Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?

By Paul Michael on 10 August 2010 (Updated 8 August 2011) 54 comments

We have a big dog. She's huge, actually — over 100lbs but with all the energy of a puppy. And for that reason, we figured we'd need at least some basic health insurance for her. Everyone is talking about the staggering costs of health care these days, but they don't talk about pet health care. And it's not cheap. Not even close.

So, my wife and I chose the "top" pet health insurance provider (VPI) and went with a basic package. We didn't want anything that covered the check-ups or wellness exams, we could cover those just fine. What we wanted was coverage in case the worst happened. We didn't want to be stuck choosing between a $7000 vet bill and a $50 shot to put her to sleep. We wanted peace of mind that, should she get sick or be badly injured, we'd have coverage.

The basic package we chose costs us just over $14 per month and covers the big stuff: the accidents, illnesses, and other costly procedures. Well, that's how it's described on the site, anyway. The more expensive package also covers exams, shots, and other general health and wellness costs. It's around double the cost of the basic package.

We've had this insurance for over 18 months now, with no use for it up until a few weeks ago. Then, our dog was bitten by another dog, quite badly, and we had to rush her to a 24-hour animal hospital. She required some urgent care, overnight stay, and many other services. The final bill came to $545.43.

I told my wife to pay it, obviously, and then I'd submit the claim to VPI and get a big chunk of it back.

Why did I assume we'd get a big chunk? Nothing is guaranteed, right? Well, take a look at the screenshots below, from the VPI site.

Here, the owner of Rufus paid $504 for treatment and received $404 back. That's everything except the $100 deductible. Or, just over 80 percent of the bill was refunded.

Maybe that one was a rare case. So, here's another.

Coco's bill came to $1,994. Total reimbursement was $1,894. Again, only the $100 deductible wasn't covered. That means 95 percent of the bill was refunded. Wow, even better.

I looked at another "typical" case study.

Kona's fees were $715. After the whopping $250 deductible, Kona's owners got $465 in return. That meant 65 percent of the bill was reimbursed. Not too shabby despite that huge deductible.

So, armed with all of that knowledge, I figured we'd probably get at least 50 percent refunded to us. And $272 or less for treatment made the insurance worth it, even though we'd paid out more than that in monthly premiums.

I submitted the bill with the claim form and waited. I recently found out that we are receiving $135 of that $545.43.

That's less than 25 percent! Far, far less than the examples shown on the website. As you can see, the main injury (the bite wound) was covered for just over 10 percent. Wow.

I downloaded the complex bill reimbursement forms (PDF) and they read like quantum physics. There are several categories of reimbursement for each line item, and even then you only get a percentage of what they say you're covered for. Wait, what? So, if you're covered for $100, you get $90. Well why not just cover you for $90? Seems odd.

As I tried to make any kind of sense of this, I realized something: I wasn't supposed to make sense of it. This is made as complex as possible so average Joe's like you and I don't know what we're expected to receive or how to fight it.

In this case we were lucky. 76 percent of $545 is something we can afford right now. But what if it was 76 percent of $7000? That would have been a lot more difficult to come up with. And the very reason we got pet health insurance in the first place was to avoid that dilemma.

We were considering canceling VPI, but we figure 24 percent is better than nothing. However, we are looking into other policies that give us something we can expect, like a regular health insurance policy for people. For instance, many people have a $150 deductible for the ER, plus they pay 20 percent of the final bill. That's simple. You know what is coming. But with pet health insurance, you're rolling the dice. You may get 94 percent back (although I doubt that very much) or you may get as little as 10 percent back. And unless you're an insurance wizard, you most likely won't know until you get the check.

So Wise Bread readers, what has been your experience of pet health insurance? Did it save you a bundle? Is my case rare? Or do you even think pet health insurance is worth it? Let us know.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I personally put that amount away in a bank account just for such an emergency & not even mess with their insurance. Things like that happen few & far between so by the time something does happen we have the money in the bank... That just makes more sense for us.

Guest's picture
Guest

Absolutely. Why not eliminate the middle-man? I don't know why people buy insurance for so many different things that really are within the realm of affordability should an event happen. Better to just maintain your own pot of money that is an insurance policy on anything and everything, whether it's a pet, a leak in the roof, or whatever.

I can understand insurance for health, cars, and other big items, but I would never get insurance for pets.

Guest's picture
Guest

So, at $14 per month for 18 months you've paid $252 to get that $135 back. Why do you want to stay with the insurance company again? The math is simple and does not compute at all.

In general I do not like pet insurance because it is causing vet bills to spiral out of control just like human medical care has. It's much easier to say yes to the expensive thing that you might not need if you think it's covered under insurance. And thanks to the complexities of billing a vet is often likely to give a cash discount for services if you pay immediately.

As part of our cat budget we just set aside another $25 a month for eventual vet bills.

