Welcome to my revised third article in which I discuss Pet Insurance and review some of the best plans. Many pet insurance companies change their policies every year or two. So companies that I may have recommended in my previous articles, I may no longer recommend for various reasons.
As you may recall from my previous articles, I am an attorney who has been dealing with insurance companies for over 25 years. I also own 2 dogs, Storm and Sarah. Storm became an internet sensation this summer, when my video of him saving a fawn in Port Jefferson Harbor went viral. He now even has his own Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/GoodBoyStorm. As for Sarah, I adopted her from Last Chance Animal Rescue, www.LCARescue.org. I have been volunteering for Last Chance for almost 5 years now, am an Adoption Event Leader, and act as their Pro-bono attorney.
When it comes to Pet Insurance, there are too many companies for me to review each one. However, I can tell you that many of them are not worth the cost. There are many reasons for me saying this. Some change underwriters every year, so that any condition that your dog was treated for in one year, will end up being a pre-existing condition the next year even though you did not change companies. Others have caps/limits on the cost of procedures, treatments or tests, have yearly caps, and/or lifetime caps on coverage. So you must be very careful when selecting a plan, read everything, and ask a lot of questions.
Here are my reviews of the plans in the order that I would currently select them. I provide the pricing that I was quoted for my dogs to help you compare the cost. As for pricing, purebreds are typically more expensive than mixed breeds and larger dogs are more expensive than smaller dogs.
1. Trupanion – (www.Trupanion.com)
I currently have both of my dogs insured with Trupanion. Trupanion has been in business for about 10 years and is still run by the founder. This is an accident, illness and 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. The current monthly premium that I pay for Storm is $71.00 with a $250.00 per condition deductible. The premium increase from last year was $7.00, from $64.00 to $71.00. I have had Storm insured with Trupanion since 2010 when he was a puppy. The original monthly premium was $41.00 with no deductible, so the rate has increased and I have also increased my deductible. For Sarah I pay $49.00 a month with a $300.00 per condition deductible. More importantly, the coverage automatically renews at the end of each policy period as long as all payments are current. After 60 days or upon the policy renewal, they will not cancel your policy except for non-payment of premiums.
2. Healthy Paws – (www.Healthypawspetinsurance.com)
This is a younger company than Trupanion, and they are the only other company to offer a policy similar to Trupanion. They offer 3 different reimbursement levels, 60%, 70%, or 80%. They do not re- imburse for the exam/office visit charge, the same as Trupanion. They also offer only three different deductible amounts, $250.00, $500.00 and $750.00. 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 in- cludes 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 $81.00 a month for Storm and $41.00 for Sarah, by Healthy Paws with a reimbursement level of 80% (which is the maximum percent) and a $250.00 deductible.
3. Figo – (www.figopetinsurance.com)
This is one of the newest companies in the pet insurance industry, starting in April of 2015. They require that your pet undergo an annual health check and dental exam as a condition to coverage. They have 3 plans to choose from, Essential, Preferred and Ultimate. The Essential plan has an annual cap of $10,000.00 in benefits and the Preferred plan has a $14,000.00 annual benefit cap. The Ultimate plan has unlimited annual benefits and all plans cover the exam fees for injury and illness, which Nationwide covers, but Trupanion and Healthy Paws do not cover. You can customize each policy with deductibles ranging from $50.00 to $500.00 with reimbursement rates from 70% to 100%.
They quoted me $76.00/month for Storm for the Ultimate plan with a $200.00 annual deductible and 90% reimbursement. The coverage provided by Figo and the premiums are very tempting. However, the fact that it is a very young company is a big factor to consider. They will likely experience growing pains as they learn the business, which could have a huge effect on premiums. In fact, I read that in August 2017, Figo filed to increase rates in New Jersey by 52%! Someone’s policy premium went from $86.00 a month to $141.00 a month.
4. Nationwide Pet Insurance – (www.Petinsurance.com)
In my original version of this article I had Nationwide listed as first, and had decided to switch to them. I actually did switch and when I received the policy I immediately cancelled it. Fortunately, I hadn’t yet cancelled my Trupanion policy. I cancelled the Nationwide policy for three important reasons. First, the policy language allows them to change the coverage on renewal based upon the health of your dog. Secondly, they can cancel the coverage based on the health of your dog. Third, they increase rates based upon the age of your dog, in addition to increases based upon the cost of veterinary care. For me, this all increased the risk that I would not really have the certainty of protection I wanted for my dogs.
They offer 3 plans, the best plan is called Whole Pet with Wellness. Under this plan there is one annual deduction of $250.00, not a per condition deductible which some plans have. It provides 90% reimbursement of actual veterinary expenses, not usual or customary expenses like some other plans. The cost of the veterinary exam is covered, including wellness, emergency and specialty exams. Most plans do not reimburse for the exam fee.
The cost of preventative care, including vaccinations, teeth cleaning and spay/neuter are all covered. So is the cost of monthly flea/tick and heartworm prevention, as well as deworming and parasite treatment. It covers hospitalization, surgeries including preventative and elective procedures, injuries, illness, cancer, and hereditary/congenital conditions. Prescribed nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets and medications are also covered. Even prescribed holistic, alternative and preventative care is included.
There is no annual or lifetime Cap or limit on the benefits. For this plan I was quoted $128.00 a month for Storm (large purebred, 7 years old) and $68.00 a month for Sarah (large mixed breed, 3 years old).
This coverage sounds amazing. However, if they can change and cancel the coverage each year and if the rate increases makes it unaffordable when my dogs need it most, it really is not what it appears to be.
The other 2 plans offered by Nationwide are called Major Medical and Pet Wellness. The Major Medical plan covers exams, lab tests, x-rays, prescription, surgeries, hospitalizations, and chronic conditions. This plan would cost about $56.00 a month for Storm and $36.00 for Sarah. However, it has set benefit amounts for covered conditions. There is a $250.00 annual deduction and unlimited annual benefits. The Pet Wellness plan only covers wellness exams and tests, flea/heartworm preventative and vaccinations.
5. Pet Plan – (www.gopetplan.com)
I no longer recommend Pet Plan due to many changes to their policy and dramatic price increases since my last article. For example, it would cost over $300.00 a month for unlimited coverage with a $100.00 deductible and 80% reimbursement to insure Storm.
6. Embrace – (www.Embracepetinsurance.com)
I no longer recommend Embrace either due to many policy changes in their policies resulting in reduced coverage and increased costs. For example, a policy for Storm with a $15,000.00/year cap, a $300.00 deductible with a 90% reimbursement, was $110.00 a month.
There are many other companies that offer pet insurance, and every plan is different. Most have caps on benefits, and with the cost of veterinary care today, you certainly take a risk by having a limit on benefits. I want insurance that will cover the very expensive treatment if my dogs need it. The cost of surgery, treatment for cancer, or chronic conditions could easily go above and beyond the caps on many policies.
I hope that this article helps you make the best choice for your pet. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about pet insurance or about a plan you already have. The fact that I had to revise this article only highlights how important it is to carefully read your policy.
I wish your dog or cat a long and healthy life.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.