Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

“Pet” Insurance, Part 3 (companies and options)


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.

didi wild lookThe 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.

nymph sleeping in teepee


35 responses to ““Pet” Insurance, Part 3 (companies and options)

  1. girl least likely to April 29, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    wow, deb, you’re AMAZING! thank you so much for this series of posts!!

  2. Tracie May 10, 2007 at 6:03 am

    I liked your artcile on US Pet Insurance and as you have stated in your article there are quite a few Pet Insurance companies here in the UK. If you like to compare UK pet Insurance try our website. I would like to add that if you are a UK resident and are unable to afford Pet Insurance and are claiming certain benefits (I.E Housing Benefit) You can take your pet to a Charity run company called PDSA. All they ask is for a small donation in return for execellent treatment! or

  3. Deb May 11, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks, Tracie, that is good info to have!

  4. Mo May 31, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks a BUNCH for compiling and providing this info…I’ve struggled with this insurance stuff for years – $30K+ paid myself, in addition to ins payments. As you can see, I need better insurance! Primarily I’ve used VPI which is great if you have a cancer rider (pays double) and your cat gets cancer…the cost of diagnostics & treatment then don’t creep into your mind when you’re really wanting to help your cat but it will cost a fortune. Pet’s Best has been a struggle (only had them for a year now, but they want to deny everything). Just applied for ASPCA, and I’m looking into Embrace, thanks to you. Hopefully I can settle on just one carrier. I’m now going to read Parts 1 & 2. This is really wonderful – these plans and options are exhausting, so you’ve done a great service.

  5. Deb May 31, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Mo! It is good to hear more people’s experiences as well – there isn’t all that much when it comes to reviews of pet insurance, and I don’t know many people personally who have any, so the online reviews are all that most of us have to go by. I hope that the compiled info helps your research. Makes the effort of putting it together worth it!

  6. Mo June 6, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    Hi Deb,
    Just wanted to let you know what I’ve learned so far with my further investigations. Some of the plans have “chronic condition” or “pre-existing condition” restrictions that don’t necessarily mean what one might think. Embrace and ASPCA apparently consider each year as a “new policy” in the sense that if a condition existed in the previous policy year it may not be covered in the subsequent year because it will then be a “pre-existing condition”. It might not even be covered the first year, depending on how the insurance company characterizes the condition.

    There are cases where a condition will be covered, but I strongly advise folks to dig deep into every description of “what’s covered” and specific meanings of “pre-existing conditions” with individual companies because it can get pretty complicated, and I get the sense they have quite a bit of wiggle-room to make subjective determinations on whether they’ll cover something or not. I don’t like that aspect…I really prefer that veterinarian professionals make medical judgments, not claims adjusters.

    They like to use terms like “insurance for accidents and unexpected illnesses” – well, aren’t they all unexpected? They really mean “insurance for accidents and minor, short-term illnesses”. Personally I am looking for really good illness coverage…as they get older, cats develop some pretty common diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, heart disease, etc. If diagnosed properly (which costs $$$$) and treated properly (which often only costs $$ if diagnosed properly), the cat can live a comfortable and happy life for many years. In the case of heart disease, properly performed diagnostics and rechecks (w/board certified cardiologist, which is needed in anything worse than mild heart disease) are $$$$. If a chronic condition isn’t covered beyond the first year (if you’re lucky enough to get any coverage for it the first year), then it becomes detrimental to the cat because most of us aren’t willing to deplete our retirement accounts and go very deep in debt to cover the costs, take just a short vacation once every 3-4 years, and have no hope of ever buying anything newer than our now 20-year-old car. It then becomes a nightmare for us, not being able to care for our beloved cat.

    “Maximum per incident/condition/whatever” is important to look into as well. Some have lifetime maximums for each type of illness or accident; some have maximums per policy/benefit year, which is what you want if you’re looking for illness coverage.

    The premium costs between the companies aren’t that varied, so if you’re really wanting good coverage it makes sense to research carefully, and if needed, spend a couple of dollars more per month on premiums that will likely provide many thousands of dollars more in claims reimbursement over the years. (Insure when they’re young and healthy! I haven’t had any problems claims getting paid with VPI when I initially insured a healthy cat and didn’t need to file any claims for at least a year or two.)