Guest's picture
Guest

I own a Vet Hospital. Pet Insurance does not affect our billing as it is a 3rd party payer. You pay us and they pay you based on whatever plan you bought. If I were to bill the insurance co. direct, wait for them to pay, and then, just like insurance on the human side, play the whole shell game of denying coverage, lost claims, delayed payments, etc, I would need to hire at least 1 person full-time just to handle claims. That would affect your bill.

I would argue that the cost of Veterinary Services are more impacted by two things:

1. The amount of student debt for many Vet students upon graduation is beginning to exceed $250,000. That is a LOT of money they have to pay back,

2. People demand the same (or better) care that they can receive on the human side. 15 years ago, I bought an xray machine for $9000, I just replaced it with a digital unit that was over $100000. Old Ultrasound was $20000=new one was $60000. And so forth. The more that pet owners demand that we do, the more it will cost to treat your pet.

Guest's picture
Guest

I was wondering the same thing... author literally handed over $117 to the insurance company merely for the status of being insured. So the FEELING of getting refunded makes it "better than nothing?" Why write the the article?? SMH....

Guest's picture

"We were considering canceling VPI, but we figure 24 percent is better than nothing."

Actually it is worse than nothing. You paid $14 a month for 18 months. So you paid them $252 to reimburse you a measly $135. With no insurance you would have been out $545.43, but instead you're out $662.43. That's BS.

Guest's picture
Maria

Thank you for this article - I have been considering purchasing VPI for my two cats. After reading this, I'm pretty sure I'm better off self-insuring.

Guest's picture
Guest

We signed up for Pet Insurance also when our Boston Terrier was a puppy. I also didn't read the fine print carefully enough. The monthly premiums (in Canada) were a bit over $30. (why is everything so much more here?). During the 18 months we kept the policy the premium increased twice. Somehow I was under the impression that the rate would remain the same. Similar to your experience, when I made a claim after over a year I found that the amount reimbursed on a small claim was about 25%. There's the deductible and then some things aren't covered... When I read the policy more carefully I realized that coverage could be changed unilaterally by the insurance company depending upon the amount of claims in that area generally. Or that only one knee would be covered not two in dogs prone to knee problems. Of course, any routine exams or vaccinations are not covered, nor are some medications, like ear drops.

If we put aside the amount of the monthly premiums in a savings account after a few years we would have enough to cover something major and without the uncertainty of relying on someone's whim as to whether to pay. We cancelled the policy after about 18 months. Our dog is now four years old and we have had no vet expenses other than annual exam and shots which would not have been covered. We are in a position to pay for any required treatment or surgery (I hope I am never placed in the position of placing a cap on that)

I understand that insurance companies have to make a profit to stay in business. Judging by the number of policies available by different companies I suspect it is a sufficiently profitable business. The pet owners who take out these policies are likely those that treat their pets very well in terms of such matters as good food and preventative care. On the other hand, many are likely to be purebred dogs, like ours, which some say are more prone to congenital defects due to over-breeding.

Veterinarian offices seem to support the concept; I picked up the brochure right at their front counter. I should have asked for a copy of the entire policy and read it before signing up; I did so thinking that annual check ups and vaccinations were included.

What it came down to was a matter of trust. I didn't feel secure that, after perhaps paying thousands into the plan over 8 to 10 years, when my dog was elderly and I had to make a major claim I wouldn't be turned down for some obscure reason and all those payments would be wasted. At least if I put the money in a designated ING account the money would be there when I needed it.

Guest's picture
Guest

You paid over $250 in monthly insurance fees to save $135? I agree, in a very expensive scenario ($7000), you might get back more... but how much will you have paid by then? You're probably better off paying into an "insurance" savings account.

Paul Michael's picture

Just to clarify, in this case the numbers don't add up. But the many examples given on the website do make a case for keeping the insurance for now, as another injury or illness may get more coverage for us. Obviously, we're taking a chance, but 24% of $7000 is about $1700. It would take 10 years at $14/month to save that up (maybe less with some interest). So for now, a calculated risk. Ideally, insurance should cover you for big bills (our first baby was $20,000 in hospital bills, we hadn't paid anywhere near that amount into the healthcare system at that time, although our employer had). I am hoping nothing else goes wrong with our dog anyway, but this may still be a better option than having no insurance at all.

Guest's picture
Renee

My husband and I have a 70 lb. lab mix. When he was a pup he had stomach problems that - long story short - amounted to $6200 in vet bills for surgeries, hospital stays, and more. Luckily we had insurance and all but our $200 copay and some prescription food (not more than $40) was covered and returned to us in a check. If we had not had the insurance, we would not have been able to do any of this and he would have died. Our insurance costs around $250/year and its extensive. We use PetPlan. I've heard so many horror stories about VPI. It's definitely not the only way to go. Do some research. Some pet insurance plans are really worth it.

