Making a Pet Insurance Claim? Here's How You'll Get Your Money

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  • Pet insurance pays for covered veterinary care.
  • Most policies work the same way when it comes to paying out claims.
  • Owners need to make payments and are reimbursed.

Pet owners need to understand how their insurance works.

Pet insurance is very important for people who have animals in their lives. Having pet insurance can help animal owners make sure they never have to deny their pets care for financial reasons.

But when buying pet insurance or making a claim, it's important for pet parents to understand exactly when and how the insurer pays out because it can be a little bit different than with other kinds of insurance policies

Here's what pet owners need to know about their coverage.

This is how pet insurance pays out

When a person has health insurance, the insurer typically pays the care provider rather than the patient directly. For example, if a covered individual goes to the doctor for an exam, the doctor bills the insurance company and the insurer pays the doctor. The patient may incur a copay or coinsurance costs as well, which is paid out of pocket -- but the patient won't prepay for other care covered by the insurer. 

Things are different with most pet insurance policies. Typically, a pet owner will pay for veterinary care out of pocket. The covered pet owner will then need to file a claim with the pet insurer -- the vet does not do this process for the policyholder. The insurer will then process the claim and reimburse the pet owner who has already paid for the medical treatment a pet needs. 

This is also different from some other types of insurance. For example, after a car accident, the auto insurer usually pays for repairs before they are made or cuts a check for a new car if the vehicle is totaled before the policyholder buys one. 

The pet owner must pay for care first, though, because typically pet insurers require the owner to submit the bills for services. The insurer can evaluate whether the care was covered and will then send a check, minus the amount of the deductible or any copayments or coinsurance costs the owner was expected to be responsible for. 

How to afford vet bills while waiting for reimbursement 

The fact that pet insurers pay for care after it has been provided can sometimes create financial challenges. That's because veterinarians generally want to get paid when services are performed, and pets need to have already had treatments before the insurer pays. That means the pet owner could end up paying a lot of money out of pocket and having to wait for reimbursement. 

If that's the case, it can be a good idea to get pre-approval for any treatment a pet needs in order to be sure it is covered. Once a pet owner is confident the insurer will pay the bills, the ideal option is to pay for them out of savings and wait for reimbursement. If that's not possible, using a credit card to cover the costs and then paying it off after reimbursement comes is also an option. But, it's critical to be sure the credit card bills are affordable in case payment is delayed or the claim ends up being denied. 

Pet owners may also want to look for an insurer that promises speedy claims handling in order to make sure they get the money for claims ASAP, so they can spend the money they need to care for their pet without worrying about the short-term consequences for their financial stability. 

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