Pet Insurance
  • sujewelsujewel
    Posts: 2553


    Hi All.



    Our Pet Insurance is up mid-month and I wanted to see what kind of Insurance everyone else has. I currently have Shelter Care, which is pretty expensive - $330/year.



    I used to have VPI, which wasn't nearly as expensive, but I had a bad experience with them regarding one of my claims. Are there other insurance companies for pets I should consider?



     


    Barbara - Mika & Keigo (Akita Inus); Jewel and Brittney (Kitties)
  • brandon_wbrandon_w
    Posts: 3427
    I use PetCare/Sheltercare  but have a really basic plan.  Have never had a claim to deal with. 
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • dlrobertsdlroberts
    Posts: 6552


    Awesome. I've been meaning to start a thread on this topic.



    I have VPI for Lucy and will be purchasing a policy for Joey in the next few days. My general opinion of pet insurance companies is that they all suck. On the other hand, if your pet has one catastrophic health event in their lifetime then the policy will have paid for itself. Each has their own gimic that they use to distract you from the parts of their coverage that aren't good. Even the ASPCA, which you would think would be good given their mission of protecting animals, has huge holes in their coverage.



    When I was selecting a company, I spent a few hours a day for a week reading the details of coverage from as many companies as I could find and talking to their representatives on the phone. Unfortunately I let someone borrow my notes from those conversations and I don't have them available right now. I do remember some of the things you have to look out for though.



    Here are the companies, to my best recollection, that I looked at: ASPCA, VPI, Pet Care, Pet's Best, and Pet First.



    1) You have to be very careful how they define "pre-existing condition." More than one company maintains the right to determine something is a pre-existing condition from one policy term to the next. Thus, if god-forbid your pet got cancer they could exclude it from coverage when you renew your policy. This, of course, doesn't mean they will, but I was nervous about that clause.



    2) Deductibles vary from policy to policy. Some are per-incident deductibles and some are per-visit deductibles. Going with the cancer example again, you could find yourself having to pay $100 or more per visit if the deductible is a per-vist one and cancer treatments are frequent.



    3) Check carefully to understand if the coverage limits are per-policy term or for the lifetime of your pet. Some companies dazzle you with high policy coverage limits like $25,000 but once you hit it they won't insure you anymore. Others have lower limits, like $7,000, but the limit resets each policy term.



    4) Determine if the policy covers the actual claim amount or is paid according to a schedule of fees.



    5) Carefully calculate if the coverage for well-care is financially a good decision or not. Usually well-care additions to a policy come with no deductible but are at best a break even proposition after your puppy's first year.



    6) Some companies give you discounts for microchips and multiple policies. They don't always advertise them, so you should ask.



    7) Gimics like rate-lock for an extra $5/month or free well-care are generally hiding something lacking about the policy itself. Read carefully.



    8) Its all a balancing act between your deductible and the coverage amounts. Some pay 80% of the bill, some pay more. When you get something in one area like deductible you will give it up in the coverage percentage.



    ----



    In general, I think pet insurance is a great idea. Something like 3% of us pet owners buy insurance for their pets whereas in Europe its closer to 25%. As a result, the industry is not as mature here so you have to be extra careful when shopping for policies.



    So far, I've had mixed experiences with VPI. When Lucy was in a collision at the dog park and was limping, they paid generously. When she came from the breeder with parasites, they did not. I recently submitted a claim for four separate visits, all related to the same underlying problem (suspected IBD complicated by those parasites), that totaled $1,100 and they paid me $25. I'm in the process of disputing the claim with a letter from my vet and chart notes. Part of my motivation for getting VPI is that my vet has worked with them in the past so I figured when issues that need dispute come up it will be easier.



    ----



    One thing I believe is a no brainer is the lost pet insurance from Pet Care. If your pet is ever lost they will automatically pay $3,000 in medical coverage and $250 in recovery fees less a $50 deductible and the annual premium is only $20. If you have a micro chip from Home Again this is included in your annual registration fee with them.



    ---



    To summarize, all the plans out there suck and will more than likely cost you money on an annual basis; however, if your pet has one serious health event in its lifetime you will come out ahead. In my opinion, its worth the $200/year for an insurance policy to guard against a catastrophy.

    dlrobertsdlroberts
    Dave, proudly owned by Joey (Shiba Inu), Tyson (Kai Ken), and PRG's Mason Julien McDieserton III, a.k.a. Diesel (Labrador Retriever).
    "My opinion may have changed, but not the fact that I'm right"
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • dlrobertsdlroberts
    Posts: 6552
    Did I scare everyone away? Frown
    dlrobertsdlroberts
    Dave, proudly owned by Joey (Shiba Inu), Tyson (Kai Ken), and PRG's Mason Julien McDieserton III, a.k.a. Diesel (Labrador Retriever).
    "My opinion may have changed, but not the fact that I'm right"
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • ddowdemersddowdemers
    Posts: 681


    Dave,  I have been putting off getting insurance and your information is a great help in having me decide which way to go.  Thanks a bunch.

