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If you’re shopping for pet insurance, one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is your pet insurance deductible. This is the amount of money you will need to pay before your coverage takes effect.
Understanding how pet insurance deductibles work can help you budget for veterinary expenses.
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Understanding pet insurance deductibles
A pet insurance deductible is an amount of money you must pay toward veterinary costs over a certain period of time (often a policy year) before your pet insurance plan will reimburse you for veterinary costs covered by the policy. .
For example, if you buy a pet insurance plan with a $250 deductible, you’ll need to pay that amount to the vet before your insurer begins to reimburse you for veterinary expenses. Let’s say your pup ingests a dog toy that needs to be surgically removed and the cost of surgery is $4,000. You will be responsible for $250 and your insurer will cover the balance, based on your coinsurance level (such as 70%).
The choice of pet insurance deductibles varies by insurer. Common options include deductibles between $100, $250, $500, and $1,000. Some insurers offer deductibles as low as $0, such as Trupanion and TrustedPals.
The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly pet insurance premium. This is because your insurer will pay less if you file a pet insurance claim.
How do pet insurance deductibles work?
Some pet insurance plans have an annual deductible, which you must meet every year. Other plans have a per-incident deductible, which means you’ll have to pay a deductible each time you take your pet to the vet for a problem covered by your policy (like an ear infection or bite wounds).
Once you meet your deductible, your insurer will reimburse you for a percentage of the remaining cost, depending on the reimbursement level you choose.
Here is an example of how a typical pet insurance claim would work:
- Your cat seems to be in pain and you take him to the vet. The diagnosis is a urinary tract infection and treatment costs $1,100.
- Their pet insurance has a $250 annual deductible and a 90% reimbursement level.
- You pay your $250 deductible.
- You are responsible for the remaining 10% of the cost ($850 x 10% = $85).
- Your insurer reimburses you for $765 ($850 – $85 = $765).
Veterinary and other pet-related expenses not covered by your pet insurance plan will not be covered by your deductible. For example, expenses like routine wellness exams and grooming don’t count toward your deductible.
Related: What does pet insurance cover?
Types of pet insurance deductibles
The most common types of pet insurance deductibles offered by insurers are annual deductibles, but there are also per-occurrence deductibles.
Annual deductibles must be paid for veterinary costs each annual policy term. Once you meet your deductible, your insurer will reimburse you up to your reimbursement level. You will be responsible for your annual deductible when your policy renews the following year.
For example, suppose you and your dog are hiking and your dog breaks its leg. The treatment costs $2,700 and has a $250 deductible. After you pay your deductible, you are reimbursed for the costs of the surgery.
Now suppose your dog gets sick three months later and the treatment costs $600. If he’s in the same policy year, he won’t be responsible for his $250 deductible because he already paid it. But if your dog gets sick after your policy renews, you’ll be responsible for the deductible because it’s a new policy year.
Deductible per incident or per condition
An incident pet deductible has a separate deductible for each issue for which you make a pet insurance claim.
For example, let’s say your dog breaks its leg while hiking, treatment costs $2,700, and you have a $250 deductible per incident. You pay your deductible and are reimbursed for the costs of the surgery. Three months later, his dog gets sick and the treatment costs $600. You will be responsible for your $250 deductible as this is considered a new incident.
Pet insurance deductible vs. reimbursement percentage.
Pet insurance is generally reimbursement-based, which means you’ll pay the vet for your pet’s treatment and then file a claim with your pet’s insurance company for reimbursement. This is the difference between the pet insurance deductible and the reimbursement percentage:
- pet insurance deductible. This is the amount of money you must pay before your insurer will begin to reimburse you. For example, if you have a $250 deductible and your claim is for $1,000, you will be responsible for paying $250 and your insurer will reimburse you up to $750.
- refund percentage. This is the amount your insurer will reimburse you once you’ve met your deductible. Common repayment levels are 70%, 80%, and 90%. Some insurers offer 100% reimbursement plans.
Pros and cons of choosing a high deductible pet insurance
When you shop for a pet insurance plan, you’ll need to choose a deductible amount. A high deductible is one way to save on your pet’s insurance costs, but it may not be the best option for you. Here are the pros and cons.
- Higher out-of-pocket costs before reimbursement takes effect.
- Per-incident deductible plans can become expensive if a variety of incidents occur.
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Pet Insurance Deductible FAQ
Does pet insurance always have a deductible?
No, pet insurance does not always have a deductible. Some insurers like Trupanion and TrustedPals offer $0 deductible plans. However, most pet insurance plans include a deductible.
Pet insurance plans with a $0 deductible are often more expensive than plans with a deductible. This is because the insurer starts covering the costs as soon as the policy takes effect.
What is a good deductible for pet insurance?
The best pet insurance deductible depends on your pet and your budget. A lower deductible will mean higher premiums, but your out-of-pocket costs will be lower if your pet requires veterinary care multiple times a year.
High deductibles mean lower premiums, but if the cost of your pet’s care needs doesn’t meet the deductible, the lower premiums may not outweigh the actual cost of care.
It’s also important to consider whether you want an annual deductible or a condition deductible. Like higher deductibles, a per-condition deductible may lead to lower premiums, but you’ll need to pay a separate deductible for each condition covered by your policy.
Does pet insurance cover pre-existing conditions?
Pet insurance generally does not cover pre-existing conditions. For example, if your pet had cancer before you purchased a pet insurance policy, you won’t be covered for cancer-related veterinary bills.
Some insurers make exceptions for “curable” pre-existing conditions, such as bladder infections or ear infections. If your pet has a curable pre-existing condition, your insurer may cover the problem as long as your pet does not have a recurrence within a specified period of time. For example, ASPCA pet insurance will cover a pre-existing condition if it is cured and there are no symptoms for at least 180 days.
Related: Pet insurance that covers pre-existing conditions