Having done a general overview of the insurance and a limited examination of the cost benefit, it is time to look at the companies themselves and the options they offer. Not all allow you to chose the copay or the deductible. Not all allow you to have routine vet visits covered. Not all will insure pre-existing conditions, and the companies also differ on the maximum age of initial enrollment. Some give discounts for microchipping and spaying, others don’t.
If you are convinced that insurance would be a good thing, there is still alot to think about and research in terms of which options fit your needs or preferences, and which companies offer the insurance that would fit you best. Hopefully this post will help make that easier. I will do my best to track down information on the claims paid out as well, but that will have to be for another post another day! I should also mention that some of the companies I’ll talk about cover both the US and Canada. Some cover your dog or cat when you travel to certain other countries. I’m going to be comparing them from a US perspective, only. There are a lot more companies in the UK, and there are companies all over the world. I’ll refer you to Embrace’s blog for what looks like a comprehensive list of these companies.
The companies I will be looking at are: Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), Pet’s Best Insurance, Pet Care Insurance, Shelter Care, Quick Care Pet Insurance , and Embrace Pet Insurance. I will do my best to dig down and get to the fine print, but as a disclaimer – don’t take my word for anything. Use it as a jumping off point and do your own research to make sure you know exactly what you are getting!
I’m going to make it easy for anyone who is looking to cover anything other than a dog or a cat – you have one option, and that is VPI. For anyone who wants routine visits covered, VPI and Pets Best are the two offering optional coverage for that, but remember you also have Pet Assure (mentioned in Part 2) as another possibility. If you don’t want to deal with somewhat complicated per incident or per system benefit schedules, Embrace is the company you want. Read Embrace’s description of the difference to better understand what “Usual, Customary, Reasonable” vs. Benefit Schedule means.
What all of these insurance companies have in common:
- coverage at any vet in the US, even emergency and specialists (though the policy can’t always be purchased in your state of residence, depending on the company)
- pay the vet first, then submit claim for reimbursement
- once an animal is enrolled, they can remain enrolled the rest of their lives, the enrollment age does not apply to them
Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) is available in all 50 states and DC. It offers coverage to dogs and cats, as well as birds and other “exotics”. (They are the only ones to cover anything other than cats an dogs.) They offer a “routine care” option, for $99/year, no deductible, with set limits for each specific type of care covered. Spaying and Neutering is included in routine care. They base their reimbursements on a Benefit Schedule, which to me looked quite complicated. They have 3 coverage types: Superior, Standard, and Exotic. They all have a $50 deductible, after which 90% of the Benefit Schedule or vet bill (whichever is lower) will be covered, with different max benefits. Superior: max per incident or illness = $4,500, and max per policy term = $14,000. Standard: max per incident or illness = $2,500, max per policy term = $9,000. Exotic: max per incident or illness = $2,000, and max per policy term = $7,000. Under Standard there was this “benefits coverage renews each year. No lifetime cap.” What wasn’t clear to me is whether this applied to Standard and Exotic as well, and whether this meant that if my cat broke her leg this year and another next year, whether that specific “incident benefit” max was renewed, or whether the incident max is for her lifetime. (or as long as she is covered by their insurance) That is something I’d need clarified. There are some group discounts for some associations and employers, and a 5-10% discount for more than one animal. The cost, based on my cat’s species, breed, age, and zip (I am assuming these are taken into account, but I am not 100% sure) would be: $23.42/month for the Superior ($281 annual), or $12.25/month for the Standard ($147/year). Either can have the Routine Care added for $99/year, and included in both is a $12 “Lost and Found Registration”, which I didn’t look into at all. When I looked at their Benefit Schedule, each illness and specific treatment was detailed with max dollar amounts. This could make your covered amount far less than the maximum incident amount listed. Look carefully at the pdf file on their site.