Guest's picture
Heather

My two dogs are insured through VPI and I've been REALLY happy with them so far, but we've only gone in for routine things at this point.

The key to success with any pet insurance is knowing the benefits schedule, and if you're not sure, you can call customer service and get the question answered. VPI has people there 24 hours a day.

I know people preach a lot of "self-insurance," but be real: how many people actually have the discipline to do that consistently? I tried it after broaching the idea of pet insurance to my vet and he said I'd be better off just socking away $50 a month on my own. After about a year, I realized that just wasn't going to happen.

Guest's picture
Winston

Insurance is for losses you can't afford. There's no point in insuring yourself against a loss you can afford -- the insurance costs more than the loss, it's just spread over many small payments.

So the first step is figuring out how big a loss you can/can't afford

You give the example of $7000. I have never seen a pet insurance policy that would pay out that amount, even the premium plans. When I've read the policies from various providers, it's always seemed extremely unlikely that it would ever pay out more than a few hundred dollars.

Guest's picture
Guest

I wish I had it when I had my cat mauled http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1207486 ( p.s. you can vote for my book to win.. and then maybe I can cover the cost of pet bills ) But the people who complain about the payments not equalling the savings.. Paying a small amount each month is definitely better than paying one huge emergency bill. My vet wouldnt even touch the cat until 80 percent of the bill was on downpayment. ( People apparently bail when vet bills appear .. leaving the vet with the animal.. ) I pay car insurance, soon health insurance.. I love my cat.. would hate to have an issue just because of money

Guest's picture
Karen

I would cancel that policy. You say 24% is better than nothing, but how much have you paid in premiums over the past 18 months? At $14 a month, you've paid in $252. And the one time you needed it, they only covered $135 of your expenses.

You would be MUCH better off saving that $14 a month (and maybe a little more) in a separate savings account for pet health expenses. That way no one is profiting from your monthly payments but you.

Pet health insurance is one of the biggest scams out there. There are too many loopholes, and as you said, it's designed to confuse consumers. They feel like they're protecting themselves and their pets, but really they're just paying into a worthless insurance policy. Save the money instead, and if something happens to your dog, you'll have a healthy pet emergency fund to help pay for his medical expenses.

Guest's picture
Vet Student

I'm a vet student with one cat, and I purchased a year of pet health insurance shortly after adopting her. Next year, I plan on discontinuing insurance and (as others have suggested) contributing the amount I would have paid to the insurance company each year to a dedicated savings account.

This is why:

No matter what level of coverage I buy, I'm contributing that amount each year to my cat's health. If I buy insurance, the money is gone. It may or may not be reimbursed substantially in an emergency. If I set it aside, it's there until it's needed. I can then use all the money to pay my vet instead of gambling on an insurance company.

Guest's picture

About the only time pet insurance makes financial sense is when you adopt a shelter pet with an unknown history. Then only keep the pet insurance for a year or two. Beyond that, insurance is a poor choice compared to saving a small amount each month in a pet emergency fund.

On a more philosophical note: Pets should be a privilege that we have only if we can afford them - that is, only if we are able to pay for the routine and emergency care they need up front, in cash. If you feel like you need insurance to afford the veterinary care for your pet, either you can't afford to have one, or you are willing to spend too much on their care.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with this in part. The key phrase here is "unknown history." If you're getting a puppy, or a dog with a known medical history you're probably ok -in my neck of the woods, a lot of the older dogs are brought in because of housing issues, or a senior owner passing away or being put in a home so the medical history is usually known.

If you get a purebred dog, the insurance may pay for itself quickly. I know quite a few people who have found this to be true. Purebreed dogs (some breeds in particular e.g. mastiffs, or newfoundland dogs, and ALL smaller toy breeds) have more genetic problems, including hip issues, skin problems etc and that can add up to some serious vet bills. Some of this, insurance will pay for, and some it won't, but it's worth looking into. In fact, the parents should be screened, and you may even be given the guarantee of a new puppy should your dog have a problem, but often they still have some problems and I don't know anyone who would trade their "defective" puppy in. The screening is not a guarantee.

Mutts tend to be hardier and experience far fewer health problems, though this depends on what their life has been like and what they've been exposed to (see above). Personally, I would get a shelter mutt and skip the insurance altogether. Not just because it is highly likely to be cheaper in the long run, but also because I have had wonderful experiences working with shelters and owning healthy, happy shelter dogs.

Personally, I'd get pet insurance on a purebreed dog, but not on a shelter mutt, but I can see why people would think otehrwise.

Guest's picture
GUEST

Having read all the comments, there is one other thing that no one else has considered: Insurance is not transferrable. Savings are.

Pets live a fraction of a standard human lifespan. It is effectively a given that your pets won't live as long as you do, and you will probably get other pets further on in your life.