    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • sujewelsujewel
    Posts: 2553


    Sorry, Dave. I absolutely appreciate all the work you've put into the post!! Thank you so much. I've been reading up on the different insurance companies and I will probably stick with Sheltercare or go back to VPI.



    Should I get the basic coverage or the next step up? I currently have the $26/mo plan. I'm just thinking about the cost if something catastrophic happens. Hmmm. I'll talk to my vet and see what horrible things he can dream up and how much they would cost.



    It's a clinic, so his prices are super reasonable. I got Jewel's teeth cleaned for $80. I went to two other vets before....$300!!!! So maybe I won't need such heavy coverage.

    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • dlrobertsdlroberts
    Posts: 6552


    I wish I had my notes...grrrr. I have to try to get those back from my friend.



    ---- 



    Just browsing over the Sheltercare site, I am a bit concerned that they don't have the terms and conditions of coverage available for viewing. I don't have the time to call right now, but I seem to recall that the coverage limits with Sheltercare are "lifetime" limits which means once they have paid out the $3,000 for any particular category that is it---even if you renew the policy. This does not apply to accidents like a broken leg, but to illnesses. So if your poor dog has two broken legs from separate incidents, they would pay up to $3,000 per leg. If, however, they need two surgeries for a hereditary back problem, you would be stuck with a total payout of $3,000. 



    Sheltercare in particular made me pretty nervous when I was doing my research (I left it off the list in my earlier post, but I recognized the website as soon as I saw it).  They have all these complicated categories and exclusions and age limits and I think they do a very poor job of communicating their coverage on their website.



    ----



    If you are mainly trying to insure for the worst case, then I wouldn't go with Sheltercare. If you do, you would want to at least get the double limit gold plan but even then it would worry me not having limits that reset.



    I know VPI has its problems, but its a *lot* cheaper than Sheltercare and if you are really just insuring against catastrophic events, then VPI is probably a better option (in my humble opinion). It has comparable coverage that does not expire once your policy has paid out a certain amount (although there are some annual limits). The big advantage is that its 1/2 the cost of Sheltercare. 



    IIRC, VPI only has one level of coverage and the only option is well-care. I would not take the well-care unless you plan to spay or neuter your pet during the policy term. 



    ----



    For the record, I have absolutely no affiliation with any insurance company. So if it seems like I'm pushing VPI its because I made a decision a while ago. It is well documented in social psychology that we strive to be internally and externally consistent, so my natural tendency is to steer you toward what I decided on. 



    ----



    I hope this helps! 

    dlrobertsdlroberts
    Dave, proudly owned by Joey (Shiba Inu), Tyson (Kai Ken), and PRG's Mason Julien McDieserton III, a.k.a. Diesel (Labrador Retriever).
    "My opinion may have changed, but not the fact that I'm right"
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • sujewelsujewel
    Posts: 2553


    Hi Dave.



    I'm sure I have the terms and conditions kicking around the house (actually, I'm a neat freak, so I know exactly where it is). I'll have to read it closly. Basically, I'm looking for insurance that has a good balance of well care coverage and catastrophic coverage.



    Actually, I have the terms and conditions for VPI as well. I'll look at them both closely. Thanks!

    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • okironokiron
    Posts: 3432
    I have a Care Credit card which has a high limit (for someone my age, credit, income) thanks to my uncle who makes too much money for his own good cosigning for me. It would cover any emergency that might arise for the animals so I prefer to keep that then spend money on insurance. If the amount is over $300 then I could get anywhere from 3 months to 18 months interest free anyway. No hidden fees, no terms and conditions to stand in the way.
    -Rina
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • BradA1878BradA1878
    Posts: 12224
    We don't have insurance for the pups - we need to get it tho... just with 6 dogs it's like a lot of money!
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • kwyldkwyld
    Posts: 590
    I have Care Credit too just in case something ever happens that costs A LOT.  And you can use it for human optical and dental procedures too, it all depends on what places accept it.  I agree with all Dave said about the insurance companies, but I don't think I would get it for my dogs, I like to just stick with the no interest payment plan that Care Credit can offer.  http://www.carecredit.com/.
    Kohji - Kai Ken
    Taj - Shiba Inu
    Post edited by kwyld at 2008-03-04 20:26:32
  • okironokiron
    Posts: 3432
    Lol Kelly that's how I afford my root canals and contacts is thanks to Care Credit. 99% of places around here accept it. It's not just optical and dental but regular checkups work too along with other medical reasons.
    -Rina
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • dlrobertsdlroberts
    Posts: 6552


    I would like to point out that Care Credit is not mutually exclusive with getting insurance for your pet. You can use Care Credit to pay for a procedure and then submit the insurance claim which may take a few weeks to be processed and likely won't cover the full cost. That money can go directly to paying off the debt if/when it gets remitted to you from the insurance company.



