1. Healthy Paws
Healthy Paws Review
What you get:
One core plan covers accidents, illnesses, hereditary and congenital conditions – at a price competitors can’t touch for comparable plans. Choose your own reimbursement levels and deductibles to fine-tune your premium to fit your budget. Reimbursements are based on the vet bill, and you get unlimited annual and lifetime benefits.
Why we love it:
The price is (really!) nice for such a generous plan, as is the fact that customers keep rating Healthy Paws as the top company across the board. It ranks high for customer service, customer satisfaction and an above-average claim approval.
90 percent reimbursement
$100 annual deductible
No annual limits
Folks looking for wellness coverage won’t find it here, but that’s one of the reasons the premiums are kept so pleasingly low.
Our grade: A-
What you get:
Accidents, illnesses, hereditary and congenital conditions are covered in one core plan, with flexible options that let you pick your own deductibles, reimbursement levels and annual limits. Reimbursements are based on the vet bill, with no limits on lifetime benefits.
Why we love it:
We were blown away by the massive scope of alternative treatments included in the plan, especially since we had never heard of things like the electromagnet treatment of BICOM therapy or the oxygen therapy of hyperbarics. Reiki, holistic and homeopathic treatments make the list, along with the standard acupuncture and chiropractic care.
70 percent reimbursement
$1,000 annual deductible
$5,000 annual limits
Drug coverage rider
Adding prescription medication coverage costs a few extra bucks each month, and policies have annual limits that range from $5,000 to $15,000.
Our grade: A-
What you get:
Three different plans are served up by Pets Best, with different levels of coverage for each. The lowest covers accidents only while the top-level plan covers accidents, illnesses and certain hereditary and congenital conditions, depending on where you live. Choose your own deductibles and reimbursement levels to keep premiums in check, with reimbursements based on the vet bill.
Why we love it:
Pets Best caught our eye for the coverage it extends to things that are not always covered under core policies. These include pregnancy care for many breeds, prosthetic and mobility devices, and vet exam fees.
70 percent reimbursement
$1,000 annual deductible
$5,000 annual limit
The lack of coverage for hereditary and congenital conditions in certain states is a bummer, as are annual limits, lifetime limits and per incident deductibles.
Our grade: A
What you get:
Choose from three different plans: bronze, silver or gold, each with increasing levels of coverage and annual limits. Selecting your own reimbursements and deductibles keep premiums low, as does only opting for the amount of coverage you need to keep your pet healthiest.
Why we love it:
Go for the silver or gold plan and you get all kinds of snazzy coverage options you may not typically find, such as reimbursements for lost pets and kennel boarding fees. The gold adds vacation cancellations to the mix.
80 percent reimbursement
$200 annual deductible
$10,000 annual limit
Per incident deductibles mean you pay a deductible for each incident that brings your pet to the vet.
5. Pet Premium
Tips for Finding the Best Plan
There’s no reason to wait around, especially when plans accept puppies and kittens as young as six to eight weeks old. Waiting also increases the risk of your pet developing a condition that would be considered pre-existing and not covered by anyone.
The six companies we picked cover accidents and illnesses plus breed-specific genetic conditions in many of their plans. And all received high ratings from our own veterinarians, the Better Business Bureau and thousands of existing customers who are already enrolled.
You can also put the companies side-by-side using our comprehensive pet insurance comparison chart
You and your pet will soon be on your way to getting the pet health care coverage and peace of mind you deserve.
Is Pet Insurance Worth it?
Unlike health insurance for Americans these days, pet health coverage is not mandatory cats and dogs. But even if your pets won’t get penalized on their taxes for not having an active health insurance policy, they can get penalized big time if they happen to get injured or sick and you don’t have the money to pay for their treatment.
Average cost of treatment based on actual claims submitted:
• $3,000 – Ingestion of foreign object, surgery
• $4,025 – Patellar luxation, surgery and pain medications
• $5,100 – Glaucoma, ongoing medications and surgery
• $5,100 – Parvo gastroenteritis, liquid medication
• $5,300 – Cancer treatment, chemotherapy
• $5,400 – Cruciate ligament tear, surgery
• $7,800 – Hip dysplasia, ongoing medications and surgery
• $8,300 – Fever and pneumonia, emergency surgery and hospitalization
• $10,500 – Diabetes, bloodwork and ongoing medications
Pet insurance gives you the peace of mind that you will indeed have the funds to cover unexpected medical treatment costs whenever or wherever they may arise. And the odds of them arising may be higher than you think.