    As I mentioned in my first post, Pet’s Best likes to deny as much as they can and their description of “pre-existing condition” is a bit too vague – when you submit a claim, they make the determination on whether or not a condition was pre-existing before you bought your policy – regardless of whether the pet exhibited symptoms of the condition in the past or not. Their website states that, and I’ve had personal experience with it – I had to fight them on a pancreatitis claim because my cat had diarrhea previously…it was really frustrating. They’ll need to clarify their basis for making determinations better and stick by their promises before I’d personally recommending them.

    I’ve decided to forego ASPCA because of the “chronic/pre-existing” restrictions. I decided to forego Embrace for the same reason, but then I discovered it’s not available in my state anyway. You can buy “long-term care coverage” with ASPCA but it’s over $60/month for a cat…you can also buy the extra coverage with Embrace but I don’t know how much it runs. I’m currently looking into PetPlan to supplement my VPI, as they don’t have these highly restrictive policies. VPI pays on a benefit schedule which helps a lot but can still leave you pretty deep in the hole, which is why I need something supplemental.

    Sorry for going on and on, but I figured I should write what I discoverd and you can delete the post if it’s too much. 🙂 Sorry if I may have repeated info you already provided…I’m frantically trying to get this sent out as I’m working, so please forgive me for not double-checking. I have been trying to find your Parts 1 & 2 but maybe I’m just an eedjit because I can’t find them. Can you guide me to them?

    You really helped motivate me into looking so carefully at these plans. I was wallowing around in the mudbath of all the differing terminologies and vagueness of these companies’ propaganda – it’s just enough to make your head swim…between the distinct promises and the ambiguous promises, you find yourself feeling as though you should trust the distinct stuff because, after all, it’s all you can understand. You helped sort through some things and get my head going on a straight path! Thanks, Deb!


  7. Deb June 6, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for all this, Mo! It was really helpful, actually. I didn’t look too closely at the pre-existing condition clauses when I was doing my research for these posts, but I did notice in one of the reviews that someone had this issue with one of her dogs who came up with cancer about six months after her coverage started, and it was denied as pre-existing. Sure, if it is that loosely defined, I suppose that every health issue is pre-existing based on life itself!

    I know some of the plans have specific older cat/dog care. Much of it was so specific in what it covered that I didn’t trust it very far. I need to look into some of this deeper though.

    I’m pretty sure Embrace’s long term care coverage was somewhere around an extra $10 or less per month. I found out just by doing a couple different quotes, one with the long-term care and one without. It wasn’t a huge difference.

    Be careful of VPI’s benefit schedule – it is years and years out of date, so I wouldn’t expect the benefit payout to be close to what the cost of the procedures would be. That was a big complaint in one of the reviews as well.

    The problem is that there is no perfect plan or company. I had missed the part about Embrace’s policy plan being new each year, and thus not covering illnesses if they happened in a previous year as well.

    The parts 1 and 2:

    I think they’re not showing up properly in the archives – I looked there first, but I had to go look in my blog manage screen to find them. So, something weird with the blog I guess. Not you!

    Thanks again for taking the time to share what you’ve learned! I really appreciate it! 🙂

  8. Laura Bennett June 7, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Mo and Deb,

    I just wanted to clarify that Embrace Pet Insurance DOES cover chronic conditions that continue year to year (we call it Continuing Care). We offer Continuing Care as an option as it is not cheap (it costs an additional 25% of the basic coverage without it) and we believe that pet parents should make their own decisions about whether the benefit is worth the money, not us force something on them.

    Personally, I don’t know why anyone would not select it, even with the extra costs, as I think this is one of the benefits people expect from their pet insurance (the other being genetic conditions, which we do cover too) but a few people choose not to take it. We make them confirm they really really don’t want it just to be sure that’s what they intended.

    We have more details on the coverage on our website here and I’d be happy to answer any questions on it either on this blog or my own


  9. Deb June 7, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks Laura!

    I’m planning on doing another post or two to look at some additional issues in more depth. I have some friends who have specific issues with their cats, and I’ll probably end up helping them research by doing research for another blog entry. I might very well end up asking questions over on your blog as I research. Some of this is hard to distill out for comparison and comprehension purposes, but hopefully some of these posts and comments will help.

    Thanks again for the clarification!

