The history of pet insurance as we know it today began more than a century ago in Sweden.
As long ago as 1890, Swedish animal insurers covered livestock and horses. They did not, however, extend insurance policies to pets until 1924.
Twenty years later, an insurance company in England sold its first pet insurance policy.
Pet insurance was not readily available in the USA until the 8os incarnation of canine television star Lassie received a policy from the newly founded Veterinary Pet Insurance company in 1982. The policy protected America’s favorite acting collie and was underwritten by National Casualty Company.
Indemnity insurance for animal actors is nothing new. Several Hollywood insurance companies currently provide “cast insurance” that extends to animals dated to appear in key scenes. What is relatively new is comprehensive insurance that covers the health of non-famous family pets.
The North American Pet Health Insurance Association, or NAPHIA, was established in 2007 to oversee the ethics, standards and best practices of the pet insurance industry. Today, a number of reputable insurers routinely offer insurance policies for dogs and cats.
Typical Pet Policies
Notable animal rights group American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCM licensed its name to Hartville Group Inc. to form one of the major pet insurance outfits in the nation.
Additionally, Hartville Group offers pet health insurance under the Pet Insured, Pet Premium and Pets Healthcare Plan brands.
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance offers three tiers of pet health coverage.
- Level 1 is a basic plan that covers veterinary fees associated with pet injury caused by accident or ingestion. Covered injuries include broken bones, bites from other animals, burns and swallowed objects.
- Level 2 coverage provides the same with additional illness coverage for sick dogs and cats. Covered pet illnesses include ear infection, urinary tract infection and upset stomach, as well as chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.
- Level 3 pet insurance includes all of the aforementioned, plus advanced coverage for hereditary conditions, pet be issues and some alternative therapies.
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance president and CEO Dennis Rushovich simultaneously sserveas chief executive officer of Lexington based financial software and services supplier, Strategic Financial Solutions Inc.
Prior to being named VP of ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, Randy Valpy helped to establish pet insurance divisions of Nestle -Purina, Walmart and Proctor & Gamble.
Trupanion offers one easy to understand, easy to use pet health insurance plan. Trupanion pet policies covers injury and illness, as well as diagnostic testing, lab work,
surgery and medication. The company offers 90% coverage and has no payout limits.
In an effort to provide affordable pet coverage to as many pet owners as possible, the company offers customizable premiums. Trupanion pet insurance policies are underwritten by American Pet Insurance Company.
Is Pet Health Insurance Worth It?
Emotionally, yes. Financially? Maybe not so much. Whether or not pet insurance is right for you depends on several key factors.
If you’ve got the financial wherewithal to manage an emergency trip to the vet, you can probably skip paying premiums for pet health insurance. Likewise, if your pet is young and healthy. If peace of mind means more to you than the $50 to $75 per month you might pay for pet coverage, go ahead and spend the money.
After analyzing pet health care insurance returns vs. investment, Consumer Reports senior editor Tobie Stanger said “for a generally healthy animal this insurance is probably not worth the cost.”
Stanger concluded that for most pet owners, it makes better financial sense to sock away a couple hundred dollars per year toward an emergency pet care fund.
What Do Experts Say?
Consumer Reports states that most pet insurance policies cost more than they pay out.
They also say that in cases of catastrophic emergency care, pet insurance may well be worth the investment. The general consensus at Consumer Reports is that if you’re going to buy pet health insurance, buy wisely. Read every word of the company’s ple policy and note any and all service fees, deductibles, co-pays and limitations.
Pet insurance in North America: In the US, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association PFMA compiles an annual Pet Population report, which estimated that in 2016, 40% of US households had pets. That figure included an estimated 8.5 million dog owners and 7.5 million cat owners. In recent years, media coverage of the economic downturn has commented on the costs of pet ownership, noting how many families have felt it necessary to rehome our much-loved companions.
For those of us who choose to struggle on, refusing to part with our pets, meeting the inevitable costs often means we’re forced to take a hard look at every area of pet ownership to see where our purse strings can be tightened.
One outlay regularly avoided by North American pet owners is medical insurance. Many wonder if paying out for an illness or disease that might never happen is really money well spent.