If you put a given amount in a savings account against the potential necessity of paying medical costs, anything you haven't paid from that once a pet has died, is available for medical costs of any future pet, whereas if you paid it to the insurance company, it's gone.

Guest's picture

We has VPI insurance on both of our pets for about five years, but finally dropped it this year. We had only ever had one claim during that time, when our dog injured her hip. The bill was just over $100 and VPI reimbursed us $6. We have decided to just save the nearly $300/year we had been paying for their insurance, and self-insure if something happens to them.

Guest's picture
Guest

Unfortunately, VPI is the biggest insurer out there and probably has the worst policy. They have "benefits schedules" which means they decide how much they will reimburse for each incident.

Since them, other companies have popped up that cover a percentage of the actual bill.

Pet insurance can be great, especially for those higher risk breeds; just like car insurance is a good idea to have unless you think you can afford outrageous bills. People just don't spend enough time researching, and they pick VPI off the bat because they are the "biggest and oldest". That certainly does not make them the best as you can tell by reviews all over the internet!

My dog's pet insurance covers 90% of the actual bill (after deductible has been met, but I have a $0 deductible) and there are no caps, and don't raise rates due to birthdays. VPI will increase your rates on a schedule as well, so take that into consideration.
The nice thing about my insurance, Trupanion, is that I can calculate exactly how much I will be reimbursed for each claim that I file (I just subtract the vaccines, fecal test, etc. b/c they don't pay for the routine stuff). I think you should do more research and consider switching companies; I like Trupanion but have also heard good things about a couple of other companies.
Ditch VPI asap!

Guest's picture
Guest

Well, I did research VPI prior to enrolling. Specifically I knew we would be getting our new puppy spayed. I have a screenshot similar to the ones in this article where it covers spaying. Then I read the policy and it does not- you need to premium policy for that. Had I not read the detailed policy- which contradicts the info displayed on the website- I would have larned this lesson too late. The benefit schedule, by the way, only paid about 40% of the procedure. We have 2 cats, and the average reimbursement rate has been 40-45%. They don't cover anything preventable by vaccines, but also do not cover vaccines themselves, which I found contradictory.

I chose VPI over others since I got a 'partner discount' through my employer, but now realize it will never payoff- with the caps, restrictions, and benefit tables that will change as treatment trends change, it's a poor investment in my case.

I will, however, reconsider Trupanion, for the 90% rate you described. Hoping they offer higher deductible options with lower monthly rates, which make sense to me.

Guest's picture

I have a "wellness plan" - not technically insurance - with Banfield Pet Hospital (that's the one inside Petsmart.) It's an incredible bargain.

$23 a month and you can sleep easily, if you sign up your puppy or kitten early enough. I wrote about it just this week at bit.ly/bM39S6

My plan saves on shots, mouth cleanings, exams, MRIs, even blood work. It's essentially a discount for taking me on as a lifelong customer. I pay $276 a year for my cats (yes, I'm confident enough in my masculinity to admit that I own cats), and it paid for itself within the first year. Not having to deal with PPOs is a nice touch, too.

Guest's picture
Veronica

I recently had to face an urgent matter with my cat, and found a great alternative to paying the entire cost of her procedures. The Vet office inside my local PetSmart(Banfield) has their own policy which covered moss of what my baby needed. This including the start up cost along with the extra work performed, cost me less then a quarter of the original estimate. This plan is most usefull for the more regular health visits that come with older age, however my Vet gave me an awesome deal. She did not charge me anything extra for knocking her out for it was covered in the teeth cleaning. I paid a first month fee along with the startup($100) total, then another $80 for the tooth removal, and tumor removal(Cardorizing proceedure) I am bonded to another 11months of payments($15.00 monthly), between the total cost of the payments and the upfront charges, i paid less than 1/4 of my 1st Esti. This is not a good plan for emergency situations but if there is something that needs to be done, and they can do it while doing the teeth cleaning they may give you a break. Never settle for the 1st Estimate given, get second or in my case a 3rd opinion. Banfield even has plenty of offers where the initial exam is free. I owe my sanity to them for the Vet there was a very wonderful human, and not out to squeeze every bit of change i had out of my pockets.

Guest's picture

OK, let me make you an offer. Send me $14 a month and file any claims with me. When you file a claim, I will consider it carefully, compare it to "samples" on the VPI website, and then pay you a random, unpredictable portion of your claim amount. Oh, and you have not appeal of my payment decision because pet insurance is not regulated by the state. Do we have a deal?

Since you admit you cannot understand the policy terms or anticipate the payment amount for the injuries or illnesses your pet is most likely to face, you are also admitting that you have no idea whether this is a good deal or not. You are simply trusting this web insurance company and letting the love of your pet and the fear that you will not have the resources to care for him, sway your decision.

Financially, your decision to keep the insurance is much worse than the $14 premium. Just assume that your worst-case $7,000 vet bill to save your pet comes true.