  10. Laura Bennett June 7, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Deb, I’d be happy (actually honored) to help. I’ve been researching pet insurance for nearly 5 years now and I still find it confusing. It’s not easy, especially as the other companies don’t tell all on their websites. Sometimes you just have to know what to ask.

    BTW, I noted a couple of other things in your post about Embrace that I should mention:
    – we sell in all states except Utah (Washington and Oregon coming in the next week or so);
    – Usual, Customary, and Reasonable is not uncommon in pet insurance. The Hartville Group for example also use it (they go under the ASPCA and Pets Health Plan brands). The idea is to pay for costs that are reasonable in the area you live in (you pay different premiums for different locations so the claims are reviewed that way too). We pay more for emergency care (yes, we cover it) because that is reasonable – they have staff on call 24/7 and more technology on hand. We won’t pay though for a vet charging $80 for an elizabethan collar (it has been known to happen) – that’s not reasonable.

    Finally, I notice you quoted your cat as being an american shorthair. A month ago, we noticed that our cat breed list did not include domestic short and long-haired cat breeds (we did list the equivalent mixed breed but stupidly neglected to put the other two – duh!). We have added the two “breeds” in now but we were finding that before the change, people were putting in american shorthaired instead of domestic shorthaired instead. The american shorthaired cat is actually purebred with premiums that are 20% higher than a domestic shorthaired cat (since we cover genetic conditions, the premiums vary by breed). So just in case you made that accidental substitution too, your actual premiums would be 17% lower.

    Talk soon 🙂


  11. Deb June 7, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Oh, awesome, I’m sure I did make that mistake! My cat is purely a mix of everything. Thanks for pointing that out!

    And thanks for being willing to help educate me (and whoever might stumble upon these blog entries) – I exhausted my brain with the first four posts, and promptly forgot to research any further, let alone make any kind of decision for my own cat!

    So thanks to you and Mo and the other comments I’ve been getting lately, as they’ve revitalized my interest in and committment to really getting a handle on this!

  12. Mo June 8, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    THANKS to Deb and Laura! That’s good news about Embrace…I was afraid the long-term coverage would be high like ASPCA’s. I will definitely check into it in a week or so when it’ll be available in my state. 🙂 That’s one of those little synchronicities that make one smile…I wouldn’t have thought to check back with them, perhaps for years, and here we all are on this board and now I can look into Embrace right when I’ll be needing it…. I will probably be adopting a new ‘teenager’ kitty or kitten within a month or two and want to have her well insured immediately.

    Deb, you are so right about watching out when it comes to VPI’s benefit schedule. Whether you have an up-to-date schedule or not, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what your benefit would be on a (non-simple) claim anyway. They have specific benefits for “primary”, “secondary”, “diagnostics”, and other various specific diagnostic tests, and the more complicated my cat’s condition was, the more surprised I’d be at the benefit I’d be paid – I usually got more than I would’ve thought with the really complicated stuff. For the more straightforward, less serious illness stuff the benefit schedule shows it’s true colors in that their coverage is too low. They don’t really end up paying much (straightforward does NOT equal less costly, so you could be out a bundle o’ cash either way).

    That’s awful about the cancer being determined “pre-existing” in the dog you mentioned…I hope the person appealed that decision. I’ve never had a problem with VPI in that sense – whenever they deemed something as pre-existing it actually was, based on previous vet records and treatment, etc., just might not have been obvious it was cancer until later. As with any vet insurance, if you disagree with the determination, APPEAL in writing and explain your position…include copies of all relevant paperwork with your appeal.

    Also, I always send in as much backup info as possible with my claims, which helps speed things up and get the most benefit paid (copies of all lab results, sometimes chart notes if I think it’ll help, etc.). I sound like I’m a VPI advocate, but that’s not really the case (!) – I’ve used them since 1998 so I’m just reporting my experiences.

    I checked out PetPlan as I mentioned I would in my earlier post, which is (not, and felt good enough about them to apply for a policy for my cat. For people with purebred cats & dogs, it may be of interest that they seem to be geared towards purebreeds and cover heriditary conditions and also things like recovery cost. I found them to be a bit “is this too good to be true?”, so only time will tell. Not only are their plans affordable, easy to understand, and simple choose from, they’re easily customizable and well-described on the website. The online application was comprehensive, which I appreciated – I had to tell them about my cat’s several illnesses and medications. They also specifically inform you that they will obtain records from your vet…I like that the applicant is being clearly asked and notified up-front about things (rather than finding out AFTER your policy is approved and paid for, that gee, some conditions are excluded from the policy). More than any of the others, I got the sense they take veterinary insurance seriously, as it IS medical insurance for very important family members. I felt the best about these guys, but as I said, time will tell.

