiting periods are designed to cut back on fraud, there are legitimate reasons why you might need to make a claim within a few days. Your pet could injure themselves mere minutes after buying insurance—it’s unlikely and it’s unlucky, but it happens.Unfortunately, even though it would be a legitimate claim, it would be classed as a pre-existing condition and might not be covered.
Do these timeframes still apply if I switch?
Even if you switch providers, you may still be subject to a waiting period as your new provider will likely treat you like a new customer.
How To Find a Good Vet
As pet insurance usually applies to all licensed veterinarians, you have plenty of options at your disposal when looking for a new vet. So, how do you find the best one?Well, while many pet owners just choose the closest clinic, we recommend practicing a little due diligence and completing the following steps. It could save you a lot of stress and money in the future, as not all vets provide the same level of care or charge the same fees.
Make sure they are licensed
Sticking with a licensed veterinarian will ensure you get the highest level of care. Just as importantly, it means you will actually be reimbursed by your insurance provider. Check with your state’s licensing authority and make sure your preferred vet clinics are licensed.
You probably know people who have pets, and there’s a good chance they have some experience with local vets. So, ask around and see if they have any recommendations.Don’t just take their word for it based on a few brief check-ups. Pay more attention to friends with pets who have undergone extensive treatments, whether because their pet has/had a serious condition or because they’ve had a couple of accidents and surgeries.
Check online reviews
Every established vet clinic will have scores of online reviews. Check local and national review hubs, as well as social media sites like Facebook. Pay attention to the comments from people who have paid for serious injuries and illnesses, as opposed to the ones who just had checkups, visited wellness clinics, or enjoyed a pleasant chat with the receptionist.
Look for vets with an emergency clinic
Does the vet have an emergency clinic? This is important, as oftentimes the scariest pet-related incidents happen out of hours. If your dog or cat is injured in the early hours of the morning, you should be able to take them to an emergency clinic where they can get help immediately.
What is the disadvantage of pet insurance?
Aside from the cost, the main disadvantage of pet insurance is that you have to pay for the treatment upfront and then wait for the reimbursement process. At best, it’s a nuisance that could tie up funds you need for something else. At worst, it could require a sizeable chunk of cash that you just don’t have.On the plus side, you will get that money back eventually—if you didn’t have pet insurance, every penny would be lost.
Can I get pet insurance before taking my dog to the vet?
No. A new pet insurance policy will be subject to a waiting period, and any issues that occur during this period will not be covered. Still, the sooner you get pet insurance, the fewer issues you will have in the future.
How much does it cost to insure a pet?
It varies based on the animal, breed, and age, as well as your location. Cats are cheaper to insure than dogs and older animals cost more than young pets. The average is around $40 to $60 for dogs and $20 to $40 for cats.
Can you get pet insurance if your pet is already sick?
You can still get pet insurance to cover future issues and treatments, but the policy likely won’t cover any treatments relating to the existing issue.