For catch-22 pet insurance whose conditions make it worthless
There's a reason we've never recommended a pet insurance product, even though we regularly review the sector. What's the issue? The pre-existing condition trap.
If you're going to take out pet cover, you need to do it when your pet is a youngster, from about three months on. It'll mean you'll probably be paying for cover without needing to use it (unless there's an accident) for a good long while, but you can't wait until your pet has a problem to get insurance as you won't be able to get cover for a pre-existing condition, and once it does have a problem for which you've made a claim, it's impossible to switch providers. And if your pet is getting on in years but still healthy, most pet insurance policies still won't cover your mature-aged pet for illness.
While you're stuck with the product, pet insurers can make any changes they like when you renew your policy every 12 months, including increasing the premiums; reducing coverage, payment limits and sub-limits; and adding exclusions. Being able to shop around and change providers is the cornerstone of a fair and just financial market. That's why we've decided to confer a catch-all shonky on the entire pet insurance industry.
The Ts and Cs can also be pretty dicey. Some products have stepped premiums, meaning the cover keeps getting costlier as your pet gets older and is more likely to require the services of a vet. With others the benefits drop over time. Many won't pay much for vet consultations ($300 limits are not uncommon), and some won't pay anything at all. And if it's an emergency, some policies won't cover what the vet charges for out-of-hours situations, only what the costs would be during normal business hours. The best policies usually cover surgery, hospitalisation and medicines, but usually leave out dental care, vaccinations, desexing and preventative treatments.
Until the industry changes, all we can do is show you the least worst products, and for a nation that really loves its four-footed family members, these kinds of debilitating terms and conditions are nothing short of shonky.