Before you commit to the payment, will you know how much to expect back from the insurance.

If the repayment is just 10%, are you really that much better off financially with a $6,300?

The problem is that you will not know whether or not you can afford the vet care because you will have no idea how much of the bill your insurance will cover. So you will be unable to make a financial decision. You will (I am quite sure) incur the debt -- because you love your pet -- and then hope for the best from the insurance company. As laudable as that is for a pet lover, it is NOT good financial advice.

Now I love my pets, too. But that love is not a good excuse for such sloppy financial advice, especially on this kind of site.

Guest's picture

I'd just like to point out that we (VPI) are in fact regulated by the California Department of Insurance.

Guest's picture
ADOPT-A-SHELTER-PET

In November 2009, my 7 year old dog suddenly lost use of his hind legs. I did not have pet insurance on him. He lost use of his hind legs after jumping off a high bed. I truly thought that was the cause of his injury. I took him to emergency vet who discovered he had a ruptured disc in his spine and, without surgery, would never walk again. I agreed to surgery. The surgery cost around $6,500 and I was kicking myself for not having my pet insured. But, the vet informed me that her diagnosis was that the ruptured disc was not caused by an injury but rather a genetic disorder. Therefore, if I had paid for pet insurance, the $6,500 surgery would NOT be covered under insurance anyway because pet insurance plans do not cover genetic problems. MORAL OF THE STORY...IF YOU WANT PET INSURANCE, READ THE FINE PRINT.

Guest's picture
Guest

I want to know more about your dog. This just happened to my 5 year old Border Collie yesterday! He was chasing after a ball and then yelped and fell to the ground and couldnt use his hind legs anymore. He is still in the ER doing test to determine if its a clot or a disc. The bill could add up to $7K. Did the surgery help your dog? How long for recovery? Were you advised of other options?

Guest's picture

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your well-written post about your recent experience with VPI. After reading about your claim, I’d like to clarify a few items and hopefully help educate your readers on how our service works.

Like you stated, the Standard Plan you chose is our most basic and affordable plan, and as such provides the lowest benefit allowance per condition of our plans. The reason your reimbursement was less than the examples from our website is that those were examples taken from, and identified with, several different plans.

We ran your claim to show what your reimbursement would have been if you had one of these plans:

The VPI Injury Plan with a $250 deductible would’ve paid $295.53 (54%) of your $545.53 bill and your monthly premium would be $11.45.

The VPI Medical Plan with a $100 deductible would’ve paid $375.00 (69%)of your $545.53 bill and your monthly premium would be $31.28.

The VPI Major Medical Plan with a $100 deductible would’ve paid $445.53 (81%) of your $545.53 bill and your monthly premium would be $40.54.

When you renew your policy next year, you may want to consider upgrading to one of these other plans. It sounds like you understand the tradeoff between premium and benefits, and you are correct that should your dog need treatment for a major accident or illness (cancer, broken bone, foreign body ingestion surgery) you will likely receive much more in reimbursement than you have put into your policy no matter what plan you have.

Also, just so you know, all policyholders can resubmit claims for review. We process all claims according to the information we receive, and sometimes additional medical records will reveal additional available benefits. For example, our policies have additional benefits available for “multiple lacerations,” and if medical records revealed that your dog was treated for multiple lacerations, these benefits would apply.

For more information on how to resubmit a claim, you can call our customer care department at 800-USA-PETS.

Guest's picture

I'm afraid you've just demonstrated the futility of pet insurance:

Under the Major Medical Plan, the cost to insure the dog for 18 months would be $729.72 - nearly $300 more than the reimbursement amount. Under the Medical Plan, the cost to insure the dog for 18 months would be $563 - nearly $200 more than the reimbursement amount. Only the Injury Plan would have saved money - and not that much.

If you someone can afford to sock away $40 a month, just save that amount until you've reached the max amount you're willing to spend on your pet's medical care.

Guest's picture

Outdoorgirl,

A savings account for your pets is never a bad idea, and one we recommend very highly. However, there are occasions where a savings account may not be sufficient. I recently wrote a blog post on our Hambone Award site about a boxer puppy that had over $5,000 in veterinary bills in less than two months, of which we reimbursed over $3,500. In cases like that, it is doubtful the savings account would have enough in it to cover the expenses. Having pet insurance helps reduce the risks in case your pet has an accident - or in that boxer's case 4 accidents.

Guest's picture
Matthew

I think it's a ripoff. You're much better off having a specific "pet emergency fund," which you could place in a savings account and at least make a little interest - not much, but still better than just letting it sit. Takes willpower, though.

Our plan is to have our main emergency fund, and then have another meant specifically for car stuff (for when insurance won't cover it) and pet emergencies.