The Purpose of Pet Insurance
Pet insurance is useful when it comes to paying the rising costs of vet bills but what many people don’t consider are the added extras that are often automatically included in individual policies. Most insurance companies provide public liability cover as standard – in the event your dog bites someone, for example – as well as forking out on advertising and reward should your four-legged friend go missing.
Vet bills are arguably the biggest expense and it’s for this reason most people take out cover. The cost of treatments can be extremely high, and unexpected illnesses or accidents can really hit you where it hurts the most – your bank balance. If you’re fortunate enough to have plenty of savings put aside, you might be better off without monthly insurance payments that build up to a high overall lifetime cost. If you don’t, paying a small sum every month will be far more welcome than receiving a bill for thousands of pounds in one go.
If you’re erring on the side of taking out an insurance policy, make sure you shop around before signing on the dotted line. There are vast variations in price and cover and it’s important to make sure you get what you need. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of pet insurance before enrolling your pet in a policy.
Types of Pet Insurance Coverage
Lifetime pet insurance covers vet fees up to a set amount each year and your cover remains the same every year you renew your policy, regardless of the number of claims you make. It’s good cover to have if your furry companion develops a long-term condition, such as diabetes, although it’s typically more expensive than other types of cover.
Maximum benefit pet insurance generally covers vet fees up to a certain limit. Once that limit is reached, the condition your pet is suffering from will be considered a pre-existing condition and will be excluded from future claims.
Time limited pet insurance allows you to claim to a set limit for individual conditions but it also imposes a set timescale for the payments. It means that if your pet takes longer to recover than the time limit of your policy, you’ll be left to cover the rest of the payments yourself.
The most straightforward of all pet insurance policies, accident cover also offers the lowest assistance. Under this scheme your pets will only be covered for physical accidents, effectively blocking long term medical complaints and conditions out of the policy.
Where to Find Pet Insurance
With so many providers offering insurance policies for pets, the best place to start looking for the right coverage is on the internet. Using price comparison tools has the advantage of showing you several quotes at once from a database of providers. It cuts down the time you’d otherwise spend filling in forms and allows you to compare policies side by side.
Since personal recommendations are always valuable, asking your friends or your vet for their opinion on pet insurance might help you narrow down the field. People who have had a good experience with an insurance company will happy to give them a good recommendation, giving you peace of mind that the decision you’re making is the right one.
Factors Affecting Pet Insurance
There are a few factors, which can impact on the cost of the insurance premiums you’ll have to pay to cover your pet:
If your pet is considered old – generally around 8 to 10 years old – then you might notice a large increase in the cost of your policy. Some insurance companies can be reluctant to take on older pets, and even if you’ve been with the same provider for years, don’t be surprised if the cost skyrockets around this age group.
Your zip code has a big impact on your premiums because it’s linked to average vet prices. Inner city vets tend to charge more than those in rural locations, meaning pet owners in major conurbations are likely to pay far higher costs than their country-dwelling cousins.
Before you accept any quote, check the amount of excess that’s included. For every claim you make, the insurance company will expect you to pay a set amount at the start of the claim. Some insurance companies do offer ‘no excess’ policies but you should expect the overall premiums to be higher.
What’s Not Included in Pet Insurance Coverage
Read over the small print and make sure you’re aware of the things that aren’t covered by your new policy. In general, there are four things an insurance company won’t cover your pet for – pre-existing medical conditions, worming, flea control and neutering – and it’s important to know what you can’t claim for as well as what you can.
There’s no hard and fast rule about pet insurance and as it isn’t a legal requirement in the US you’re not obliged to have it. It comes down to a matter of choice and affordability, but it’s worthwhile considering how you might cover costly vet bills without the safety net of pet insurance to fall back on.
- “Insurance For Pets Goes Public”. Forbes. 18 July 2014.
- Dunn, Louise. “Small animal practice: billing, third-party payment options, and pet health insurance.” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 36.2 (2006): 411-418.
- Coe, Jason B., Cindy L. Adams, and Brenda N. Bonnett. “A focus group study of veterinarians’ and pet owners’ perceptions of the monetary aspects of veterinary care.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association231.10 (2007): 1510-1518.
- Brevitz, Betsy (2009). The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook. Google: Workman Publishing. ISBN 0761154124. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
- “Pet Insurance at a Glance”. Veterinary Medicine Magazine. 23 May 2007.