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Pet insurance is designed to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses. When you buy a policy, you usually won’t have immediate coverage for certain types of problems, such as pet illnesses or cruciate ligament issues. You will need to clear the “waiting period” before your coverage kicks in.
Every pet insurer has waiting periods, but the best pet insurance companies have short ones. Here’s a look at pet insurance waiting periods and the companies with the shortest waiting periods.
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What is a waiting period for pet insurance?
A waiting period for pet insurance is the time between when you purchase your policy and when coverage begins.
For example, if your pet insurance plan has a 14-day waiting period for illnesses and your dog has an ear infection two days after you purchase the policy, you will not be covered for veterinary expenses related to the ear infection.
How does a pet insurance waiting period work?
Pet insurance waiting periods can generally be divided into three different groups.
Waiting periods for accidents
This is the amount of time before your coverage kicks in for an accident, such as a broken bone or swallowed object. The waiting period for accidents usually varies from one day to 15 days, depending on your pet insurance company.
Waiting periods for diseases
This is the amount of time before your cover kicks in for an illness, such as cancer or a urinary tract infection. Most pet insurance companies have a 14-day waiting period for illnesses.
Waiting periods for other types of problems
This is the amount of time before your coverage kicks in for specific conditions, such as cruciate ligament damage or hip dysplasia. This waiting period can often range from six to 12 months.
Not all pet insurance companies have waiting periods for certain conditions. For example, ASPCA pet insurance does not have a waiting period for orthopedic conditions or any other specified issues.
Pet insurance companies with the shortest waiting periods
Here are the pet insurance companies with the shortest waiting periods:
- Costco and Figo have a one day waiting period for accidents
- Most pet insurance companies have a 14-day waiting period for illnesses
- ASPCA, ManyPets, Pumpkin and Spot have no extended waiting periods for specific conditions such as cruciate ligament issues and hip dysplasia
Some pet insurers will reduce or waive the waiting period if you have your pet examined by a licensed veterinarian within a certain time frame. Here are some examples:
- Costco will waive the extended waiting period for orthopedic conditions if your vet signs a waiver within the first 30 days of your policy.
- Embrace will reduce the extended waiting period to 14 days if your pet has completed an orthopedic exam within the first 14 days of your policy.
- Figo will waive the extended waiting period for orthopedic conditions if your veterinarian signs a waiver within the first 30 days of your policy.
- ManyPets will reduce your accident and illness waiting period to 24 hours if you switch from another pet insurance company.
- Prudent will waive the extended waiting period for knee or ligament issues if your pet passes a vet exam within the first 30 days of coverage.
- Trupanion’s “Exam Day Offer” will waive the waiting period for pets under 14 years of age who have a veterinary exam within the 30-day period.
Pet insurance company waiting periods
What is the average waiting period for pet insurance?
The average waiting period for pet insurance is nine days for accidents, 15 days for illness and 6 months for problems such as cruciate ligament issues and hip dysplasia, among the pet insurance companies we analyzed.
Why do pet insurance companies have a waiting period?
Pet insurance plans are designed to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses. A waiting period helps insurers prevent fraud for claims that are actually due to pre-existing conditions. For example, if a dog swallows an object and needs expensive surgery, a pet owner cannot immediately purchase a policy and use it to pay for the surgery.
When is the best time to buy pet insurance?
If you are planning to buy pet insurance, it is best to buy it as soon as possible. You want to purchase coverage before your pet develops any conditions. If your pet develops a condition before you purchase a pet insurance plan, such as a torn cruciate ligament or cancer, it will be considered a pre-existing condition and will be excluded from coverage.
Some pet insurance companies will cover pre-existing conditions if they are considered a “curable” condition, such as an ear infection. For example, ASPCA pet insurance does not consider a condition “pre-existing” if it has been cured and symptom-free for 180 days. If the condition recurs after 180 days, it is treated as a new condition.
The age of your pet also affects pet insurance costs. Older pets are usually more expensive to insure because they are more likely to develop an illness, which means higher vet costs.
Some insurers have an age limit for when you can buy a plan. For example, you can’t buy a pet insurance policy from Healthy Paws for cats and dogs 14 and older. But if you buy a policy before your pet’s 14th birthday, they will be covered for life.
Can I get retroactive pet insurance?
No, you can’t get retroactive pet insurance, which means you can’t buy a policy and leave it valid for a date that has already passed.
Your pet insurance coverage will be in effect after the waiting periods. For example, if you buy a policy on December 1, 2022 and have a 14-day waiting period for illnesses, you will be eligible for coverage for illness-related claims on December 15, 2022.
Can I get pet insurance with instant coverage?
Pet insurance plans do not offer immediate coverage. They require a waiting period before coverage takes effect. Some pet insurance companies will reduce the waiting period under certain circumstances, but the coverage will not be immediate.
For example, ManyPets will reduce your accident and illness waiting period to 24 hours if you switch from another pet insurance company. Trupanion’s “Exam Day Offer” will waive the waiting period if your pet undergoes a veterinary exam within a 30-day period of purchasing a plan.
How does pet insurance work?
Pet insurance is reimbursement based, which means you will pay for your pet’s veterinary bills up front and file a claim for reimbursement. If your pet’s vet bills are covered by your policy, you’ll get a reimbursement check. The amount will be based on your annual coverage limit, deductible and repayment level. Here’s what that means.
Annual coverage limit
When you buy a pet insurance plan, you can choose how much annual coverage you want. The annual coverage limit usually ranges from $5,000 per year to unlimited coverage. Choosing higher coverage amounts is more expensive as your insurer may have to pay out more for a pet insurance claim.
Most pet insurance companies have an annual deductible that you will have to pay before your coverage begins. Common deductible choices are $100, $250 and $500. Once your deductible is met, you can submit vet bills to your insurer for reimbursement. The lower your deductible, the more you’ll pay for pet insurance.
Your compensation percentage is the amount your insurer will pay for claims covered by your policy. Common compensation choices are 70%, 80% and 90%. For example, if you have a reimbursement level of 90% and your vet bills are $1,000, you will get a reimbursement check for $900 (90% of $1,000 = $900).
How to Compare Pet Insurance Policies
The waiting period is an important component of your pet insurance policy, but it shouldn’t be your only consideration. Here are other things to look at.
- Type of pet insurance plan. What is covered by pet insurance depends on the type of plan you buy. If you want comprehensive cover, you will need to buy an accident and sickness plan. But if you want a cheaper plan that covers emergencies like a swallowed foreign object, you can opt for an accident plan.
- Annual Coverage, Deductible and Reimbursement Percentage. Some pet insurers offer a wide variety of choices, while other companies have fewer options. Choosing a lower coverage amount, deductible and reimbursement percentage is one way to save on your pet insurance costs.
- Pet insurance extras. You may want to add a wellness plan or have access to 24/7 pet telehealth. But not all insurers offer these options, so you should shop around.
- Pet insurance discounts. You may be able to save on your pet insurance costs if you qualify for a discount, such as multi-pet discounts, military discounts, and spay/neuter discounts.
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of pet insurance plan you want and other options, such as your coverage amount and reimbursement percentage, the best way to find a good policy at a fair price is to compare pet insurance quotes. You can get free quotes online or by talking to an agent.
Is pet insurance worth it?
Pet insurance is worth it if you want coverage for unexpected injuries or illnesses, which can cause a financial setback.
For example, the average cost of treatment for cancer is $4,100 for dogs and $3,800 for cats, according to a Forbes Advisor analysis of vet visit costs. The average cost for treatment for a broken bone is $2,700 for dogs and $2,300 for cats.
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