    Thanks for the links to Parts 1 & 2, Deb. I’ll go and check ’em out!

    Laura, your Embrace information is much appreciated – I’ll definitely check out the links you posted. I’m so glad there is finally real competition in the veterinary insurance world! It can only be good for all of us, as the companies will have to start providing “more” and “better” to stay in competition. 🙂 The name Embrace is the most unforgettable name…I love it.

    I’m glad to know I’m not in this dog-eat-dog world of deciphering vet insurance alone.


  13. Pingback: “Pet” Insurance, Part 5 - overview of 2 plans missed before « Invisible Voices

  14. Mo June 16, 2007 at 4:13 am

    I wanted to follow-up on VPI briefly…I just received a check for a claim submitted on my little kitty who had FIP. VPI took each thing she was hospitalized for and paid benefits for them individually, so much more was covered than I’d expected (fever of unknown origin, lethargy, dehydration, diarrhea each were considered and benefits paid for). Their benefit schedule is misleading in that sense – they do typically consider each symptom so I often find myself receiving more benefit than I expected. You do need to be sure that the claim form is filled out thoroughly, with symptoms & treatments listed, and make sure to submit corresponding backup paperwork like labs.

  15. Deb June 16, 2007 at 6:53 am

    That’s good to know about vpi, and that you’ve gotten a good amount paid for by them. I had noticed when looking at their benefit schedule that they had a lot of specific things listed, but in the reviews I read, one of the complaints from someone was that the amount covered for her cat’s illness (in this case, cancer) was ridiculously low compared to actual costs. It wasn’t clear whether she could have gotten more if more info was provided with the claim. I know the benefit schedule was something like 10 years old, so that still makes me hesitate. Costs are rising, the benfit schedule would be more beneficial if it was based on current costs! Still, it does sound like you have had good claim reimbursement from them, so many of the complaints may be due to not sending in enough info with the claim.

  16. Mo June 16, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I do believe VPI definitely needs to scrutinize the market and revamp their benefit schedule, because the payout does not seem to compare with those companies who pay 100% or even 80% of actual costs. They will soon not be competitive if they don’t make some changes – if nowhere else, then in their advertising – the difference may be, in the end, not really significant in terms of benefit payout, and here’s why:

    With the other companies, if you choose a deductible and a co-pay, you really need to do some guesstimate calculations because you can find yourself receiving a much lower benefit than you might expect. If you have a 10% copay and a $100 deductibe, here’s what happens even if your policy covers 100% of costs:

    – $500 claim
    – $50 paid by you – 10% copay comes off the top
    – $450 left
    – $100 paid by you – your deductible
    – $350 reimbursed, IF tho charges are considered standard & reasonable
    This is the best case scenario if your pet only has one condition being treated at the time. If there is more than one, say a primary and secondary (which is not uncommon), at least some of the companies require you to pay your copay and your deductible for EACH condition.
    I need to look into that further…(in the case of my kitten with FIP, would that means I’d get something like a $2 benefit because she had multiple symptoms? Each company may treat this differently, so it’s worth asking about specifically.)

    Hopefully Laura will check in and let us know whether this is a realistic breakdown and whether I’m missing something, holes in this, etc.

    BTW, I ALWAYS buy a cancer rider with VPI…it’s cheap and it pays out twice the cancer benefit. I also always have had the Superior Plan because the Standard Plan is very meager in benefits. The Superior Plan w/cancer rider is very competitive with the other comparable insurance plans.

    Whew, I’m pooped now…. 😉

  17. Laura Bennett June 16, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Wow, you guys have been busy! I’ll see what I can add here. If anyone else is reading all this, hopefully it all makes sense!