Pet’s Best Insurance is not available in all states. It is not available in mine, or several neighboring states (on the east coast), but it is available in California. I didn’t try others, and I didn’t get a comprehensive list of which states are covered. They offer 2 Illness and Accident plans, an Accident only plan, and a Routine Care option. “Holistic care (except supplements)” is included in the Accident and Illness plans, they all cover 80% of the bill after the deductible and up to the limits, and all plans offer some coverage of burials or cremations and humane-reason-only euthanasia. The “Pets First Plan” has a $75 deductible, with a $7,000 per incident limit and $99,750 lifetime limit. The “Pets Basic” plan has a $200 deductible, $2,500 per incident limit, and a $42,500 lifetime limit. These plans start at $24.00/month for cats and $30.92/month for dogs. The “Pets Accident Plan” has a $75 deductible, and the coverage depends on the specific injury. The cost is $7.42/month for cats, and $9.92/month for dogs. The “Pets Wellness” is the routine care option: no deductible, quarterly benefit maximums, and the previous quarter’s benefits will carry over into the next if they are not utilized. The cost for dogs is $21.42/month with a $134/quarter benefit. For cats the cost is $26.00/month with a $163/quarter benefit.
Pet Care Insurance, Shelter Care, Quick Care Pet Insurance are all related – if not in actuality (I didn’t research this), at least in the surface look at their benefits and costs. Shelter care has all of the same program options as Pet Care, with one addition. Quick Care has all of the same programs as Pet Care except “Quick Care Intermediate”, “Tenant Care” and “Emergency Care”. One thing I want to point out right away is that the “Emergency Care” listed referred only to emergency care needed when your cat (I only looked at cat programs) is lost. I don’t know, and would have to verify, whether emergency clinics are covered normally.
This is by far the most complicated company (or set of companies). Pet Care has 9 program options, and they all have different costs, limits, deductibles, etc. Expect it to be confusing. If you like having a lot of options, it might very well be your company, but do spend time on their website looking at the detailed information there. The programs:
- Quick Care Gold: all accidents, $2,500 per incident, unlimited lifetime; all illnesses, including hereditary, $30,000 lifetime max; choice of 70%, 90%, or 100% covered, after $100 per incident deductible, enrollment age is 8 weeks to 10 years. Additional benefits for accidental death reimburses up to $500 of original purchase price (yuck), and if you end up in the hospital for more than 48 hours, pet boarding or home care is covered up to $25/day with a $250 total max; recovery benefits up to $150, and euthanasia up to $100. These additional benefits have no deductible. Cost is from $18.95/month to $26.95/month, depending on percent covered.
- Quick Care Preferred: all accidents, $5,000 per incident, no lifetime max; all illnesses, including hereditary, $60,000 lifetime max. 70% is paid, up to max, after $100 per incident deductible, enrollment age is 8 weeks – 10 years. Additional benefits (no deductible) include accidental death, your hospitalization/boarding benefits, recovery and euthanasia (coverage amounts the same as for the “Gold” program). Cost = $21.95/month
- Quick Care Intermediate: select accidents (see site for specifics on which, and extent of coverage), first time illness ($1,500 max, limits on how many illnesses per year), 90% paid after the $100 per incident deductible, enrollment age is 8 weeks to 6 years. Additional benefits (no deductible) for recovery and euthanasia, same max amounts as listed in “Gold” program. Cost is $13.95/month.
- Quick Care Indoor Cats: select accidents, select illnesses (see site for specifics on which, and extent of coverage), 100% paid after the $200 deductible, enrollment age is 8 weeks, no upper age limit. Additional benefits for euthanasia, no deductible, as outlined in “Gold” Program. Cost is $10.95/month.
- Quick Care Plus: select accidents, and select illnesses (6 categories), see site for specifics; $75 deductible and 100% coverage for each, though the illnesses are covered only 80% after age 8; enrollment age is 8 weeks to 10 years. Additional (no deductible) benefits for euthanasia and accidental death, as described in “Gold” Program. Cost is $13.95/month
- Quick Care (accident only): 100% coverage with a 50% deductible for select injuries (see site for specifics; Additional (no deductible) benefit for accidental death as described in “Gold” Program. Enrollment age is 8 weeks with no upper limit. Cost is $9.95/month.