Industry data says one in three pets may need urgent vet care every year – and you have a higher chance of filing an insurance claim on your dog or cat than you do on your home or car.
1 in 3: Number of pets that may need urgent vet care every year
How Much does Pet Insurance Cost?
Pet parents spent an estimated $60.59 billion on their pets in 2015, with about 25 percent of the costs, or an estimated $15.73 billion, going toward vet bills. Routine vet care cost an average of $235 for dogs and $196 for cats in 2015, while surgical vet visits cost dogs an average of $551 and cats an estimated $398.
- $786: Average annual vet bills for dogs in 2015
- $594: Average annual vet bills for cats in 2015
That means pet owners can expect to spend between $594 and $786 per year on vet costs alone – and that’s if your dog or cat decides to stick with the average costs. If they end up as the 33 percent of pets that require urgent vet care, or otherwise become ill or injured, vet costs can soar far above the average.
Pet Insurance vs. Savings Account
You’ll find plenty of discussions on online forums and articles that mention setting up a savings account for emergency vet care instead of investing in medical insurance. That way you get to keep and control the money, simply dipping into it when and if your pet needs some type of medical care. While the strategy may be great in theory, it can fall flat in reality.
The number one danger is that you won’t have built up enough funds to cover the cost of whatever emergency or illness that comes your way.
Keep in mind your emergency savings fund will only reach the maximum if your pet cooperates by never getting sick or injured. Also keep in mind that going uninsured is playing the odds that your pet will indeed cooperate, avoiding any emergencies or medical mishaps over his entire lifetime.
Trupanion CEO Darryl Rawlings noted about 1 in 10 pet insurance policyholders file a claim every month, with some pet owners being reimbursed 500 to 700 percent more than they’ll end up paying in premiums over the lifetime of their pets. Rawlings also had a few words of wisdom about playing the odds on your pet’s health care coverage:
“If you’re independently wealthy, you can roll the dice,” said Trupanion CEO Darryl Rawlings.
Uh-Oh Puppy Eats Tennis Balls
Let’s say you have a new puppy and you’re going to put $50 each month into your savings account in case of emergency. By the end of the first year, you’ll have $600 on hand.
Now let’s say an emergency hits when he’s 1 year old, like him getting a bit overzealous and eating a batch of tennis balls (true story). Surgery to remove the foreign objects from his stomach can cost around $3,000. Your $600 doesn’t go very far for covering the cost of the operation.
If you had instead paid a monthly premium of $50 (or less) for your puppy, and you had a plan that covered emergencies such as eating tennis balls, your insurance could pick up the bulk of the surgery cost. Many plans let you pick your own deductible and co-pays, which would determine how much of the overall cost the plan would actually cover.
For instance, if you had a $100 deductible and 90 percent reimbursement level, you would be reimbursed $2,600. You’d be responsible for $100 for the deductible as well as 10 percent of the surgery cost, or $300, for a total of $400.
Paying $400 certainly beats paying the full $3,000, especially when it would take five years of $50 monthly investments in your savings account to reach the $3,000 needed for that single surgery.
True, you had to pay a premium every month to get those kinds of benefits. But premiums are something that can be much more easily budgeted into your overall expense plan than a $3,000 unexpected surgery can.
Savings accounts can work great to cover routine vet costs, but they may not measure up when it comes to paying for unforeseen injuries, illnesses or emergencies.
Tips From One Pet Parent to Another
Reviewing and comparing features, benefits and other plan details lets you find the one that best fits your needs and your budget. Basing your decision on price alone can be tricky, since prices vary widely. You need to dig deeper than the price tag to ensure you’re getting a good value for the money.
