Like human health insurance, pet insurance helps cover unexpected medical expenses for our furry friends. One crucial component of that coverage is your pet insurance deductible. Understanding how deductibles work can help you choose the right plan for you and your pet.
What is a pet insurance deductible?
A pet insurance deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket for your pet’s veterinary care before the insurance company starts covering costs. It’s a set amount you choose when you purchase your policy.
For example, if your deductible is $250 and your pet’s vet bill is $1,000, you’ll pay the first $250, and the insurance company will help cover the remaining $750, depending on your policy’s terms. If you have an annual deductible, you’d have to pay this amount only once per year.
How do pet insurance deductibles work?
A deductible is a way for insurance companies to share the cost of vet bills with pet owners. Once you’ve met your deductible, the pet insurance company will pay any remaining portion of your vet bills that qualify for coverage.
In most cases, you’ll need to pay the full vet bill yourself and then file a claim for reimbursement with your pet insurance company. If there are any expenses insurance doesn’t cover, like taxes or waste disposal, the company will subtract them along with your deductible before reimbursing its share of the bill.
Raising or lowering your deductible will affect how much you pay for pet insurance. Selecting a higher deductible usually lowers your insurance premium but means you’ll pay more out of pocket when your pet needs care.
The amount you pay for routine care like vaccines or wellness visits usually doesn’t count toward your deductible. Even if you have separate coverage for preventive care, the deductible typically applies only to covered illnesses and accidents.
Types of pet insurance deductibles
There are two main kinds of deductibles: annual and per condition.
Annual pet insurance deductible
An annual pet insurance deductible is a set amount you pay each year before insurance starts covering your vet bills. You pay this deductible only once per policy term. It doesn’t reset until your policy renews, regardless of how many claims you make. This is the most common type of pet insurance deductible.
Say you have a $300 annual deductible. If your pet has a minor accident and the vet bill is $150, you pay the entire amount since it’s less than the deductible. (Note that you’d still want to file a claim so your pet insurance company can apply the amount you’ve paid toward your deductible.)
Later in the same year, your pet gets sick and racks up a $500 bill. You’d pay the remaining $150 of your deductible, and the insurance would cover a portion of the remaining $350, depending on your policy’s terms.
If your pet has more health issues within the same year, the insurance would continue to help cover the costs since you’ve already met the deductible. But once your policy renews, your deductible will reset and you’ll need to pay it again before receiving more insurance coverage.
With a per-condition deductible, you pay a set amount out of pocket for each illness or condition your pet has. This type of deductible may also be called a per-incident deductible.
For example, if your pet gets an ear infection and later breaks a leg, you would pay your deductible twice: once for the ear infection and once for the broken leg.
After you pay the deductible for a specific condition, insurance helps cover additional costs for that condition over the life of your pet. This is beneficial if your pet develops a chronic problem that needs ongoing treatment each year. Once you meet the deductible for that condition, you don’t pay it again, whereas you’d pay it each year with an annual deductible.
The downside is that if your pet needs care for an unrelated problem later in the same year, you’re stuck paying the deductible all over again.
Did you know…
Very few pet insurers offer per-incident deductibles. Most have annual deductibles, so pet owners have to meet the limit only once per year.
Deductibles vs. copays and reimbursement rates
Deductibles, copays and reimbursement rates are different parts of how you and your insurance company share costs. Once you’ve paid your deductible, the insurance company uses the copay and reimbursement rate to calculate how much of the remaining vet bill it will cover.
A copayment, or copay, is your share of the vet visit cost after you’ve met your deductible. The reimbursement rate is the percentage of the bill the insurer will pay. For example, if your policy has a 70% reimbursement rate, that means your copay is 30%.
To see how these policy limits work together, imagine you have a $200 deductible, a 20% copay and an 80% reimbursement rate. If your pet’s vet bill is $1,000, you’d pay the $200 deductible first. Then, of the remaining $800, the insurance would pay 80% ($640), and you’d pay the 20% copay ($160). So, for a $1,000 vet bill, you’d pay $360, and the insurance would cover $640.
In general, a policy with a higher reimbursement rate will be more expensive, but the insurance company will cover more of your vet bills.
In addition to deductibles, copays and reimbursement rates, most pet plans have an annual coverage limit, which is the most your insurer will reimburse for vet care in a 12-month period. This limit is often customizable, and you may have the option to choose unlimited coverage. Your annual coverage limit is another factor that can influence the cost of pet insurance.
How to choose a pet insurance deductible
The goal when choosing a deductible is to strike a balance between good coverage and manageable out-of-pocket expenses.
First, determine how much you can comfortably pay for vet care. Imagine if your pet needed to visit an emergency vet tomorrow. How much of a deductible could you afford to pay? You shouldn’t struggle to cover your deductible in an emergency, so choose an amount that fits your budget.
Remember, the deductible is just one part of your policy. Consider it alongside copays, reimbursement rates and annual coverage limits to get the full picture. The more costs you take on yourself, the less you’ll pay for insurance, and vice versa.
If you’ve had your pet for a while, looking at what you’ve spent in vet care over the past year may help you predict future costs.
Compare deductible options from popular pet insurance companies
$250 annually. (Other options may be available.)
$0 to $1,000 lifetime per-condition deductible in most states; some states have no deductible.