Most plans won't cover preexisting conditions.
If you are able to do it, we recommend getting coverage before your cat is sick and before bringing them in for an exam. Our examinations are very thorough and once we find something, we have to include it in the medical record.
Read the fine print of your policy. Some policies will consider any known conditions to be preexisting at the time of the annual renewal. In other words, they might cover a chronic disease this year, when it is diagnosed, but they may not continue to cover it next year, after it becomes preexisting. This is different than human medical insurance.
Kittens and cats at the shelter only get perfunctory examinations while there. If the shelter offers a free pet insurance trial, it is probably worthwhile to sign up for that ASAP and bring your new cat or kitten in for a full examination while the policy is still in effect.
A condition can be preexisting even if you don't know about it.
Cats and kittens from shelters should get an examination soon after adoption.
Payment for Services
The insurance companies usually don't pay the veterinarian. The client pays us and then the insurance company will reimburse the client as they judge appropriate.
Most people who get a plan that covers relatively inexpensive, routine care, usually report that they pay more for that coverage than it is worth. The plans that cover only expensive, unexpected costs, are usually the only ones that seem worthwhile.
There is at least one company that offers pet assurance instead of pet insurance. We think that it's really just marketing.
The company has declared that they have a network of veterinarians. People with pets pay the company to be part of the plan and the company will send the people with their pets to any veterinarian who agrees to offer big discounts to these clients.
For us to be part of this, we would have to raise our prices by 25% to 30% to offset the costs of the discounts. Or we would have to compromise our quality by even more. It makes no sense. The only one who really seems to benefit is the assurance company. It seems to us that the only things they actually do are run a website and collect monthly payments. Honestly, it's kind of annoying.
Some veterinary hospitals offer "Wellness Plans". With these plans, a given amount is withdrawn from your account monthly and you get a predetermined level of service. If for some reason you don't come in, you continue to pay.
At North County Cat Hospital we know ourselves well enough to say that if we had health plans and someone stopped coming in, we would stop taking the payments. If someone didn't use all of the predetermined service, we would refund them for the unused portion. This makes these plans nonviable for us, so we don't offer them.
We don't recommend any particular insurance companies. Unlike with medicine and health care, we don't have any science to tell us which insurance companies to use. We also don't have enough personal experience to make a solid judgement. We don't recommend any particular company but there are a few companies that we have had people tell us more good things than bad.