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Dear Maxine: Unsure and Uninsured in Indiana

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Welcome to another installment of Dear Maxine, where my canine, feline (and occasional human), write in to ask advice about proper immunizations, nutrition, behaviors, or anything else on their minds. (Full disclosure, my human mom helps me with this.) This week’s letter comes from a dog mom in Gary, Indiana that has questions about the ever-popular topic of pet insurance.

Dear Maxine,

I have three rescue dogs of various ages and always seem to be at the vet’s office. Most of these visits are for routine pet care, but some were more emergent for ear infections and once for a broken bone. All these visits can stack up to a lot of money! I have been hearing a lot about pet insurance and wondering about the benefits of this. What can you tell me about it?

Thank you!

Unsure and Uninsured in Indiana

Dear Uninsured,

Thank you for adopting and thank you for this great question! Thanks to all the developments in veterinary care and quality nutritional products, pets are enjoying a longer lifespan. The cost of owning a pet has also increased: food, toys, accessories, and veterinary care add up. A pet insurance policy can help you plan for your pet’s healthcare—and offset costs for routine care, unexpected injuries, and illnesses.

Here are some tips from to help you choose the best pet insurance policy for your family (reference:

Enroll Young and Healthy Pets

The first, and most important thing to do, is to enroll pets when they’re young and healthy to avoid limited coverage due to pre-existing conditions and to reduce the cost of your policy. Just as with human health insurance, pet health insurance premiums can increase as the policyholder ages. Obviously, if you adopt an older dog or a dog with an unknown health history, this may not be possible.

Review Cost and Value

There’s no point in buying a pet insurance policy just because it’s cheap if it doesn’t cover what your pet needs. Are you interested in wellness, medical, or complete care? Your monthly premium and reimbursement amount will vary based on the type of coverage and deductible you choose. Deductibles are also worth taking into consideration: A per-incident deductible is applied to every incident and can reduce your monthly premium. A low annual deductible will result in a higher premium while a higher deductible will result in a lower premium. However, don't base your purchase on cost alone. While a lower premium may sound great, you don't want to limit the number of benefits you'll receive when you really need them.

Choose Coverage that Works for You

Do you want coverage for known routine wellness (vaccinations, wellness exams, tests, flea and heartworm prevention, etc.), unknown medical care (such as chronic conditions, surgeries, hospitalization, exams, lab tests, illnesses, injuries), or complete care with coverage that includes hereditary conditions and wellness? Discuss your pet’s health with your veterinarian, get an idea of what common health conditions your pet could face that may be breed-related, or if there’s a history of health issues in your pet’s family tree. Some pet health insurance plans may have exclusions for conditions that are pre-existing, hereditary, congenital, or related to breeding, and may apply restrictions on your coverage when you file a claim. Before you enroll, make sure you know and understand what factors may affect coverage, such as your pet's breed and any pre-existing conditions. Find out how often, and why, your premium will increase. Ask if the number of claims you submit will affect your premium.

Compare Pet Insurance Providers

Before you decide to enroll your pet in a pet insurance policy, compare pet insurance providers. A side-by-side comparison will show the difference in plans, premiums, deductibles, co-pays, sample reimbursements, and plan details, including exclusions and additional features. Below is a small comparison chart showing a consumer’s Guide to best pet insurers:

Check Out the Insurer’s Record

Look at the pet insurance provider’s track record for dependability. Choose a pet health insurance provider you can count on, that has proven stability, experience, and recommendations. How long has the provider been in business? Are they a trusted financial service? How many in-force policies do they have? Do they have veterinarians on staff?

Finally, Ask About Discounts

Often, major insurance companies like State Farm and Nationwide offer discounts for pet insurance if you bundle with home or auto insurance policies. For example, those already enrolled in any Nationwide policy (such as home, auto) are also eligible for an additional 5% discount on select Nationwide pet insurance policies that can be combined with one of the multiple pet discounts. Does your employer offer pet insurance benefits? Thousands of companies nationwide offer Nationwide at a discount. Check here to see if a policy discount is available in your company benefits package. Certain Nationwide pet insurance plans are eligible for a group discount.

So there you go! Shop around, do the research into what pet insurance coverage costs, and then make a well-informed decision about the insurance that’s best suited to care for your pet and your pocket. A national survey showed that only about 25% of pet owners carry pet insurance. Is it right for you and your family? Do your due diligence. I hope this information helps you find the answer.

Until next time & happy tails!

Maxine (and Brenda ) Storms

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