Let’s say you saw a trip from Los Angeles to New York priced at $100 and another priced at $500. While you may instinctively want to book the $100 trip, you have no clue what you’re getting. Perhaps the $500 trip gives you a non-stop flight with caviar whereas the $100 trip gives you a five-day journey, with frequent stops, crammed in the back of a pickup.
A more strategic way to master the basics of pet insurance is to decide on the type and level of coverage you want for your pet. Coverage options can be loosely broken down into several categories:
Low Coverage Plans
• Usually cover: Accidents only
• May not cover: Any illnesses
Example: May cover treatment for pet hit by car, but not ear infections.
Medium Coverage Plans
• Usually cover: Accidents and many illnesses
• May not cover: Hereditary and congenital conditions
Example: May cover treatment for accidents and ear infections, but not hip dysplasia
High Coverage Plans
• Usually cover: Accidents, illnesses, certain hereditary and congenital conditions
• May not cover: Wellness care
Example: May cover accidents, ear infections and hip dysplasia, but not routine wellness care such as flea, tick and heartworm prevention, spaying or neutering, annual vet visits
Broadest Coverage Plans
• Usually cover: Pretty much everything, including wellness care for routine vet visits
• May not cover: Specific exclusions outlined in policy
Example: May cover the full gamut of treatments as well as routine wellness care
Riders: Wellness care is often offered as an add-on in the form of a rider. You may also find riders for additional coverage for things such as breeding and pregnancy care as well as alternative care and medications when they’re not included in base policy.
Read the fine print carefully. Then read it again.
Each policy can vary by state, by your pet’s age, by its coverage on bilateral conditions, by types of treatments covered, by frequency of treatments for the same ailment, and a gamut of other factors. Provided you are receiving care related to a condition that’s covered in your policy, coverage for that care usually extends to:
• Treatment for the condition
• Diagnostic tests
What’s Not Covered
Pre-existing conditions are generally not covered by any pet health insurance plan. Most also do not cover routine dental cleanings, preventative flea or parasite treatments, and specific hereditary and congenital conditions. Carefully check the exclusions portion of your policy for a detailed outline of conditions or ailments that are not covered. And check those exclusions before you sign on the dotted line.
Talk to your vet about common health issues associated with your particular breed of dog or cat, and then get a clear understanding of what’s different between policies to ensure you choose one that covers those issues.
Other Considerations: For those who like to do the math, we’ve gathered a number of factors to consider when researching your options. You’ll notice a huge consideration is the cost of treating an unexpected emergency or illness, which is the primary reason pet insurance exists.
Remember These Things When Shopping For Pet Insurance
• Age and type of pet
• Breed and common conditions that come with that particular breed
• Deductible, which is the amount you pay per year or per condition before coverage kicks in
• Reimbursement level, which is the percentage of costs or set amount the insurance company pays for covered treatments
• Premium, which is the monthly cost of keeping your policy active
• Overall cost of premiums over lifetime of pet vs. anticipated vet costs
• Peace of mind your pet will get medical care when needed most
• Cost of treating an unforeseen emergency or illnesses
Unforeseen emergencies or illnesses are the clincher – if they never happen, you may be A-OK without insurance. But if they do, your pet may not be A-OK without insurance.
Beware of Exclusions, Limitations and Bad Coverage
• Schedule of premium increases
• Policy renewal conditions and lifetime coverage options
• Coverage for breed-specific conditions
• Age limitations on enrollment or coverage options
• Limits on certain conditions, either with limits capped on amount of reimbursements per condition or exclusions on things like bilateral conditions, such as hip dysplasia, which can occur on both sides of the body. Some companies will only cover one side of the body with bilateral conditions, leaving you out of luck (and funds) if the condition occurs on the other side of the body down the line.
When you trim away all the considerations, equations and other extended thought processes that go into the pet insurance decision, it all boils down to the single question below:
Would You Rather:
a. Roll the dice and hope for the best
b. Pay a monthly premium for the peace of mind that comes with knowing lack of coverage won’t make you choose between getting your pet help and putting your pet down?
Some people like living on the edge. We get it. But it’s not something that’s typically recommended when the life of a furry family member is at stake.
If you do say insurance is a go, you’re not only joining over 1 million other folks who already insure their pets, but you’ve already found the most comprehensive resource for pet health!