Guest's picture
jim

It seems that the major problem with the pet insurance plans is that the maximum payment for treatments is capped too low to be useful for covering major expenses. Say you do have that $7000 vet bill, it seems from the benefits schedule that the max the insurance will pay out for most major things is in the $500 to $1000 range. And thats after a deductible. So if you do end up facing that giant $7000 bill you may only get $400 after deductible from your insurance cause thats what their payment is capped at.

Guest's picture
Jennyusagi

I have to agree that VPI is horrible - but they sure do seem to spend a lot on advertising! I haven't had a chance (thankfully!) to use our Pet Plan insurance (gopetplan.com) but I'm MUCH happier with their policies.

Guest's picture
Guest

Oh my gosh. Wow. Thanks for pointing all of that out! I honestly never really thought of taking a look in depth with those numbers and your right! Those must have been forged or something because I dont think they honestly would have gotten that much back.

I have pet insurance with Trupanion and I honestly had to do one claim and I got 90% back from the claim that I submitted, minus the vet fees and the deductible. And customer service is suuuuper friendly.

I was actually contemplating about getting pet insurance or not for my dog but my friend's dog had lymphona which cost a fortune and I knew I wouldnt be able to afford it so thats what I decided to further my investigation on the benefits of pet insurance. I know while doing research I checked majority of the companies and a lot of them you can choose to do a free quote. So I compared policies and prices to see what fit my budget. One thing I found to be very valuable is the pet insurance review sites I went on. One major thing that I noticed and stayed away with VPI was the negative feedback that I read about not getting their claims approved or not getting any money back.

My advice is to get pet insurance and also save some money on the side just in case. You can never prepare too much for the future. Do some research too! I really like Trupanion so I would definitely recommend them to anyone!

http://www.trupanionpetinsurance.com
http://www.petinsurancereview.com

Guest's picture

I'm just not sure it's worth it. Just continue to save your money and you should be prepared to pay the bill. The last time I went to the vet my cat was put to sleep because she was so ill.

Guest's picture
Guest

We have a 10 year old boxer mix that we adopted when she was a pup. We immediately got her an insurance plan with VPI. We have been both pleased and displeased over the years. VPI has been excellent with two surgeries, reimbursing more than 65% of the cost on each procedure (one costing over $700 and the other more than $1000) and they were also fantastic when Charlotte had to have a knee replacement ($1,800 of which we were reimbursed 70%.) So, consider our pup a little high maintenance because she also has numerous skin allergies as well. Now, that's where we've had some issues. VPI has not been very giving with the many, many tests running in the 200-400 dollar range to determine what she was allergic to and the multiple steroid shots and repeat vet visits for breakouts etc. We would get maybe 20% if that in return or nothing at all. So, we were happy about the three big claims, but then again, we didn't know anything about researching other pet insurance companies or really what we were doing or what we would actually need when signing up. What I would recommend is definitely get insurance with someone if you are adopting a pup with unknown history like we did, but do explore other companies besides the biggest one, VPI, and see what they offer. And, consider something other than just a basic plan b/c with us, a vet visit is always at least $150 or so and has been as much as $400 to %500 in a month with VPI not reimbursing ANYTHING. Insurance is worth it, but you want to make sure the company you have it with is going to hold up their end on all claims, not just the BIG ones.

Guest's picture
Guest

If anyone bothered to do research before buying into the fact that VPI is the largest pet insurer (and heavily marketed), they would read all the mixed reviews on their payouts. http://www.petinsurancereview.com/reviewStart.asp

I went with PetPlan for my dog and couldn't be happier with their service. They paid out exactly as I expected (100% after my $200 deductible) for a $900 fractured tooth surgery that my dog had.

I think pet insurance for me is worth it for big emergencies - that's why I went with the $200 deductible... Lowers the cost of my premium, and I don't mind paying for the little things.

Guest's picture
Steff

Paul, Thank you for posting your experiences; and Bryan, thank you for providing your point of view. The intelligent discussion here has been very helpful to my husband and I, and the refusal of most of the participants to extrapolate or hyperbolize has been most refreshing.

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Start a Medical Saving account for your pet, and stop gambling with monthly Insurance payments. With a savings account, the money is still yours even if your dog doesn't need it.

http://liveforimprovement.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-pet-insurance-worth-it...

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Guest

What people need to remember is that insurance to begin with is slanted toward the underwriter and if a claim is made the first order of business is to find a way for the insurance company to not have to pay much if anything. Insurance companies in general are not your "friend." Adjusters are paid to adjust your claim and as they are paid by the insurance company guess in whose favor that claim will be adjusted. Second, pet insurance is very very poorly regulated and often amounts to little more than a four letter word and that word is S.C.A.M. Few of us have the legal/analytical skills to successfully navigate a gobbledegook contradictory policy and full policy terms are seldom if ever disclosed at the time of purchase of the policy. Then - uh oh, too late, "but we didn't know" doesn't help when your claim is summarily rejected. Finally, when is money needed most for a beloved family pet? In an emergency! But - you have to pay the vet or emergency clinic up front. They do not bill the insurance for your sick/injured pet's care. You pay the vet and then wait for the insurance company to pay you. IF they decide to (and when, if ever). You still have to have that emergency money to pay up front for your pet's treatment.

