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10 important things to consider when buying pet insurance

By OneDegree Sponsored | 25 September 2020

Header image courtesy of @ericjamesward (via Unsplash)

If you have a pet, chances are you have visited the vets in the past year and are familiar with the costly expenses that can be involved. Even if you’ve done everything within your power to ensure your pet remains happy and healthy, accidents can still happen, and approximately one in five pets will run into trouble every now and then.

Luckily, more and more people are turning to pet insurance to help cover these expenses but—with so many options out there, and so many different components with varying coverage and costs—it can all be a little overwhelming! How do you determine the best plan for you and your pet?

We have taken a nosedive into the six main companies in Hong Kong that offer pet insurance: BlueCross, China Taiping, FWD, MSIG, OneDegree, and Petble Care, and have highlighted some important factors to consider before purchasing your plan!

Are there any requirements or pre-requisites?

The entry age for most insurance companies is between six months old to eight years old. The youngest age upon entry is eight weeks with Petble Care, followed by OneDegree at 13 weeks. If you have an older pet, OneDegree has the highest entry age on the market at 11 years old. All pets must also be microchipped, with the exception of cats, with OneDegree.

Is there an age limit?

You’re probably wondering how these insurance companies can claim to offer life protection for your pet, whilst most have a cut off period at eight years old. Well, eight years old is the upper age limit at time of entry, but most insurance companies do offer renewals beyond this age—some restricted to 12 to 14 years old, and requiring underwriting, as is the case with Petble Care, China Taiping, and Bluecross. OneDegree offers the highest age coverage in the market—up to 11 years old—so if you need insurance for older pets, they’re the ones to check out.

The older your pet is, the more critical it is to have coverage, as a myriad of health problems could crop up later in life. In these cases, OneDegree and MSIG seem to be the better choices, offering lifelong renewals with no age limit (though not guaranteed).

What does an insurance plan typically cover?

In the event of an accident or illness, it’s important to know what is covered in your insurance plan, and how much is covered, which obviously varies from company to company. Here are the things usually covered under insurance plans.

  •  Clinical and surgical expenses

This usually includes inpatient treatments such as anaesthetic, surgery, x-ray, and imaging. The amount covered per treatment varies depending on methods used, as well as across different insurance companies. Euthanasia should also be covered, but is usually classed under “death benefit” as opposed to clinical and surgical expenses.

  • Room and board 

This is required for all inpatient treatments, and is usually covered in a typical insurance plan.

  • Veterinary consultations

For more minor cases that do not require boarding (known as outpatient treatments), coverage can range from $2,000 to $55,000 for dogs and may also include prescription medication.

  • Chemotherapy benefits

The amount covered varies across insurers, but can range from $2,000 (with Petble Care) to $15,000 (with Blue Cross Plan A). OneDegree is the only pet insurance in town, however, that offers a cancer cash benefit, on top of covering the related expenses within the annual coverage.

So in the unfortunate event that your pet gets diagnosed with cancer for the first time, you may receive a $10,000 cash lump sum on top of your annual coverage, to be used for treatment however you see fit—whether it be herbal medicine, special dietary requirements, or chemo.

What other benefits may be covered?

Some insurance plans may also offer ancillary benefits, such as non-health expenses which may occur. These can include the following.

  • Third-party liability

In the event that an insured pet causes any harm, injury, loss, or damage to a third party (where it be a person or someone else’s property), you could be covered up to a maximum of $1 million if you have FWD Plan 3.

  • Missing pet

To help you find a lost fur baby as soon as possible, FWD Plan 2 or 3 may include coverage for advertising costs or rewards.

  • A pet’s passing 

It’s always going to be a sad time when pets cross the rainbow bridge, so most companies will offer assistance in covering the cost for cremation and funeral or burial services (with the exception of OneDegree). Additionally, death from injury is covered by Petble Care and can range from $6,000 to $18,000.

  • Travel benefits

This could range from a holiday cancellation due to a life-saving visit to the vets, rushing your pet to urgent surgery while travelling, or coverage whilst transporting your pets abroad (which may or not include quarantine coverage). Only three insurance companies offer coverage extension whilst abroad, though the time period of coverage varies; China Taiping covers 30 days, whereas FWD and Bluecross cover 90 days.

  • Kennelling

This could include reimbursement of pet-sitting expenses incurred at pet-sitting facilities, if the policyholder is hospitalised for more than four consecutive days, as offered by BlueCross and China Taiping.

  • Behavioural treatment  

The cost of any reasonable and necessary expenses for prescribed drugs, or the cost of any reasonable and necessary training under training centres, if the insured pet is diagnosed with mental or emotional disorder by a vet as a direct result of injury is covered by BlueCross. Up to $400 in dog-training expenses can also be covered by Petble Care’s Superior plan.

