Pet Insurance

October 30, 2012

The idea of pet insurance has been slow to get off the ground, but is becoming much more common.

At first, I thought it was a bad idea. And maybe you have the same worry–I was concerned that it would lead to the same disastrous mess that human medicine and medical insurance are in. But what has ravaged the human health industry is “managed” care. The original idea of a third-party payer (the pet insurer) is more like car insurance than human health insurance. You get veterinary care for your pet, pay the veterinarian, submit a claim for reimbursement to the pet insurance company, and they send you a check. It’s pretty simple! It’s clear that, done right, pet insurance is good for everyone.

A recent survey of veterinarians was conducted to assess their attitudes toward pet insurance. Eighty-three percent of veterinarians who began practice in 2000 or later would like to see more clients have pet health insurance. Naturally, older vets were more resistant to the idea, but 68% vets who graduated in the 1970s  (a group that, by and large, thinks that declawing is great and vaccinates every pet for every disease every year!) still thinks pet insurance is a good idea.

If you have a young animal, especially a purebred, pet insurance is a reasonable investment; especially given the rising cost of even basic veterinary care. Depending on the policy, you will be covered for most common accidents and illnesses that can afflict a dog or cat over his lifetime. Each policy has restrictions and exclusions, so be sure you do your homework to find the best option for your companion. For example, many policies  cover spay/neuter surgery, and vaccines; but exclude hereditary illnesses and tooth extractions.

Of course, insurance companies are in business to make a profit. All insurers seem to be great at taking your money, but not so great about giving it out. Claim processes may be cumbersome and time-consuming, and claims may be denied for little or no reason. However, there are huge differences among insurers. I have done a lot of research into the various companies, and have concluded that Embrace Pet Insurance is the fairest and most sensible. The reasons I recommend Embrace include:

1. Great reviews: 91% positive, and trending upward.

2. Customers report that the company is easy to work with; claims are processed quickly and paid promptly.

3. Embrace offers coverage for alternative health care, including:

  • Chiropractic
  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathic
  • Holistic
  • Veterinary orthopedic manipulation (VOM) and massage therapy
  • Therapeutic Laser Treatment
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Rehabilitation

4. They offer coverage for breed-specific conditions, cancer treatment, emergencies, specialists, prescriptions, and wellness care; and they even offer a sort of “medical savings plan” for your pet.

5. Their plans are flexible as opposed to set price. This means that there are no preset limits on how much of your routine care allowance you can spend toward any particular item. In plans with fixed amounts allocated per item, variations in cost among veterinarians mean that you will usually lose money through overpaying for some things and being reimbursed less for others. See this comparison for a detailed explanation.

6. Their plans and options are comparably priced to similar policies. But, of course, additions to the basic policy will cost extra.

Embrace, like all pet insurers, exclude pre-existing conditions that occur  within a certain time period before you bought your policy; i.e., your cat is diagnosed with cancer, and then you buy insurance. The waiting period for Embrace is 12 months. Most companies will never cover any condition that existed prior to buying a policy. However, Embrace may reinstate coverage for subsequent episodes of pre-existing conditions that are considered curable, such as upper respiratory infections; urinary tract/bladder infections; and vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal disorders.

For more information, to get a quote for coverage for your pet, or to apply for a policy, please visit Embrace Pet Insurance.

2 Responses to Pet Insurance

  1. 957ilb on October 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    From Consumer Reports (August 2011):

    “Think twice before you buy pet health insurance

    If you’re the kind of person who would do almost anything for your pets, insurance can seem like an attractive option. For monthly premiums of less than $10 to more than $90, the insurers promise to pay a portion of your pet’s bills for medical and surgical treatment, and depending on the policy, some other types of care. You pay the vet up front, file a claim, and wait for reimbursement.

    Pet insurers’ websites feature customer testimonials and examples such as $8,200 reimbursements for a dog’s leg surgery after a fall and $2,300 for a cat’s liver ailment. But the small-print caveats often make those policies less generous than they appear. For example, the coverage won’t pay for an animal’s pre-existing conditions. And unlike many health-insurance policies for humans, a basic pet plan won’t cover checkups.

    We analyzed policies marketed by insurers representing roughly 90 percent of the pet-insurance market. None would have reimbursed more than the premiums they charged for a basically healthy dog over a 10-year life span. When we added several hypothetical chronic conditions, some of the policies had positive payouts. (See Pet insurance: Rarely worth the price, in our analysis.) Only when we looked at extreme and uncommon situations involving two very sick cats did all the policies pay out more than we would have paid in.

    For most people we think it makes more sense simply to budget for routine care and put a few hundred dollars each year for more serious health problems into your household emergency fund. That way, you—not the insurer—get to keep that money in the years you don’t use it.”

    • jhofve77 on October 30, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      Yes, so…? Doesn’t CR know that’s how insurance works? Insurance companies would not stay in business long if they paid out more than they took in. They charge premiums that allow them to pay claims AND make a profit.

      Insurance is there for the worst case scenario. Most of the time, that scenario never occurs. It’s the same thing when we buy car insurance, or homeowners’ insurance, or medical insurance–very few of us will ever make a significant claim. By CR’s logic, all insurance is just a waste of money for most people. But would you want to be without it? I’ve lived without health insurance, and I’ve been handed a hospital bill for $14,000. I don’t recommend the experience!

      If only everyone could–or would–put away “a few hundred dollars a year” for emergencies. In this economy, I don’t know very many people who have that much cash left over, especially after dealing with all of life’s other little emergencies–car repairs, new hot water heater, sick child…pets tend to be way down on the list.

      Nor would “a few hundred dollars” come anywhere near the expenses that pet insurance is designed to cover–the $2000 or $10,000 vet bills for emergency care, orthopedic surgery, serious illness, cancer…. And of course, that money needs to be in your bank account at the exact moment that your pet needs it, because very few veterinarians and almost no specialists or emergency clinics will give you credit or let you work out a payment plan.

      I’d been thinking about this subject for some time, but yesterday I read an article in DVM Newsmagazine on the increase in euthanasia that veterinary clinics are seeing. In 75% of cases, cost was a factor in clients’ decisions on treatment for sick pets; and cost was the reason for euthanizing 33% of healthy pets. Good grief! If $40 a month can help reduce the unnecessary euthanasia of pets for treatable conditions, then I’m all for it!

      Does pet insurance make sense for every pet? Of course not. But the topic is becoming more widely discussed among veterinarians, animal organizations, and pet guardians. So, I looked at all the various companies, policies, and reputations, and offer this information as one perspective on the subject, for those of our readers who are interested.

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