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Pet insurance is becoming increasingly common, but people still have a lot of questions about it, including "Does pet insurance cover cancer?" The answer often comes down to when the pet owner purchased the policy. Here's what pet parents ought to know about pet insurance cancer coverage.
Most comprehensive pet insurance policies will cover cancer care as long as the policy is in effect before the pet develops the cancer. If the pet already has cancer and the owner then buys pet insurance, the insurer will consider the cancer a pre-existing condition and will not cover it. However, if the pet is later diagnosed with a different form of cancer, the insurance company may cover those treatments.
Accident-only pet insurance policies, which are often cheaper than comprehensive policies, don't cover cancer. Their focus is on injuries, like a broken limb, accidental poisoning, bite wounds, eye injuries, and more. Chronic conditions and illnesses aren't covered.
If a pet owner wants cancer coverage for their dog or cat, they should invest in a comprehensive pet insurance policy that covers both accidents and illnesses. They should also take some time to read through the policy terms carefully. This will tell them exactly what is and isn't covered. And if the pet owner has any questions, they should ask the insurance company before purchasing the policy.
Here's a look at what kinds of cancer care a typical pet insurance policy will provide:
Pet insurance will typically cover any exams or tests a pet needs in order to determine whether they have a certain type of cancer. If the veterinarian has to do any further examinations to decide on the best course of treatment, this will be covered as well.
If the veterinarian determines that the dog or cat requires radiation therapy or chemotherapy in order to treat tumors, a standard pet insurance policy will cover these treatments.
Some cancers are better treated by removing the tumors surgically. In this case, the pet insurance policy would cover the costs of the surgery and any rehabilitation the pet needs as a result.
Pet insurance will pay for any follow-up visits the pet needs to monitor their progress and confirm that the cancer has been removed.
Some pet insurance plans may cover alternative therapies, like acupuncture, food therapy, and more, in addition to conventional cancer treatments. However, not all policies offer this coverage. Pet owners interested in pursuing these types of therapies should verify that their pet insurance plan covers it first.
While pet insurance covers most costs related to cancer, there are some things it won't pay for, including:
As discussed above, if a pet is diagnosed with cancer before the owner purchases pet insurance, a pet insurance provider won't cover their care. However, they may cover bills related to other illnesses or accidents.
Pet insurance may also not cover cancer if it appears during the policy's waiting period. A typical waiting period for pet insurance is 14 days, but every policy is different. If a pet is diagnosed with cancer during this time, it will still be considered a pre-existing condition.
If a pet owner wants help paying for cancer care and pet insurance won't cover it, they may have to look into a loan or work out a payment plan with their veterinarian.
Many pet insurance policies have a maximum benefit, though each company may determine this differently. Some companies set an annual maximum while others may set a per-incident or per-condition maximum. If a pet's cancer treatment exceeds the policy's maximum benefit, the pet owner will have to cover the remaining costs on their own. The maximum benefit is usually listed in the policy terms. Owners can also contact the pet insurance provider if they're unsure what the limit is.
Pet insurance plans typically have a deductible, just like human health insurance. The pet owner must pay this deductible out of their own pocket before the pet insurance provider will pay anything toward the pet's care.
Pet owners get some say in what their policy's deductible is, and most are a few hundred dollars at most. Choosing a lower deductible may save the owner money when they need to file a claim, but it will also bring higher pet insurance premiums.
Pet insurance typically has copays -- percentages of the vet bill that the owner must pay even after they've met their deductible. For example, if a policy has a 10% copay, it means that after the deductible is met, the insurance company will pay 90% of the bill and the owner will have to cover the remaining 10% on their own.
Most pet insurance policies also give the owner a choice in what kind of copay they want, with options typically ranging from 10% to 30%. Choosing a higher copay results in a lower pet insurance premium.
Cancer is more common in pets than many people realize. Approximately one in four dogs will develop cancer at some point in their lives, including nearly half of all dogs over 10 years of age, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA).
There isn't as much data on cancer rates in cats. Some sources say that cats get cancer less often than dogs, but scientists do know there are certain types of cancers that are more common in cats than dogs.
According to CareCredit, the average cost for dog cancer treatment is about $4,137, while the average treatment cost for cats is $3,282. This includes costs for the initial consultation, chemotherapy and radiation, and other associated visits.
Costs can vary considerably from this average based on the severity of the pet's illness and the geographic location.
If a biopsy is necessary to diagnose a pet's cancer, a pet insurance policy will cover it as long as the policy was in effect before the biopsy takes place.
It's possible to get a pet insurance policy after a pet has been diagnosed with cancer. However, in this case, the insurance company won't cover any cancer-related treatments. It would pay for other illnesses and accidents, though.
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