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karen

I looked into pet insurance a few years back when I had only 3 cats (I now have 5 cats and a dog). The premium was close to $75 a month for all three cats. I adopt shelter pets and tend to adopt older animals because they often languish in shelters-I may only have them a couple of years, but I try to make them good years for them. Anyway, the policies I looked at charged more for older pets or did not cover much. It wasn't worth it. My vet offers a credit card called CareCredit that lets you pay the balance off in 6 months with no interest. I got the card and use it only for the big vet bills--my cat Allison had bladder stone surgery that was over $600. I was able to pay about $100 a month. No worries about the deductable or what was covered. I think the pet insurance companies often tke advantage of people because they love their pets. I'll pass.

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Guest

I have a hard time believing this. I have had two dogs on VPI for over five years. One premium is $67 and the other is $45. On all my claims I am only getting back between 30 and 45%. I have the premium plans and now that I am not working I am evaluating that they are not worth the money.
For three years I put out $1490 and got back $791 and I paid out $2411 and got back $571. It is a lot of money for on a average 35% return.

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Lisa

VPI Pet Insurance has been a total rip off of my money... They hardly pay anything on claims!! I am canceling them first thing Monday morning. My latest bill of $460 for a full body x-ray(my dog is having a hard time getting up, and is limping a lot) and VPI paid ZERO on the bill!!! Here are the facts...In the past 2 years I have paid out $3,437 dollars in vet bills for my 9 year old Australian Sheperd($1,297 was for an emergency visit for getting into chocolate)... I have paid $1,200 for 2 years of VPI insurance for her.. Total vet bills and vet insurance for 2 years has been $4,637 and VPI gave me a whopping reimbursement amount of $882.00!!!

My vet told me these Vet Insurance companies are not regulated in any way(despite their claims)and he does not believe in them whatsoever!!! I should have listened to him a long time ago!!!

VPI Vet Insurance you are a BIG rip off!!!!!

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Guest

I bought pet insurance for my dog Kanga. She hurt her leg at the dog park so I took her to the vet and sent the invoices in to the insurance. I received a letter saying it was pre-exsisting and they paid nothing. I promptly called, got no where so I canceled. I will put the money in the bank for future vet bills instead of paying for pet insurance that does not pay back. Lesson learned.

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Sarah R

I actually have a plan through pet plan. Mainly because their legalese and coverage limitations are understandable. VPI seemed like a huge racket. Especially since I actually interviewed for a job there and even as a potential employee, they ducked some of my specific questions about how their risk allocations.

I actually lost a pet in January -- I walked into the vet's office in the morning with a cat. At lunch, I walked out $1500 lighter and no cat. After that experience, I had pet plan run me through the bill to see what they would have covered.

Minus the deductible, they would have covered all the charges up to my chosen benefit limit (mine is $8K, the other two options are something like $14K and $22K) minus the copayment I selected (I chose a 90% reimbursement) and my deductible. So I would have received about $1000 back. Still wouldn't have a cat. But it sure wouldn't have hurt financially as much as it did emotionally.

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GuestJudy

I have a 2 year old lab who has had fcp surgery and just last week tplo surgery. Total cost $5,000. After lots of research I do believe that Pet Plan is the best. When my dog's other knee goes (and they assure me that it will) Pet Plan will cover it as long as I've had my policy for a year before it happens. It will be worth it.

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Karon

I've seen several of the comments I read below mention the same thing: "I didn't read the fine print" or "I didn't understand what I was getting." This is a common mistake people who are looking for pet insurance make. I almost did the same thing when shopping for insurance.

Instead, I took at TON of time researching, reading... even contacting the pet insurance companies myself to ask questions. I just recently decided to put all my findings online so I created a website to help people who are shopping for pet insurance.

The thing with VPI is that they pay on a predetermined schedule, not based on a % of your vet bills. I doesn't matter what the vet charges you, VPI will only pay 80%-90% of THEIR predetermined fee schedule. As long as you understand that going in, it's fine. But most people don't understand it.

VPI isn't the only company that pays on a schedule.

You also have to be careful of the type of deductible insurance providers use. There are 2 types: per incident and annual.

With per incident, you pay the $100 or $250 or whatever deductible every time you go to the vet for something new. With annual, you pay once very year.

I have pet insurance on my cats and love it. Even if you don't go for the policy that covers everything, you can get a policy like mine. It's injury only and costs me $9/mth. If something horrible happens that we can't afford, we're covered.