What about things NOT covered?

Some insurance plans exclude fighting dogs and, in some cases, premiums can be up to 10 percent higher for certain breeds, due to pre-existing medical conditions to which these breeds are susceptible. Examples include Shar-Peis, Chow Chows, Alsatians, and Rottweilers.

OneDegree, however, covers all breeds—their Pawfect Care plans focus purely on medical insurance for pets at competitive prices. So instead of offering non-health expenses such as third-party liability and travel insurance, OneDegree has special features including coverage of chronic illnesses, hereditary conditions, and cash benefits for cancer.

Preventative care, such as annual vaccinations, physicals, and dietary advice are not included, and are expected to be covered by the pet owner.

How much can I expect to pay for pet insurance?

Pet insurance companies usually offer a number of different plans, ranging in price and the amount they cover. This could cost anywhere between $1,000 to $6,000 per year, depending on the plan and insurance company. However, it’s important to note that just because you are paying more, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up being reimbursed more for vet expenses.

It’s also important to think about the type of coverage you want—are you primarily concerned with coverage for vet expenses in the event of an accident or illness? Then OneDegree may be the best option for you, as insuring your pet on their Starter Plan alone will cost you a mere $74 per month to cover all major expenses such as surgery and hospitalisation.

If you (and your pet) travel a lot and you want assistance with boarding, transportation, and quarantining, then China Taiping may be the best option. If you have a little trouble-maker on your hands and need a solid third-party liability coverage, MSIG’s Ultimate Dog Plans offers up to $2.75 million. It really all depends on the personal needs of you and your best friend!

It's also important to note that an administrative fee—usually between $100 to $200—could be added on by vets for completing claim forms, which is a normal practise. However, certain insurance plans, like OneDegree, have clinic partners, where this fee can be waived, and are currently offering 25% off!

Claims

Most companies will offer an annual limit to how much you can claim, ranging from as “little” as $19,250 (for a standard dog plan with MSIG) to $68,750 (for an ultimate dog plan with MSIG). However, as mentioned above, it's important to understand how likely and how much you will be using the benefits offered with each coverage.

For example, if you’re primarily concerned with your pet’s overall health and don’t ever plan on going overseas with them, then ancillary benefits or non-health expenses such as third-party liability may be of little or no use to you. Consider what the most important coverage for your pet would be—orthopedic, chronic condition, accident, or something else—and go from there when making a choice.

Also, are you looking for cash payouts or direct coverage? For example, if your pet—touch wood—develops cancer, which unfortunately is a more common issue than you might think, would you prefer to claim the coverage for chemotherapy, which most insurance companies offer, or get a cash payout of $10,000 to use towards your preferred method for treatment? The latter may afford you more flexibility, and is something offered by OneDegree.

Am I covered straight away?

No. Like with any insurance claims, there is a waiting period, and this can range anywhere between 28 days to 90 days, varying across insurance companies and depending on the type of claim (i.e. accidents, illness, hereditary or congenital).

FWD and China Taiping offer no waiting period for accidents, whereas OneDegree offers pay-out in 28 days for both accidents and illness claims.

How do I file a claim?

In most cases, filing a claim can involve a lot of paperwork, which then needs to be taken back to the vets to be signed off before it can be processed. Depending on the company, you may submit via email, or in some cases are required to mail back via post.

Luckily, we have a virtual insurer in OneDegree, who simply require a copy of the receipt, displaying the fee breakdown, symptom date diagnosis, and pet’s microchip number, in addition to filling out a few questions online. 

Some companies may take a few weeks to approve and reimburse these fees, however, 90 percent of claims approved with OneDegree can be paid in two working days. It is really important to clarify this process with insurance company you’re interested in before signing on.

Other things to look out for

It’s worth checking out an insurance company’s Coinsurance policy—this is what you pay for covered health care after you meet your deductible. This amount is a percentage of the total cost of care: for example, in some cases the insurer will cover 80 percent of the fees, meaning you will need to cover the remaining 20 percent. The percentage the insurer covers may also decrease with time, the older your pet gets, but this is not the case for all insurance companies—definitely worth noting.

Lastly, before agreeing to any plan, it’s always best to find out their cancellation policy. Some may require a minimum cancellation fee of $500. OneDegree’s monthly offer, however, is free to cancel at any time.

Hong Kong’s most popular pet insurance at a glance

*The above acts as a general guide, as the level of coverage may vary across plans and companies

OneDegree

OneDegree, founded in 2016, is the first TechInsurer authorised to operate as a virtual general insurer in Hong Kong. OneDegree’s mission is to set new standards for insurance that put customers first. With their Pawfect Care pet insurance, pet owners in Hong Kong can purchase medical plans for their pets directly on the OneDegree website and try out a brand-new insurance experience.

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