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“Pet insurance policies are all much the same….aren’t they?”

Keep calm

The quick answer to the question above is definitely ‘no’, but we are not surprised that customers can get confused with so many different policies available on the market.  Here is our no-nonsense guide to the key differences between the pet insurance policies out there.
We have focused on the ‘veterinary fees’ element here – as this is primarily what customers buy pet insurance for – but if you want cover for things such as public liability (which might be useful in the increasingly litigious world we live in), holiday cancellation, death benefit, boarding kennel / cattery fees etc then don’t assume all policies include these things as standard.  Many will include these things, but as ‘additional cover options’ and at an additional price.  All Vetsure policies include a range of additional covers as standard.

The old saying “you get what you pay for” is so often true in many different scenarios – and pet insurance is typically no different.  If you are comparing policies based on price are you comparing ‘apples with apples’ and does the cheaper option provide all the cover that you require?  For example, a policy that only covers a condition for the first 12 months from its onset might be cheaper than one that covers a condition for life, but if you are concerned about the potential costs of a long-term illness your pet might be unfortunate enough to suffer from then that cheaper policy is likely to represent a false economy for you and cost you more in the long run.

The three main policy types:

Time and benefit limited:  A time limited policy provides insurance for each new and unrelated medical condition, up to a set financial limit and each condition is covered for 12 months, usually from its onset or diagnosis. Once the 12 month time limit or financial limit (whichever is sooner) has been reached the condition (and related conditions) becomes excluded from future claims even if you change insurance provider. These are ‘basic’ insurance policies and are usually amongst the cheapest available.

Maximum benefit:  There is a financial limit for each new condition the animal may suffer. Each condition is insured until the financial limit has been reached. As long as the insurance policy remains in force there is no time limit on your claim. Once the financial limit has been reached, the medical condition becomes excluded from future claims even if you change insurance provider.

Lifelong policies:  All new medical conditions are insured, up to a set financial limit each year. Where the financial limit has been reached, no further claims will be paid until the policy is renewed, at which point the limit is reinstated. An ongoing condition that has reached the financial limit will continue to be covered by the policy the following year.  Some providers set a limit per year in total (i.e. a single set amount to cover all conditions that may arise) and some set a limit per condition per year.
Vetsure policies are all lifelong with a range of limits (£2,000 or £5,000) which are applied ‘per condition / per year’.  So, for example, if you had a pet who was unlucky enough to suffer from 5 unrelated conditions / injuries in 1 year there would be a maximum of £25k available per year to treat those 5 conditions.

Excess:  The amount you have to pay towards a claim (the ‘excess’) is also an important consideration as it also has an impact on ongoing costs to you should you need to make a claim.  Excesses can vary so refer to the policy terms and conditions before you purchase. For claims made on a repeat basis for the treatment of ongoing conditions most insurers (with lifelong policies) will apply the excess once per condition per year. With Vetsure policies, the excess is only applied once per condition for life.  Insurers also commonly ask for co-payments – where the policyholder pays a percentage of the overall veterinary treatment bill. This commonly applies from eight years of age (as with Vetsure policies) but can be seen in some policies after only one year of age.

We hope that this information has been of some help to you if you are considering purchasing pet insurance – and all our Vetsure-affiliated clinics recommend you do.  Obviously, the final decision rests with you.  Everyone’s budget, individual circumstances and attitude to risk is different.  What we have tried to do in this article is provide you with basic information about the different policy types so you can make an informed decision.  Vetsure-affiliated clinic staff can also give you pointers on things you might like to consider when making your selection.

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