Pet Insurance…A Quick Review of the Best Plans

As a dog owner and attorney that has been dealing with insurance companies for over 25 years, I am amazed at how many different companies now offer pet insurance. I first wrote an article on this subject about three years ago, and since then the cost of veterinary care has continued to increase along with the number of pet insurance choices. In addition, as a volunteer and Pro-bono attorney with Last Chance Animal Rescue (www.LCARescue.org),I am always being asked for my advice on pet insurance from fellow volunteers, as well as adopters. A good place to start your homework is at www.petinsurancereview.com, which will provide you with a list of the different companies, some of the differences between them, and a "user rating" score. However, this site does not tell the whole story. I selected the top four plans, reviewed their websites, and questioned representatives at each to determine what the real differences were between the plans. Here is my review of these plans in the order that I would select them.

Trupanion- (www.Trupanion.com) This would be my first choice, and in fact, I have both of my dogs insured with Trupanion. This is an accident, illness, injury policy only. They reimburse 90% of the actual veterinary bill. There is no benefit schedule or usual and customary charge table to cap what they will pay for certain services, which many companies have.You can select a deductible from $0 to $1,000.00 to adjust your monthly premium. The deductible only has to be paid one time per condition or type of illness for the life of your dog. There is no yearly cap on how much they will pay out for veterinary bills, and there is no lifetime cap on benefits. They cover chronic illnesses, as well as hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia. They cover any service needed to diagnose and treat the injury or illness, such as x-rays, MRI, blood work, etc. They cover prescription medication, dietary supplements, and even prescription food for up to two months. They do not increase your monthly premium as your dog ages, as some companies do. Their rates only increase depending upon the increase of veterinary costs in your area. There is a $25.00 set up fee, with a five day wait period for accident/injury coverage, and a thirty day wait period for illness. They do not reimburse for the veterinary examination/office visit charge. They cover some holistic treatment, but offer chiropractic, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, etc. in a separate package for an additional premium. They have been in business over 15 years. The current monthly premium that I pay for my 5 year old Golden Retriever is $64.00, with a $100.00 deductible. If I increased the deductible to $250.00, my premium would be $55.00 a month.

Healthy Paws- (www.Healthypawspetinsurance.com) This is a relatively new company, and may experience some growing pains as it learns the business. This could affect premiums at some point. They are the only other company to offer a policy similar to Trupanion. They offer three different reimbursement levels, 70%, 80%, and 90%. They do not reimburse for the exam/office visit charge, the same as Trupanion. They also offer only three different deductible amounts, $100.00, $250.00, and $500.00. However, these are annual deductibles paid only once per year, not per incident. This differs from Trupanion, which is a per incident/illness deductible, but paid only once per type of illness for the life of the dog. So if your dog ends up with a chronic condition/illness, Trupanion may be better. If your dog ends up with many one time conditions, Healthy Paws would be better. They offer unlimited per incident/condition and unlimited lifetime benefits the same as Trupanion. Their standard policy includes the holistic care offered by Trupanion in their separate package, so that is a plus. Their rates will go up based upon cost of veterinary care in your area, not based on the age of the dog, the same as Trupanion. Neither Trupanion or Healthy Paws will cover pre-existing conditions, preventative/routine care, or spay/neuter procedures. I was quoted $56.00 a month for my Golden Retriever by Healthy Paws with a reimbursement level of 90% and a $250.00 deductible. However, if i switched to them, any condition that my dog has had in the last five years could be considered a pre-existing condition. In light of this and the fact that they are a young company, I would not change from Trupanion. I am also happy with the service that I have received from Trupanion over the last five years.

3. Pet Plan- (www.gopetplan.com) They offer three different packages, Bronze, Silver, and Gold ,all for accident, injuries and illnesses. This includes coverage for hereditary and chronic conditions, as well as for testing and prescription medication. However, each package has a yearly cap on the benefits that will be paid out which ranges from $10,000.00 to $22,000.00 . You can choose a deductible of $50.00, $100.00, or $200.00, and reimbursement levels of 80%, 90%, and 100%. There are no benefit schedules or usual/customary charge tables to limit payment for particular services.The plan reimburses for the exam/office visit charge, and the deductible applies per condition, per year. They quoted me $76.00 a month for my dog with the Gold plan which had a $100.00 deductible, a 90% reimbursement level, and a $22,000.00 yearly cap on benefits. If I went to a $200.00 deductible and 90% reimbursement it would be $54.00 a month.

4. Embrace- (www.Embracepetinsurance.com) Embrace also offers three different packages all with an 80% reimbursement level and yearly deductibles of $200.00, $300.00, and $500.00. There are no benefit schedules or usual and customary charge tables to cap out reimbursement of services at a certain amount. They do reimburse for the exam/office visit charge. However, each package has a yearly cap on benefits of between $5,000.00 and $15,000.00. Embrace quoted me $90.00 a month for a policy with a yearly benefit cap of $15,000.00, a $200.00 yearly deductible, and a 90% reimbursement level. If I went to a $10,000.00 cap, and 80% reimbursement it would be $58.00 a month.

There are many other companies that offer pet insurance, and every plan is different. You must read all of the fine print and ask a lot of questions. Most have caps on benefits, and with the cost of veterinary care today, you certainly take a risk by having a cap on benefits. I want insurance that will cover the very expensive care if my dogs need it. The cost for surgery, treatment for cancer, or chronic conditions could easily go above and beyond the caps on many policies. I personally would only consider a policy with Trupanion or Healthy Paws. They don't cover everything, but I have peace of mind knowing that my dogs have great coverage if something serious happens. To me, that is why you buy insurance.

I hope this article takes some of the mystery out of the pet insurance choices out there. More importantly, I wish your dog or cat a long and healthy life.

Mark T. Freeley, Esq.

www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com