Confused by all the pet insurance jargon?
What is an excess?
When you make a claim on an insurance policy, the “excess” is the money that you need to contribute yourself – usually only once per medical condition per year. This helps to keep the monthly premiums at a more affordable price. The amount of “excess” that you pay will depend on the amount agreed within your insurance policy documents (it is likely to be written on your “Certificate of Insurance”). It is usually calculated based on where you live and your pet’s age, breed, sex etc.
The older you pet is, the more susceptible to illness it becomes and hence the higher the insurance risk becomes. For this reason, insurance companies need to reflect this in your payments to them. They achieve this by increasing your policy’s excess in line with age, as well as needing you to pay a percentage of the final bill. Some insurers will also expect the policy holder to pay a percentage of the bill from as young as one year of age, so look out for these catches.
What is a pre-existing medical condition?
This means any illness or injuries which your cat was showing symptoms of before your policy began. It often includes any illness that arises in the first 10-30 days of taking out a policy. Another reason why starting out with the right policy as early as possible is so important for your cat and your wallet!
What does Premium Loading mean?
Many (if not most) pet insurance companies will increase their insurance premiums so what seems like a better deal when you sign up can actually end up costing more. Once your pet becomes unwell or you start claiming for vet fees, you monthly premiums and excess may rapidly soar!
Exclusions at Renewal
Check that your insurer does not put any exclusions in place at renewal for illness that has occurred in the previous policy year (or refuse to renew the policy altogether).
Cover for older cats
When your cat reaches 8-10 years old some insurers will not renew your policy or will only renew “at their discretion”. Most insurance companies will not start a policy for cats over a certain age, varying between insurers but generally a cat needs to be younger than 8-10 years of age to start insurance.
Commonly restricted or excluded conditions
Routine and preventive care (vaccination, neutering, worm & flea/tick control etc)
Anything classed as "cosmetic", including grooming
Problems associated with pregnancy/birthing
All pre-existing conditions (ie those problems that may have started at or before the time of insurance, or up to 30 days afterwards with some policies)
*some insurers cover these conditions to varying degrees but check the fine print carefully!
Third Party Liability
This is an important benefit to protect pet owners against being sued if their pet causes damage or injury. This can be either a dog biting a child or a cat causing a road accident.
TIME TO MAKE A CLAIM?
What sorts of conditions are most commonly claimed for?
The most common health conditions that cat owners submit claims for include:
Making a claim
After you have paid for your cat’s treatment you will need to sort out reclaiming any money from your insurance company.
Why might a claim be rejected?
It is tempting to phone your insurer to check if your cat is covered for a condition before organizing treatment and making a claim. Often you will be given the impression during the call that they are covered….but being told by an insurer that “yes, you can submit a claim for that” is not the same as being covered! It is not until the insurer reads through the invoices and vet medical notes submitted with your claim form, that any decision is made about whether they will be paying out for the claim.
Insurers will never guarantee cover for your pet and neither can we as vets.
The most common reasons for insurers refusing claims are:
Claiming Direct From Your Vet
This is a common policy feature that pet insurance companies promote. What they are saying is that they have the ability to settle payment of your cat’s treatment directly with the vet; however, ultimately this decision is always at the vet’s discretion. Most owners realize that part of their decision to take on a pet involves taking responsibility for its welfare in both sickness and health. The harsh reality is that this costs money. After highlighting the flaws of the various insurance types, it is possible to see why in some circumstances owners may be left without cover for their pets. If this coincides with a vet kindly agreeing to be paid directly by the insurance company, then it is the vet that will be left without any payment when an owner’s insurance claim is rejected. Add to this the fact that some insurers pay out in a less than timely manner for direct claims, and what once seemed like a good idea can lead to real problems. In theory, in the event that a claim is rejected, someone still needs to pay the vets fees. Responsibility for payment always lies in the hands of the pet owner. In reality, vets can be placed in very awkward situations when they have done their very best for an animal that did not survive and then have to approach a grieving owner to chase payment.