    On the calculation you have above, just to clarify, this will work differently for different companies. For most companies, their deductible is per incident and some apply the coinsurance before you take the deductible off and some apply it after the deductible has been paid. At Embrace, our deductible is per year and a $200 deductible per year is not the same as a $200 per incident (per year better than per incident all else equal). We apply the coinsurance after your deductible is paid (you get more than if it is before) because this is more like you’d expect from your own health insurance. So, in your example above (with same deductibles etc.), it would be $500 minus $100 deductible = $400 x 90% = $360 reimbursed versus the $350 calculated the other way.

    To be complete, our annual maximum refers to what is refunded back to you, whereas some insurers apply that to the vet bill before you take off all the deductibles and copays (in other words, the maximum you get in your pocket is less than what is stated as the maximum). And talking of maximums, you need to be clear what the maximum actually is applied to. Petcare for example has a $3,000 or $6,000 limit per body system (e.g. skin, skeleton, digestive system, etc.) for the lifetime of a pet. So, if you hit the max with one illness (e.g. hip dysplasia), your pet has no more coverage for that body system ever again (no other skeletal issues are covered, which I assume means broken legs, and so on).

    In reference to VPI’s benefit schedule, you also have to keep in mind that there’s 10% coinsurance as well as the schedule so you get 90% of the schedule after the per incident deductible.

    Mo, your question about VPI and the deductible – because the deductible is per incident, there is only one deductible, not one for every symptom. But there will be another deductible for a completely different issue your kitty may have. And there will be another deductible for the same incident next year because the deductible is per incident per year. Make sense!

    Now my brain is melting too 🙂

  18. Mo June 17, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Laura, thanks for the great info! I did see that Embrace’s deductible is per YEAR rather than incident…folks out there, I hope you look closely for these details we’re discussing here…they add up to significant $$$.

    I didn’t know that about some companies considering your max to be the initial vet bill – that seems ridiculous! I’m trying to turn that around in my head to see if makes sense in any way, shape, or form (ethically, I mean)…I can’t come up with anything.

    The VPI deductible and copay are very familiar to me, I am not sure about other companies’ (whether you’d have to pay the deductible for each symptom if they paid benefits for each symptom in certain cases…one would hope not). VPI paid for various symptoms yet considered the whole hospitalization/illness as one ‘incident’ so I did only pay my deductible once. BTW, with recurring/chronic conditions, VPI considers even multiple claims in one year as one “incident”. For instance, one of my cats had inflammatory bowel disease which required multiple hospitalizations and procedures…I paid the deductible only once a year (for that condition; each condition has it’s own separate deductible).

    Of course, VPI’s benefit schedule, even though they pay 90% of the schedule, has a limit – once it’s reached for a condition, the bank is empty for that condition for the rest of the policy year.

    I do hope this stuff’s making sense to anyone reading, too! To emphasize your point – a YEARLY deductible, which Embrace has, can mean a difference of many hundreds of dollars over a deductible that is PER INCIDENT. VERY IMPORTANT consideration when buying a policy, folks.

    Thanks for emphasizing that body-system thing about PetCare because it really is significant. When I was looking into them a couple of years ago I assumed their premiums would be very low because of that. NOT SO! Premiums are no better than any other company, and IMO you’re really gambling when buying their policies because of that strange body-system thing.

  19. Deb June 17, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Thanks to you guys again! I remember reading about the per body system limits, but I only mentioned it briefly in part 4, I guess! It definitely helps me to go back and review things. It also helps to have other people with experience going over some of the issues as well.

    Laura, I know other people are reading this – the insurance posts are some of my most read posts! So it is definitely helpful to get your input!

  20. Mo June 17, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    One other note on PetCare’s body-system method of insuring. It would be okay if their maximums were yearly, but their maximums are lifetime. So, if your pet has pancreatitis and a benefit is paid, then 2 years later has gastritis, or whatever, your entire body-system Maximum may be reached just by those two incidents (or one incident, depending on what it is) and your coverage for that body-system is depleted. And at that point, the GI problems are considered pre-existing and you wouldn’t be able to have them covered by another company. It is of considerable concern, particularly if you have older pets.

    Sorry for sticking these little snippets in here and there, it may be making things more confusing for people. It’s a pretty complicated process, weighing the pros and cons of these plans, so I’m just passing along my experiences as topics bring them to the forefront of my memory.

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  22. Jane September 26, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    I couldn’t be more grateful to Mo and Laura for taking time to type all this. I’ve read word for word every single entry in all 4 installments, and the whole time I kept thinking: what did people do before the internet??? Thanks a million!!!

