Most of the pet insurance companies now allow you to customize your policy by selecting among several different annual maximums, deductibles and copays. When you go to a companies quote page, they will often show you about 3 options including their most popular option. The also offer you the ability to customize your coverage.
Here is an example from Embrace:
Here's an example from Healthy Paws:
You'll need to click on the "Customize Rate" link to see other options:
Some pet insurance companies also offer optional coverages e.g. exam fees or alternative therapy (rehab, acupuncture, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, etc.), or wellness care.
Here are some general guidelines you can apply when designing a policy that will limit your out-of-pocket costs, especially when faced with a large claim, and yet fit into your budget:
1) Choose a policy with the highest annual maximum that you can afford. You buy pet insurance for help with large bills that you would have trouble paying for out-of- pocket. While it's true that most claims you'll file are going to be for smaller bills, when selecting a pet insurance policy, consider a worst-case-scenario. Ask yourself, "What if I had a bill that was $10,000 or even higher?"
Some companies have policies with no upper limits (no lifetime, annual or per-incident limits). Others offer annual maximums from $2,000 to $40,000.
2) Choose a policy with the lowest deductible you can afford - especially if it is a per-incident deductible. Deductibles will usually vary from $0 to $1000.
3) Choose a policy with the lowest copay (highest reimbursement) you can afford. Copays usually range from 0% to 50%. Since you'll pay a copay (unless you have a policy with a 0% copay) with every claim and it is a percentage of the total bill, try and keep this low.
4) When trying to get a premium that fits your budget, select a higher deductible first. Changing the deductible usually has the most impact on the premium whether up or down. The deductible is a fixed amount - you know what this is and it's expected. If it's an annual deductible, once you spend that amount on covered expenses in a policy year, you'll won't have to pay it again with subsequent claims. If it's a per-incident deductible, you know you'll pay it for every new condition that it diagnosed and treated. If it's a per visit deductible, you know you'll pay it every time a veterinarian examines your pet.
If necessary to achieve a premium you can afford, increase the copay next. Although the percentage is known, the dollar amount can't be predicted and planned for ahead of time because it will vary with the size of the claim.
Lastly, you can lower your annual maximum. In my opinion, this should be changed last when looking at priorities because you want your policy to cover that worst-case-scenario above all else.
If you are in a financial position to pay more out of pocket, you can choose a higher deductible or copay which will decrease your premium even more.
Another reason for getting the best coverage you can afford when you first sign up is:
Premiums will rise over time due to your pet getting older, inflation, or when the company makes rate adjustments based on their actuarial data. If the premium gets out of your comfort zone, you can downgrade the coverage (drop optional coverages you don't need anymore, raise your deductible or copay, or decrease your annual maximum) to lower the premium. Most companies will allow you to do this without penalty. However, if you want/need to upgrade the coverage (lower the deductible or copay or raise the annual maximum), your pet may be subject to underwriting again and any conditions that were previously diagnosed/treated (even while insured) will be likely be considered pre-existing and not covered after the upgrade.
Because pet insurance companies are building more flexibility into their policies, pet owners have more choices to consider. By custom designing your policy, you are able to pick a policy that exactly fits your pet's needs and your budget.