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Vannessa

Those on a budget might wish to check out a company called Pet Assure. It is not traditional insurance but rather a veterinary discount plan that my husband and I have had pretty good luck with. It only costs around $7/month for each of our two Corgis!

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Jambas

I have a mixed breed (cocker spaniel and some other things I'm not sure of) male dog and he's going to be 12 this year and still acts like a puppy and has had no issues other than tarter build up on his teeth/bad breath. I've been very lucky. But now that he's getting older, I'm starting to think about the possibilities of health issues coming up in the next 5 years. Hopefully none but it's smart to prepare. I think I'm going to start putting money away in a savings account AND get him a policy. To me, $30-$50 a month for a policy on my older dog is worth it, no matter what they pay out if something happens. It's better than going out of pocket in full. It's just an expense that I'm going to have to accept and pay along with whatever vet bills he may or may not incur in his final years. I'm hoping he just goes peacefully and of "old age". I have a feeling that's what it'll be. He's a healthy and happy little guy and everyone is shocked when I tell them he's 12!

Does anyone know anything about these insurance companies insuring older dogs?

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Michelle

Trupanion insures dogs up to 14 years old and includes hereditary conditions. Maybe they will work for you.

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Kristin

My little girl has wanted a dog for about three years now, and I've done extensive research on the entire process of pet ownership. While I can certainly afford routine vet fees and food/incidentals for a healthy pet, it's the fear of illness and/or emergency services that have worried me. I have heard some very sad stories about pets being put to sleep due to the owner's inability to pay thousands in care, and I never wanted to put my child, myself, and of course a pet in that position. So, reluctantly, I deduced that a dog was simply not in the cards for us.

It was not until a friend of mine (who swears by PetPlan) directed me to a site offering plan comparisons and customer reviews that I began to change my mind about being able to afford a pet. I couldn't find many negative experiences on this objective, third-party site for the plans I researched and in the end, I felt that Healthy Paws was the best offer (only because their plan is based on a yearly deductible vs. PetPlan's per-incident). We are now the proud owners of a 5-mo-old Yorkie and my daughter is in heaven. I love this little guy to pieces and I'm so grateful to Healthy Paws for making pet ownership a reality rather than a pipe dream.

Oh, and for those recommending a savings account instead of doing the plan--that's not a bad idea, except you're banking on the hope that any illnesses or emergency services wouldn't be required for many years. Sticking $30/mo into an account is fine if your pet doesn't incur and hefty fees for about a decade, but what if there's an emergency that comes up beforehand? That said, if you have plenty of cash saved up to the extent that shelling out $5K for surgery and other costs isn't a hardship, then obviously getting insurance may not be necessary. For me, however, it absolutely is.

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julie

I have had VPI on all three of my dogs for 6 years total now and THEY ARE AWESOME !!
My Lhaso Apso, Spense's back basically blew up on him with no warning what-so-ever. The gel like substance that is in the disks in your back to cushion ur step when u walk had turned to a powder in Spenses back which, obviously turns to dust, so late one night I got woke up by a crash and it was Spense hitting the floor. He had tried to jump off the bed but he was paralized from his shoulders to his tail from his spine crushing the nerves in his back because the disks had collapsed. He had to have surgery hours from when the diagnosis was made and the surgery was like $3600 plus 2 other doctors and emergency visits for a $5,000 total that I had to come up with in about 3 hours. That was the hard part...coming up with the $5,000 to begin with. The easy part was getting reimbursed by VPI who sent out a check for all but 10% and 3 $50 co-pays for $150 total. So, basically they gave me like $4500 of it back with no hassle what-so-ever. Spense has had a total of 5 surgeries and VPI is always wonderful. Can't praise them or thank them enuf because Spense is my heart. Love him so much !!! He wouldn't be healthy and happy and walking around if not for the insurance. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AND WORTH EVERY CENT.

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Guest

I have had VPI since 2002 for my two dogs. One of them recently had to be euthanized (a degenerative neurological disorder). With him, I spent $4,887.62 in premiums. I submitted $12,461.93 (including a $5,000+ claim for a herniated disc) in claims and was reimbursed $6,069.38 ($2500 of which was the disc). With him, it was worth it, but as I mentioned, I have two dogs. The other has been healthy for the most part, with about $500 dollars in reimbursements (broken leg, broken tooth).

In total, I spent about $9,775.24 in premiums since 2002, about $2,500 less than what I've gotten back. Most of the costs and reimbursements occurred in recent years. In hind site, I might have been better off putting the money into a "pet" account.

This isn't an indictment of VPI. They have been great. Their submission process is streamlined and their customer service has been excellent. In one case they paid me back more than I submitted. It's just looking at it from a financial standpoint, it would have made more sense to save the money than pay premiums. Then again, I never had to deal with a treatable disease, such as cancer.

Just my two cents.