  23. Deb September 26, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Jane, I’m glad this is helpful to people! Make sure to find the (recent) post where Mo explained how to properly make insurance claims to get the most out of the insurance. I often wonder what people did before the internet! 😀

  24. Pavs May 16, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Has anyone heard about Trupanion? I have found tons of info on all other pet insurance company but all I found about Trupanion was a few articles when they entered the US market and their web page (which looks very convincing). HELP!!!!

  25. Deb May 16, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Pavs, I haven’t heard anything about them before you mentioned them. I checked their website, and a huge obvious drawback to the majority of people is that you can only begin coverage if your cat or dog is less than a year old. Ask them if you can see the full terms and conditions of their policy – it is the only way to really know what you’ll be getting, all the ins and outs. I’d also think about the $20,000 lifetime limit. Sounds like a lot, but will it be enough for the life of your cat or dog? It might need to cover 15 or more years (given that you can’t begin insuring after 1 year of age with them).

    The weird thing is that their website says they started rolling out coverage mid january 2008, yet they had people supposedly insured with the company since 2004? Not sure if they meant their canadian branch, which goes by the name of “vetinsurance”. VetInsurance looks like it gets good reviews, the little I looked into it. With a company so new, you can’t expect to find much in the way of reviews yet – people haven’t had a chance to make claims yet!

    The good news is that if you go with them and aren’t happy, you can switch to another provider. Pretty much every other insurance will allow you to begin coverage at least up to 8 years old, many of them beyond that. (“begin” is the key word – they don’t drop you once the cat or dog is that old, as long as the coverage began before then!)

    Good luck! It gets pretty confusing, but all you can do is read as much information as you can get on the various companies and go with what feels right.

  26. kB May 17, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I’m a territory partner with Trupanion. I just wanted to give you a little more information!
    Yes, we only enroll puppies and kittens but we cover them for a lifetime. The reason for this is because our biggest disappointment over the years has been having to deny claims based on pre-existing conditions. If you enroll your pet when they are young and healthy (BEFORE anything happens), then everything will be covered. This allows us to pay more claims and pay them very quickly too!
    You can find our policy terms on the website by simply typing in the google search box in the top right hand corner. Basically we are there to cover the unexpected accidents and illnesses (the things that the pet owner can’t budget for). So, if you’re a responsible pet owner and your pet falls ill or is in an accident, it will be covered. We do have limitations for pets that are not spayed or neutered as we are trying to promote responsible pet ownership. We also have optional coverage for hip displaysia and YES, we DO cover congenital and hereditary disorders and conditions.
    We cover $20 000 over the lifetime. There are no limits placed per year or per condition or claim. This means, if you needed to make a claim for $15 000, you could! Most other insurance companies place limits on how much you can claim at one time. The way I see it, if a pet happens to go through this $20 000 of coverage, they are going to be pretty happy they had Trupanion! 🙂
    We also don’t change anything as you make claims or as your pet ages. Meaning your rates won’t change based on your pet getting older and we will ALWAYS cover 90% of a claim.
    The claims that are on the website are all from Vetinsurance (Canadian version of Trupanion). We are the same company. In fact, I’m actually a territory partner in Alberta, Canada.
    I hope I clarified a few things for you.

  27. Deb May 17, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Thanks KB, that’s pretty much what I got from the website.

  28. sd May 24, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Hello Deb and other contributers,
    Thanks for all of this information! I just bought ASPCA for one of our dogs-the first time i bought insurance for my pet. Unfortunately, we took our Rottie to the Vet for a routine just as the coverage kicked in. We, including his vet, were in shock a week later when the we found out that he had cancer. He was 11 and it was really aggressive. Though we tried to control it, we had to say farewell on the 18th as he had lost a huge amount of weight and his quality of life.

    I’m not sure if this will be covered by the insurance- we spent about 2,500usd in just the past 10 days. I’ll be looking into it this week.

    We have another dog who is almost 5, whom I am going to buy insurance for now, but I wanted to ask people’s opinion as to recommendations between premium plans where they even cover year round flea/tick/heart, etc. or more basic plans which cover routine items. We live in NYC where the vet charges seem a bit higher than what I’ve heard from friends who live around the country. Any advice is appreciated, as is everything i’ve already learned from the insightful posts.



