10. Insurance policies are so different, they are not easily compared. A good example is the term Deductible. Deductible has a different definition with each pet insurance company. A Deductible can be for:
· each pet illness/accident incident in a lifetime,
· each pet illness/accident incident in a year, or
· can be one deductible per year that includes all accidents/illnesses.
Since pets could be seriously ill more than once each year , a pet with a per-incident deductible could have much higher out of pocket costs than an annual deductible.
Solution: To fairly compare plans, it is more reasonable for a pet insurance plan with an annual deductible at $500 to be compared to a pet insurance plan with a per-incident deductible of $250. Annual deductibles are most similar to human insurance and therefore re the most easy for my clients to understand. Embrace, PurinaCare and HealthyPaws offer Annual Deductibles.
9. Internet websites are misleading. Many websites make partial comparisons between a few pet insurance companies. The goal of most websites is to entice linking to the sponsoring pet insurance website.
Solution: Get educated first at petinsuranceguideus.com and then talk to a knowledgeable veterinarian. Your local family veterinarian is not associated with any insurance company and gets no direct or indirect benefit from any insurance company.
8. Well respected organizations endorse poorly rated pet insurance companies. The pet insurance plan (ShelterCare) endorsed by many pet shelters and humane societies has a low rating at non-biased pet insurance review site called petinsurancereview.com. This plan is offered by our local Hennepin County Humane Society.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) Pet Insurance and the American Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPCA) Pet Insurance also have low ratings at petinsurancereview.com. The endorsement process gains legitimacy with The Humane Society of the United States endorsing Petplan, a highly rated site. Purina Company’s endorsement of their own PurinaCare Plan is also a highly rated site.
Solution: Use multiple factors to make your decision about pet insurance.
7. Dental cleaning is not covered by typical pet insurance plans. Accidental injury to teeth is covered by accident/illness insurance plans. Some pet insurance plans include wellness coverage, providing some compensation for not only Dental Cleaning but other veterinary recommendations including vaccinations. Some plans provide dental cleaning protection as an option.
Most pet insurance plans that offer wellness coverage are really prepayment plans that provide the convenience of a fixed monthly payment but result in only a small total yearly benefit over the total cost.
Solution: Brush your pet’s teeth. For pet’s that can chew safely, use an abrasive chews to control tartar. For the 90% of clients that have limited success with this recommendation, budget for Dental Cleaning as you do for all pet health recommendations. A unique option is offered by PurinaCare, a single annual deductible for wellness recommendations including dental cleaning ($250 per year) and accident/illnesses.
6. Optional features to insurance create ill will. Clients do not want to make a decision to purchase pet insurance and then make a follow-up decision whether to include coverage for cancer, hip dysplasia, behavior consultations, physical therapy, chronic illnesses and hereditary conditions.
Pet insurance companies claim that policy restrictions help make monthly premiums affordable. Since clients can’t predict what significant ailment their pet will face in the future, all policy restrictions risk creating ill will.
Solution: Choose a policy that has limited policy options and exclusions. Compare plans by reviewing the actual written policy documents before signing. Compare plan features and exclusions.
5. Stories are heard about poor experiences with the claims process. Some insurance policies are written to allow premiums to increase based solely on how frequently claims are submitted. Three companies advertise that they would never do that: Trupanion, Embrace and Healthypaws.
Solution: Choose a pet insurance company that stands by pets that are unhealthy.
4. Confusion about factors that cause premiums to increase. Pet Insurance policies have premiums that increase with a pet’s age or with inflation.
· Premiums that increase with inflation are more stable than age-adjusted premiums. Inflation-adjusted premiums change each year as the cost of veterinary care increases which is probably close to the cost of inflation. These gradual adjustments are less upsetting to clients.
· Age-adjusting insurance premiums are less expensive when the pet is young and healthy. As pet’s age, risk of illness is more common so higher premiums reflect that additional risk. These adjustments occur less frequently than yearly, are larger and more noticeable to clients.
Solution: If you are not totally committed to pet insurance, choose the policy that has the lowest current cost. Remember that the cost is the last factor used to determine the best insurance policy not the first factor.
3. Serious illnesses and diseases may not be covered. Hereditary conditions are often chronic illnesses that occur more commonly in specific breeds. Insurance typically protects from risk, but instead hereditary conditions are specifically excluded or partially excluded by some pet insurance companies. The hereditary conditions excluded are often not documented clearly in promotional materials or on the websites. The written policy document signed at the end of the decision process will list the specific hereditary conditions that are not covered.
2. Pet insurance costs too much. The leader in pet insurance reimbursements is Trupanion, which returns 70% of premiums directly to policy holders. Why are all the other pet insurance companies lagging behind this standard? Low reimbursement rates make pet insurance more expensive than it needs to be. Cost matters.
Solution: Clients and veterinarians need to advocate together that cost really does matter.
1. A financial plan exists for pet emergencies and illnesses. A rainy day fund, your unused credit card balance and borrowing from family/friends are the main options to pet insurance. Clients need to have a financial plan to cover emergency veterinary care of $3000 to $7000.
Another option that most veterinarians offer is CareCredit from CareCredit.com. The application is free but is only available to those that are deemed worthy. Payments are extended over 3 months or more but carry a heavy interest penalty if not paid on time.
Only 2% of pet owners currently purchase pet insurance but I know from personal experience that more could benefit. Clients most benefit if no financial plan exists for:
· emergency clinic visits in the middle of the night
· needing the expert opinion of a referral veterinary specialist
· orthopedic surgery
· expensive medications for chronic illnesses
So if you are in that category, I think you should purchase pet insurance. BUT do it in consultation with your knowledgeable family veterinarian.
By Dr. Bennett Poter III, DVM