Pet insurance has grown in popularity over the past decade. There are now so many pet insurance companies, that online business owners have made empires out of just reviewing them. Not only that, but employers are now starting to offer pet insurance as a benefit.
It's not long before everyone else catches up. It is now a generally well-accepted fact that our pets are our family. Just as we wouldn't go without health insurance for ourselves, we probably shouldn't go without insurance for our pets.
I wouldn't be so bent on getting pet insurance if it was just the yearly maintenance that I was considering. I'm thinking about what happens when my dog accidentally eats something he's not supposed to, and the only way to save his life is very expensive surgery. According to the picture above, which I got from one of the pet sites I'm going to talk about below.
We aren't yet at the point where the life of an animal, even a pet, is worth enough to society to call for emergency action regardless of whether it can be paid for (like we have with humans). Do I really want to be in the situation where I need to choose between 1/2 of my life savings or my dog's life?
That's why I looked into pet insurance in the first place. I researched the top companies, plans, and prices and compiled the results here for you to see.
Here is a list of all the plans I looked at. There are so many reviews and comparison charts out there, that I wouldn't trust any of them. Especially not the one's on the providers' site. They mean well, but they are biased and leave out information when it benefits them.
Pet Insurance Terminology
Before going on, it's best to cover some terminology. If you are already familiar with Insurance jargon, feel free to skip to the next section.
Reimbursement - The amount of money the insurance company pays for a claim. Dog insurance companies are different in that you have to send in paperwork and file a claim each time you need to use benefits.
Incident Limit - The most you can be reimbursed for a single accident or illness during a policy period. So if your policy lasts for a year before you have to renew, and your dog breaks his leg twice that year, then depending how much your incident limit is, the second break may not be covered.
Ongoing Conditions - Conditions that last over multiple plan periods. This does not include pre-existing conditions. This has to be a condition that occurred during a policy period and requires ongoing treatment.
Accidents - Broken bones, burns, accidental ingestion of foreign objects, poison, etc.
Illnesses - Prescription medication, x-rays, lab tests, surgeries, hospitalizations
Hereditary & Congenital Conditions - Defects, diseases, or disorders your pet is born with or predisposed to because of his breed.
How Do Pet Insurance Companies Price Their Policies?
The price of your policy will depend on a combination of things:
All of the insurance companies have a deductible ranging somewhere from $50 - $500. Usually, with all other factors the same, changing your deductible only has a difference of $10/mo. However that can be significant if your plan is only $30/mo to begin with.
The exception is Trupanion. They offer deductibles ranging from $0-$1000.
As you read in the terminology section, this is the amount you get paid back when you need to use insurance. The norm is 80%-90%.
How Comprehensive Your Plan Is
The more you want covered in your policy, the more your policy will cost. You can go from $10/mo for a pet if you only want to cover accidents, to $60/mo if you want everything covered from medication to physical therapy and sometimes even behavioral problems.
Where You Live
There are certain states that cost more than others.
Age of Pet
You can not buy insurance for any pet under the age of 7 weeks. Most plans don't cover the spaying or neutering of your pets.
Also, older pets have high premiums. This is not because of the conditions that they may have, as no pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions. This is because it's more likely you are going to use the insurance for a 8 year old dog sooner than a 1 year old dog. They need to make up for all of those years of payments you didn't make!
Type of Pet
Cat insurance is cheaper than Dog insurance. There are companies that cover small rodents and exotic pets, but I won't go into that here.
Other Miscellaneous Details
You may be eligible for temporary or lifetime discounts. For example, most of the companies do multi-pet discounts. You can also get a discount if you work in the animal welfare industry, if your pet is microchipped, if you belong to AAA, the military, etc. The list goes on, but it varies widely between companies.
Pet Insurance Companies
This group of pet insurance companies I consider to be not up to par with the other companies. This is because of the limits and exclusions combined with the high prices.
ASPCA, Hartville, Petshealth Care Plan
The reason I'm grouping these together is because they are essentially the same.
The Hartville Group and Petshealth Care Plan are actually the same company. Petshealth Care is a subsidiary of The Harville Group, and they get their insurance from The Hartville Group, so don't bother getting separate quotes from them if you venture out to do some of your own research.
Additionally, the ASPCA partnered up with the Hartville Group. The ASPCA gets a 10% commission on all Hartville Group sales in exchange for the use of the ASPCA trademark.
Both have four plans with the 3rd plan being the most practical. This plan has an incident limit of $5,000 and still charges between $30-$41 per month. The picture at the beginning of this article illustrates how easily you can go over $5,000 is something really bad happens. The better plans are cheaper and have no incident limit.
Shelter Care Pet Insurance only covers 70% of expenses and their premiums are rather high. You have to pay co-payment of 10% as well! They have a per incident limit of 5,000. They also have a lifetime incident limit of $5,000 per illness category. As if my dog would be unlucky enough to have severe illnesses in more than one category! This is their best plan and it's almost $50 a month for my 2 year old Border Collie mix.
For example, they cover $0 for Congestive Heart failure for your 'Primary Allowance', and then just $230 for your 'Secondary Allowance'. See the picture on the right for the VPI explanation of what a Primary and Secondary Allowance is.
They may not be completely terrible, but anything with a lot of fine print makes me incredibly wary. Especially since there are other options out there.
Conclusion - all three are too expensive when there are other, better options out there.
The rest of the Pet Insurance Companies were equally matched in coverage and price, but after digging a little deeper, I found a few minor distinctions.
Pets Best Insurance
Although they offer very good plans, they have an extra 20% not including the reimbursement. They also have a lot of exclusions and limitations that may make it frustrating form a pet owner if there is an emergency.
Embrace Pet Insurance
Again this is a good pet insurance company. Their plans are pretty comprehensive and they seem to be trusted within the pet community. Still, their prices are high for the exclusions that they set. There are other plans with better reimbursement (theirs is 80% standard), better coverage, and better rates.
PetPlan | HealthyPaws | Trupanion
These three plans tie for first place. They all have great rates ($30-$40/mo), they have pretty much the same coverage. Here are the differences I've found between them:
- PetPlan gives you the option to have a 100% reimbursement. This does drive the cost up, but if you are severely risk averse, at least you have the option to have everything covered. However, they also have a $20,000 yearly cap on all veterinary expenses. Trupanion and Healthy Paws do not have any limits at all.
- Trupanion gives you the choice to have $0 deductible up to $1000 deductible. You can also choose to include coverage for trip cancellation costs, boarding fees during an owner hospitalization, rewards costs for lost pets and other such benefits for $5/mo. You can also choose whether you want other optional benefits like Acupuncture, physical therapy, etc. That means you don't have to consider the pros and cons of a package deal. You can choose if you want to include both, one, or none of the extra benefits.
- HealthyPaws offers one all-inclusive plan, but their coverage extends to Hip Dysplasia in Dogs, where as you have to pick this option in Trupanion.
The main thing to consider when choosing a plan is whether or not your dog is predisposed to any conditions in the first place. There are dogs that are notorious for hip dysplasia or back problems. If you are an owner of one of these dogs, you should probably go with the more comprehensive plans.
Next you should think about is how risk averse you are. The rest of it is just a matter of pennies and personal preferences.
I am going with Healthy Paws. They don't offer the customization that Trupanion does, nor do that give you the option for 100% reimbursement, but I like that their plan basically covers everything that could possibly happen for a nice rate.
I would also like to say that I am not a dog health expert or a vet. Please consult an actual professional when making really imporant decisions about your pets health.