Is your pooch covered?

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    Pet health insurance may be a good option for your furry friends

    Just about everyone has medical insurance to help cover their bills when they’re sick or injured, but did you know there is insurance to help cover your veterinary bills as well?

    “Pet insurance is health insurance that covers illness and injury to your pet,” said Barbara Walker of the Hartland Insurance Agency. “If your pet is sick or injured, you can receive treatment from a licensed vet.”

    The way it works is that a pet owner will choose from the plans offered by their insurance agency for their pet, based on age, type and any pre-existing conditions. There will be a premium and usually a deductible, and pet owners can choose from plans that offer different levels of coverage.

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    “It’s a pretty simple process,” said Walker. “There’s all kinds of things that can be covered.”

    One thing that should be noted, she said, is that all pet insurance companies exclude pre-existing conditions. There is often a waiting period before insurance will go into effect to cover illness and injury to the pet.

    One additional benefit of the company Hartland uses to insure pets is that they will send out reminders for shots and other preventative visits, as well as provide pet-related information about things like pet hotels and day care. Plus, the app that they use makes it convenient to find a veterinarian when you’re away from home.

    “A lot of people who have pet insurance are very connected to their pet, and take their pet everywhere,” said Walker, adding that Hartland’s pet insurance is valid anywhere in the United States and Canada.

    “Veterinarian bills can be expensive,” said Walker. “I recommend if you’re going to buy pet insurance, buy it when you’ve just gotten the pet.”

    The premiums, she said, are lower for younger pets, which tend to be healthier, and the insurance can help offset costs of routine vet visits.

    “A lot of people buy pet insurance,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s just the comfort of knowing you have coverage if something does happen.”

    Dr. Ashley Hotchkiss, DVM, of Pawsitive Care Affordable Pet Clinic in Holly urges pet owners to learn the ins and outs of their pet insurance coverage.

    “Unlike human medical insurance, pet insurance traditionally requires the owner to pay the veterinary bill, and then wait for reimbursement from the third party insurance company,” Hotchkiss said. She encourages her patients to read the fine print about pre-existing conditions, and realize that a condition covered by one company might be considered pre-existing if they switch insurance companies.

    Pat Cronin of State Farm in Lapeer said State Farm is running a pet insurance pilot program for pet insurance in six states, and he is expecting to offer it locally within a year. He said his daughter, who lives in another state, has pet insurance for her puppy. It’s come in handy, he said.

    “It is as comprehensive as anything I’ve seen,” he said, adding that the insurance can cover illnesses and injuries, surgeries, medications, hospital stays, prescription food, supplements, orthotics, prosthetics and carts.

    “It’s an interesting other side to the insurance business we haven’t previously been able to offer,” he said. “I think it’s a pretty good thing.”

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