  29. Deb May 24, 2008 at 6:56 am

    sd, so sorry to hear about your rottie. It is always heartbreaking to loose them. Definitely keep after the insurance company and read your terms of service carefully. On the sidebar, I have a page where I’ve collected links to my pet insurance posts. There is a sort of guest post by a frequent commenter here who has some excellent advice on getting what you are due from the insurance companies. Might help you as you tackle this chore now.

    My advice for routine coverage is to skip it. Routine bills are just that – expected, reasonable costs that don’t generally impact our budgets. What we want to insure for are the big unexpected bills, like your poor rottie’s cancer treatment bills. It is the difference between an oil change and getting body work done after a fender bender. The oil change isn’t something we’d expect of our insurance companies, the body work is.

    As for the charges in NYC, this is something to definitely look at from insurance company to insurance company. Many will take this into account, because it is a simple fact that the baseline vet charges are higher or lower depending on where you live, but not all insurance companies do. I can’t remember off the top of my head who does and who doesn’t.

    good luck, and if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask!


  30. Mike April 11, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Good to find this blog a little late than never. Been researching pet insurance after a pretty disgusting time with VPI with another furchild we lost. Starting whole new family with two rescue kittens. I always take advertising with a grain of salt – a popular name doesn’t always equate to a good product or service and ALWAYS read the fine print and get it in writing. That said, in comparing the major pet insurers, their products, customer service, Better Bus Bureau ratings, complaints ( number/clients, resolve ratio, etc ), I’ve found Trupanion to be the best bet so far. They do increase their rates, about their only con as coverage and service seems to be the best.

  31. Michael May 24, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    I see above (Deb on May 16th 2008) that our girl would have to be less than a year old to qualify for Trupanion? When I went to their website and plugged in our girls age, breed, etc. it came back with a quote. Do they allow dogs after 1 yr of age. Ours is 3 yr rescue Cocker.

    • Amanda July 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm

      Hi Michael,
      I work for Trupanion and our policy has changed; we now insure dogs and cats from eight weeks old to 14 years old. I see you posted this quite a while ago but I just wanted to clarify for you and anyone else reading this.

  32. Deb May 24, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Michael, I haven’t kept up with the changes, but if they give you a quote, that implies to me that they’ve changed and now insure for animals starting with them older than 1 year. The best bet, if they’re not explicit on their web page, is to contact them directly and ask to see their terms and conditions. (which you should look at carefully before purchasing any insurance.)

  33. Lo December 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Just a quick reounting of my experience with Trupanion (formerly Vetsinsurance):

    I insured my puppy with this 3 years ago. I chose Vetsinsurance (now Trupanion) based on the fact that it had no deductible (a selling point they were using at the time) and that it seemed pretty reasonable ($35/month). The people I talked to at the company cheerfully assured me the premium wouldn’t go up based on claims and that I would never be pressured into a deductible (they do have 10% coinsurance, which I thought was quite reasonable).

    Three years later I have seen my monthly premium go up yearly… first from $35 to $50, next to $65 and I just got an email stating that as of January 2011, my premium was going up by $45 per month due to “rising vet costs.” So now my monthly premium is $110.

    So I have been with this company for 3 years, basically wasting my money since there is no way I can afford to pay $110 per month. Of course now that they are Trupanion, they accompany this $45 increase with the offer to “let” me take a deductible. I feel like this is just an underhanded way to force customers to take a deductible. I am very upset by this and feel totally ripped off.

    I decided to ask around at the dog park I go to and found that my story is not unique with this company.

    Anyways, for anyone considering this company – count on hefty premium increases every single year. Sure you may be able to afford it now, but consider that your premium IS going to double in three years and who knows how much thereafter…. remember that if you decide to cancel because of rising premium costs you walk away with nothing. Do yourself a favor and ask around at the dog park, your puppy training classes, your vet’s office or wherever you come across other pet owners…

    Sure they don’t penalize you for making claims on your OWN dog but they sure as hell penalize you for OTHER people making claims on their dogs.

    Maybe this is the norm with insurance companies…. maybe I was naive in making what I thought was an informed choice… maybe it was my fault for not realizing that they would jack up the price based on other people’s claims… I was a first time dog owner trying to make a responsible decision for me and my dog, and it sure seems that I made the wrong choice with this company.

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