- Pet insurance plans that operate on a reimbursement basis require you to pay the vet bill upfront and wait to be paid back.
- Direct payment options involve the insurance company paying the vet directly, which can be more convenient and prevent you from owing a large vet bill upfront.
- Some vets don’t accept direct payment. If they do, it can require you to go through a few steps upfront to set it up.
- Trupanion, Healthy Paws, Pets Best, Petplan, and Companion Protect are strong options for pet insurance that pays the vet directly.
Pet insurance is usually based on a reimbursement model, which means you pay the vet bills upfront and then file a claim to get a portion of your money back. However, if you can’t afford to make those payments upfront, or if you simply find it inconvenient, consider pet insurance that pays the vet directly
Direct Payment vs. Reimbursement
Most pet insurance companies work on a reimbursement basis. This means that you’ll foot the bill at the time of service, then file a claim with your insurance company afterwards and wait to get a portion of the bill back (depending on your reimbursement level and deductible).
While common, the reimbursement process can be financially difficult for many pet owners. Given that vet bills can run you thousands of dollars, paying the entire bill upfront could be a one-way-ticket to financial ruin. Even though you know you’ll be reimbursed later, draining your savings or maxing out a credit card isn’t ideal.
Direct payments to your vet prevent you from having to pay the bill upfront, which can save you from tough financial situations. Instead, you pay a copay or portion of the bill at the time of the visit and vets submit the rest of the bill to the insurance company.
|Pay the entire vet bill upfront, then file a claim with the insurance company for reimbursement of the amount you are entitled to.||Pay only the portion of the vet bill you owe at the time of service.|
Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Payment
Direct payment can simplify the process of paying vet bills, making seeking care for your pet more convenient and less stressful. However, there are a few downsides to be aware of:
- Some vets don’t accept direct payment. Just because you purchase a policy with direct payment doesn’t mean your vet will accept it. Some vets will charge a small fee to process a direct payment.
- Some pet insurance companies require vets to be approved for direct payment. Pet insurance providers, like Petplan, require vets to be approved before they’re eligible to submit claims for direct payment. This can cause a bit more legwork on your end.
- Some pet insurance companies only offer direct payment at in-network providers. If you need to seek emergency medical care and aren’t near your in-network provider, you may have to use an out-of-network provider and wait for reimbursement.
|You don’t have to make medical decisions based on cost, as you won’t have to find the money to pay the entire bill up front.||Not all vets accept direct payment.|
|You don’t have to wait for reimbursement.||Some pet insurance companies require vets to be approved before they’re eligible to receive direct payment.|
|You won’t have to pay the entire vet bill upfront, only the copay and deductible.||You may be required to complete a decent bit of paperwork to set up direct payment.|
|It can prevent you from having to drain your savings or max out a credit card to seek care for your pet.||Some pet insurance companies only offer direct payment at in-network providers.|
Pet Insurance Companies That Pay the Vet Directly
Direct payment is offered by a select number of pet insurance providers. The following are our top recommendations:
Paw Protect insurance has a unique approach to handling direct vet payments and subsequent claims. With Paw Protect all policyholders have the option to
- Opt in to a virtual Visa card (housed on a mobile app) that is pre-approved to pay up front vet bills up to $5000
- Claim the expense for both the card’s limit (plus any out of pocket costs) within 12 months with no interest or fees
Paw Protect therefore allows customers to take off $5000 of out of pocket vet bills instantly without the typical pre-approved location/systems restrictions that most pet insurers exert. This makes it a standout consideration on this basis alone.
Trupanion is a solid pet insurance option, but it’s a bit more restrictive than its competitors. To accept Trupanion direct payments, vets must be in Trupanion’s system, which often requires them to use Trupanion software. Depending on your area and the size of the vet office, they may or may not use it.
Trupanion’s direct payment process is as follows:
- Your vet submits the claim to Trupanion at the time of service.
- You pay your portion of the bill upfront.
- Trupanion pays your vet directly within a few seconds of the claim’s submission.
If your vet isn’t in Trupanion’s system, you can still use the insurance, but you’d need to go through the traditional reimbursement process.
Healthy Paws only offers direct payments to customers that can’t afford to pay the entire vet bill upfront. If you can afford the vet bills and simply want a more convenient payment option, Healthy Paws direct payment won’t be an option for you. You will have to go through some paperwork to see if you qualify.
If you qualify, the Healthy Pays direct payment process would look like this:
- Your vet has to agree to receive direct payment from Healthy Paws.
- If they agree, you call Healthy Pays to initiate the payment.
While the phone call adds an extra step, there are a few benefits of using Healthy Paws that make up for it. The insurance can be used at any vet in any network, which means you don’t have to worry about finding an in-network provider when you need urgent care. Healthy Paws also doesn’t require a lengthy claim form and offers a user-friendly mobile app to simplify the process.
Pets Best is a good option when it comes to direct payment offerings as it’s available for all plans the company offers. With any Pets Best plan, all you need to do to get direct payments is:
- Ask your vet to receive direct payment.
- If they agree, complete the Pets Best release form and get your vet to sign it.
- Submit the form with your claim for it to be processed.
Typically, it takes around 5 days for claims to be processed and paid out from the time they’re received. The money is then disbursed directly to your vet.
Petplan has a lengthier upfront process and is only available on a case-by-case basis, but it’s still a solid option. With Petplan, you’d need to:
- Ask your vet to accept direct payment.
- If they agree, you must get approval in writing from both you and your vet. This approval must be written on formal letterhead and include their office name and address.
- Submit the letter for approval from Petplan.
If approved, you’d owe Petplan the applicable copay and deductible amounts at the time of service. Then, they’d cover the remaining balance and send it straight to your vet.
Companion Protect offers direct payment but only for in-network vets, which is applied automatically.
If you use an out-of-network provider, you’ll be subject to the traditional reimbursement process. Plus, you’ll get a lower reimbursement rate and owe a higher deductible amount and copay. So, with Companion Protect, it makes sense to stay in-network whenever possible.
That said, they do offer more competitive premiums that don’t increase as your pet ages, which might make it worth it.
Things to remember
Look Carefully When Searching for Insurance Companies
Finding a pet insurance company that offers direct payment can make the process of paying for pet care much easier. However, be careful not to overlook other important elements of the policy, such as:
Level of Coverage
Each insurance policy will cover a different range of expenses, for example, accident only vs accident and illness. Make sure the policy you purchase covers treatment for any conditions your pet’s breed may be more prone to.
Each plan offers a unique reimbursement level. While direct payment is convenient, it might be worth sacrificing for a higher reimbursement level.
Acceptance at Vets Near You
Before purchasing a policy, make sure your vet accepts direct payment. You can find this information by either calling your vet directly or searching the insurance company’s website.