- Quick Care Senior: specific accidents (see site for details) have a $50 deductible and 100% coverage (up to max); select illnesses (see site for details) that were not pre-existing in the 36 months prior to enrollment have a $200 deductible, and 100% coverage up to max. Enrollment age is 8 weeks with no upper limit. Additional (no deductible) benefits include boarding at a kennel, trip cancellation, recovery, owner bequest, euthanasia, and accidental death. The details vary slightly from “Gold”. Cost is $21.95/month.
- Tenant Care, for pet owners living in rentals: first time illness only, with a $75 deductible and $500 per illness coverage; select accidents have $75 deductible and 100% coverage up to max. There is an additional no deductible property damage ($500 – $700) benefit, as well as recovery. The cost is $15.95/month.
- The emergency care is available for cats microchipped with 24PetWatch only; vet fees while lost are covered up to $3000, and $250 recovery benefit. Note: this is only for times when your cat is lost!
- Shelter Care Intro (available only through Shelter Care): selected accidents, unlimited number, no pre-existing conditions, $100 deductible (may vary by state: see site for specifics on all details) and then 100% coverage up to max; 1st time illness, $100 deductible, $500 max; enrollment age is 8 weeks to 6 years. Additional no deductible benefits include recovery ($150 max) and euthanasia ($100 max). Cost is $12.95/month.
PetCare is available everywhere except Alaska; I didn’t check for Shelter Care or Quick Care. There is no option for maintenance or routine vet visits, but there are some things like prescription foods covered (25% for first 6 months) and holistic medicine if prescribed by a licensed vet.
Embrace Pet Insurance is the final insurance, and thankfully, they’re quite simple. They are the only company to have a “Usual, Customary, and Reasonable” reimbursement method rather than a benefit schedule; this will depend on the area you live in (costs vary). They have only one limit: the annual maximum. They imply that emergency vet clinic care is covered, but I would need to contact them to verify. The enrollment ages are: for cats – mixed breeds, 8 weeks to 10 years; pure breeds 8 weeks to 8 years. For dogs: mixed breeds, 8 weeks to 8 years; pure breeds, 8 weeks to 6 years. Accident only can be enrolled in at any age. Their insurance plan is customizable, rather than a variety of set plans. The customizable aspects are as follows:
- Annual max: $2,000 / $5,000 / $10,000
- Annual deductible: $100 / $200 / $500
- Co-pay: 10% / 20% / 35%
- prescription drug and dental illness options
- continuing care options
They have a slight difference in terminology when it comes to copay. The other companies list how much they pay; embrace gives you the option of how much you pay. “Co-Pay” and “Coverage” are essentially the same thing, in opposite. I could not find information on whether they are offered in every state, but they do cover you and your “pet” if you are traveling with them in Canada and Mexico. I believe some other companies cover this as well, but I didn’t see anything specifying. You get discounts for having had your cat or dog microchipped and spayed or neutered. You also get discounts for paying annually instead of monthly. Some companies also give pet insurance benefits, which would give you an additional discount. The costs are more difficult to give because rather than set plans, they have a customizable philosophy. However when you select your options and get an instant quote, it shows the range for your particular animal’s species, age, breed, and your zip code. So you instantly know the possibilities. For example, my cat (8 year old, female, american shorthair cat, spayed) has a range of $15.18 – $73.23 in my area.
There are a lot of options, a wide range in cost and coverages, and for most companies a lot of fine print to examine to determine what exactly you would be getting for your money. Hopefully this helped to give an overview of what each company offers. Remember that this is a snapshot view; I have no control over the prices changing, and have no idea when they might! So verify everything for yourself, and examine the fine print for the company or companies you are most interested in. Also, except where I explicitly gave the cost for dogs as well as cats, all of the info is for cats only. Dogs have a higher premium, as a rule, but the cat cost comparison should give a general idea of what the companies are like, what they offer, and what their relative costs are.
I will look for reviews of all the companies for the next post and attempt to get an idea of what is actually paid out for the various claims at the various companies.