If you’re trying to choose insurance for your dog, cat, rabbit, horse or any other animal, there are a lot of things to think about and many different options to choose between. All insurance policies are not created equal, and the exact terms of any policy, how much money it will pay out if you need to make a claim, and exactly what is (and perhaps more importantly, is not) covered, can vary greatly between different insurance companies and their policies. Some of the technical terms bandied about by insurance companies and which form part of the terms and conditions of your agreement can be confusing to the uninitiated. It is not always simple for the layperson to sift the wheat from the chaff in terms of working out what is important, and what is not particularly relevant for you and your pet. One of the most important considerations for the pet owner when it comes to looking for a new insurance policy or considering renewing an existing policy, is whether or not the policy which you choose provides lifetime coverage, or is only good for a limited term. But what exactly is ‘lifetime coverage,’ and do you really need it?
So, what is lifetime pet insurance?
The different types of pet insurance policies can be very broadly divided between two headings; Lifetime coverage, and fixed term coverage. However, how various different insurance companies interpret the meaning of these two terms varies from policy to policy, and so reading the small print and finding the perfect fit for you, even if this involves a significant amount of shopping around, is vitally important. Broadly speaking, lifetime pet insurance refers to a policy which will cover your pet for the entire duration of their lives, funding their necessary veterinary treatments within the limitations of the insurance policy with no upper cut off limit in terms of your pet’s age or the length of time needed for treatment. This is especially important in the coverage of ongoing or recurrent conditions which cannot be treated and cured outright, such as diabetes or arthritis. Lifetime pet insurance also means that should your pet be diagnosed with an ongoing and incurable but manageable health condition at any age, the policy will keep paying out towards the ongoing costs of treatments within the policy’s limits, and will not hit an upper limit per year for the condition or age of your pet and then leave you to cope on your own. Regardless of what kind of insurance policy you choose to cover your pet, the chances are that as they get older and so the associated risk factors for disease and injury due to age increase, your pet’s insurance policy costs will rise accordingly each year.
The benefits and limitations of lifetime pet insurance
While lifetime pet insurance provides an enhanced degree of coverage for your pet (and is priced accordingly, with lifetime policy premiums generally being more costly than fixed term cover) it is not without its limitations. All pet insurance policies, even the most comprehensive and costly cover options, have a cut off limit; the amount of funding which insurance will provide is not infinite. Every policy will have exclusions in terms of some conditions and illnesses which coverage will not treat; for instance, pre-existing conditions or hereditary and inherited illnesses which your pet has an increased genetic predisposition to are not generally covered in most policies. Furthermore, the cost of treatment which insurance will fund for your pet will have a fixed ceiling in each case. In the case of fixed- term insurance policies, this will usually be limited in one of two ways.
It may be a total amount per condition, after which no further financial assistance for that specific illness will be paid by the insurance company, but any other illness or injury included within the policy will still be covered.
Or, it may be a total amount per year, and once your policy has paid out up to the limit of that ceiling within one year, whether that is for just one condition or a variety of different ones, no further assistance will be provided until the next policy year begins.
The difference with a lifetime policy is that there is not a designated per-year or per condition cut off amount, but instead a ceiling of a total amount for the lifetime of the pet in question, which is generally significantly higher than the per-year limits, but offers no further coverage for that condition for the remainder of your pet’s life after that limit has been reached.
Your pet’s policy
In order to attain lifetime coverage for your pet into old age, you are often required to have an existing policy with the company in question for your pet before they reach maturity. Check your existing policy now, to make sure that your insurer isn’t going to cut you off when your pet reaches a certain age, and consider shopping around for another company now if you find that that is the case. Lifetime insurance policies are generally more costly than fixed- term policies, but this is a reflection of the enhanced level of coverage which they provide. Finally, remember that in order to cover your pet of any age and under any policy in the event of an accident or illness, your policy must be kept current and up to date at all times, paid on time, and suitable for the needs and lifestyle of your pet. Choose your policy carefully- The small decisions that you make now may turn out to have a big impact further down the line.