All-in-One-Guide: Help Clients Ferret Out the Best Pet Insurance
Since Lassie became the dog covered by pet insurance in 1982, the industry has shown slow and steady growth.
Today, approximately 1% of dogs and cats are insured and smallbiztrends.com projects that the pet insurance market will grow to $600 million in 2013.
As more clients elect to purchase pet insurance, more are turning to you, the veterinary healthcare professional, for advice on what policy to buy.
Comparing Pet Insurance
Petinsurancereview.com offers a good starting place for consumers to understand the basics of pet insurance including:
• Unlike human health insurance, pet insurers work with all veterinarians so pet owners can use any animal health provider they choose.
• Clients are expected to pay the veterinary bill as usual and are reimbursed by the insurer.
• Preexisting conditions are usually not covered.
• Pet insurance generally offers protection from large, unexpected veterinary bills; routine expenses are often not covered.
• Insurers differ, so clients must do their research to select the policy that is best for their pets.
There are a number of websites dedicated to pet insurance comparisons, often published by insurers themselves. Consumer reviews are helpful, but clients who feel strongly—especially negatively—about an experience may tend to post more often, leading to a less-than-objective overall rating.
The digital book Pet Insurance Buyer’s Guide by Michael J. Considine is an up-to-date, objective resource on 10 popular pet insurers that can help clients who want to purchase pet insurance make an informed decision. The e-book, available for just 99 cents on amazon.com, can be downloaded to Kindle or read on your computer.
• What is covered
• Annual caps
• Policy limits
• Reimbursement procedure and time
• Renewal rate increases
• Reputation of the company (ie, consumer reviews).
Selected highlights from Pet Insurance Buyer’s Guide follow.
1. AKC Pet Healthcare Plan: Covers well-pet visits, vaccinations, dental cleanings, flea prevention, and 48-hour emergency boarding at higher payment tiers. Deductibles are available either by year or by incident. AKC scored lowest on “reputation of the company” of the companies evaluated.
2. ASPCA (Hartville) Insurance: Coverage can be purchased for congenital and hereditary conditions as well as for dental cleanings and vaccinations. Ongoing conditions are not covered for dogs at age 9 years and cats at 11.
3. Embrace Pet Insurance: Covers all diagnostic tests, including those for congenital and hereditary conditions. Care for chronic conditions that cost in excess of 25% of the policy maximum is not covered.
4. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance: Offers coverage for hereditary conditions that are not preexisting. There is no annual cap on coverage, which can be especially useful for pets with a lifelong condition. Healthy Paws has an especially strong rating with consumers and earned the highest overall rating of the companies evaluated.
5. Pets Best: Offers an inclusive list of coverage items, including oncology, chiropractic, and behavioral treatment. Routine care (eg, well care, vaccinations, neutering) can be covered for an additional charge. This company uses a per-incident rather than the more common annual deductible.
6. Pet First Healthcare: The accident-only rate is among the lowest in the industry with no copay required (a $50 deductible is charged for accidents, however).
7. Pet Plan: Coverage is available for congenital, hereditary, and some preexisting conditions (“noncurable” preexisting conditions are not covered). Higher priced policies offer coverage for boarding and even advertisements and rewards for lost pets.
8. PurinaCare Pet Health Insurance: Coverage can be purchased for non-preexisting congenital and hereditary conditions. Behavior training is covered even under less costly plans. PurinaCare has a policy cap of $20,000 per year for most policies, one of the highest in the industry.
9. Trupanion: Covers 50% of prescription food costs, and services such as acupuncture and physical therapy. Trupanion offers a lifetime per-incident deductible, which can save money compared to an annual deductible for pets with recurring conditions. Routine health coverage (wellness, dental cleanings, etc) is not offered.
10. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI): VPI, the “granddaddy” of pet insurance providers, reimburses based on its own benefit schedule, not what the veterinarian charges. This can conceivably lead to client dissatisfaction with you. Higher tiered plans offer some of the lowest copays in the industry, while less-expensive plans have some of the highest.
Summing It Up
Medical advances mean that treatments once available only to humans can now benefit pets, but often cost sizable amounts of money. Pet insurance costs vary according to where the client resides, number of animals covered, pet’s age, breed, and other health factors.
Encourage clients to obtain quotes from a few providers in order to select the best plan for their pets, and share your opinion with owners. “I recommend plans that are not limited to emergency visits only and ones I know pay the client without a hassle,” says veterinary technician Cookie Doughten. “If an insurance company gives us a hard time about faxing and refaxing paper work, I will not recommend them.”