    My one concern with Care Credit is that it is only accepted by a limited number of practices. If your regular vet already accepts Care Credit, then you might worry less; however, if you are traveling and/or have an emergency after hours that you have to pay for you may not be able to use your Care Credit card.



    I like the idea, but in my opinion it should be a backup to insurance, not a replacement for it. 

    dlrobertsdlroberts
    Dave, proudly owned by Joey (Shiba Inu), Tyson (Kai Ken), and PRG's Mason Julien McDieserton III, a.k.a. Diesel (Labrador Retriever).
    "My opinion may have changed, but not the fact that I'm right"
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • okironokiron
    Posts: 3432
    Dave I've never had a problem finding a vet that takes Care Credit while I traveled and moved around. Right now where I live I have a favorite exotic vet that sadly doesn't take Care Credit but 3 backups that do and my emergency takes them too. I do realize what your point was but I don't make much money and all my "free money" goes straight to the animals, if I could cover it in the long run, I rather save the money myself than put it to an insurance that might not even cover the issue to begin with.
    -Rina
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • dlrobertsdlroberts
    Posts: 6552


    Rina: It sounds like Care Credit is probably a good choice for you. In my case, the three vet offices that I have visited and the emergency vet I have used do not take it. I don't think it would work as well for me.



    I'm not putting down Care Credit. In fact, I think it serves a very useful purpose. The main point that I'm trying to get across is that it is *not* a substitute or replacement for insurance. If you can afford the $200/year that a cheap insurance plan costs, you will undoubtedly come out ahead if your pet has even just one significant health event in its lifetime.  

    dlrobertsdlroberts
    Dave, proudly owned by Joey (Shiba Inu), Tyson (Kai Ken), and PRG's Mason Julien McDieserton III, a.k.a. Diesel (Labrador Retriever).
    "My opinion may have changed, but not the fact that I'm right"
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • okironokiron
    Posts: 3432
    I understand, if I could afford it for everyone, I would think about it.
    -Rina
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00
  • kwyldkwyld
    Posts: 590


      I just have seen too many sad people come into the vet place I work at and say "Oh, is this a brochure for VPI?  You know I have this and they denied my last claim because of blah blah blah, and I've been paying this company for 5 years!!"  I just had a client come in the other day and she said VPI wouldn't cover her dog's cruciate tear.  The dog blew his other cruciate a year before and now his opposite leg blew and she said they wouldn't cover it because it was a "preexisting condition".  I can't see how that makes sense since it was the other leg that went in the past, but regardless, she said they denied her claim(I told her she needs to get a lawyer!).  I know all of the reputable vet places in Michigan take Care Credit, and the smaller ones with like one doctor on staff in the stix do not.  Pet Insurance just seems unpredictable to me I guess.  But hey, what ever floats your boat!  

    Kohji - Kai Ken
    Taj - Shiba Inu
    Post edited by kwyld at 2008-03-05 15:51:22
  • dlrobertsdlroberts
    Posts: 6552


    The only way they could exclude that as a pre-existing condition would be if there was either a lapse in coverage between the two incidents or if they added it as an exclusion upon renewal. I'm not sure I would hire a lawyer just yet, but I would dispute the claim.



    I know there are a lot of bad stories out there. Pet insurance companies are no different than human insurance companies or car insurance companies or home insurance companies. They will do what they can to avoid paying a claim because most of the time people won't fight for what they are entitled to. Also, you probably never hear the good stories because the clients aren't upset or looking for someone to vent to.



    I'm not defending the insurance companies. Like I said before, I think they all suck. I just think of it like a hedge investment. With high probability it will have a small negative expected value but in the event that the low probability event occurs, you'll have a huge increase in expected value. What those probabilities are is tough to say. I'm sure the insurance companies pay actuaries a lot of money to try to figure those things out. They make their money based on the law of large numbers and the fact that most people won't fight their decisions. We, the clients, loose money because we don't guard ourselves against bad things happening.  

    dlrobertsdlroberts
    Dave, proudly owned by Joey (Shiba Inu), Tyson (Kai Ken), and PRG's Mason Julien McDieserton III, a.k.a. Diesel (Labrador Retriever).
    "My opinion may have changed, but not the fact that I'm right"
    Post edited by Unknown User at -0001-11-30 00:00:00

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