Help me get great health care for my great dog!
May 8, 2007 8:11 AM   Subscribe

PetInsuranceFilter: I have a new dog. Yay! She's the best. I want to get her health insurance.

I know this question has been asked before, but it was a couple years ago and options have changed since then - there are new companies and practices, etc. I think I've narrowed it down to a couple plans, but I'm interested in any experiences AskMe members might have had. She is a total mutt, so breed exclusions are probably not a problem. She is a shelter dog, about 4 yrs old, but has been checked and appears to have no preexisting conditions.

Plans I've looked at include Pets Best, ASPCA (the current front-runners), Embrace, and others. I've discounted VPI - I know it's the oldest and "most reputable" but I've heard too many complaints. Also, I know some people think saving the premiums is better than getting insurance - this works fine if you have a healthy dog, but I want to insure against expensive accidents and/or chronic but treatable conditions. Thanks, Mefites!
posted by walla to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have PetCare Health Insurance. I signed up online, had to fax in my medical records for her and we're about to leave for her required yearly checkups...

The big determiner for me: They cover hip displasia up to a certan limit. None of the other insurance companies do, and I've read all of their terms and conditions very closely. The premium was also cheaper for her than for many other companies. YMMV.
posted by SpecialK at 9:50 AM on May 8, 2007

Find out what the premiums are and set aside that much every month. Don't bother with pet health insurance.
posted by electroboy at 10:23 AM on May 8, 2007

Thanks for the advice, Electroboy, but as I said in my post, I don't think that's the right option for me. An accident can cost $3000 or more in veterinary fees, while the insurance costs about $400/year. That means it would take me about 8 years to save up the amount that one accident could cost me, not to mention chronic conditions, etc.
posted by walla at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2007

I was originally going to agree with electroboy based on my experience, but then I did some research into the companies you mention. I have VPI for one of my dogs and haven't been happy with it. I sent in $400 in claims for testing/treatment of lymphadema, and got a check for $62. So not worth it.

But I looked at the ASPCA option you mentioned, and it seems like a much better deal. I had an uninsured dog require multiple surgeries for foreign body ingestion. The bill was $3000, and I did some research and figured if I had her insured with VPI I would have gotten $750 back - almost not worth it. But in the ASPCA case the benefit would have been much greater, so they sound like a good deal to me.

I would say the key is to go with one that doesn't have a "complicated reimbursement schedule" as Pets Best calls it. VPI will pays $X for testing and $X for medication for X type of illness/injury. You want a plan that says if something happens to your dog that's covered by the plan, you'll get this much, regardless if it's x-rays or surgery or medication. Plus ASPCA sounds like you're supporting a good cause at the same time.

I do hate having to remember to take the form with me and have my vet sign it, but I don't see a way around that at this point.
posted by thejanna at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2007

I am 2nd or 3rding complaints with VPI, not worth it. I sent in about $400-500 in claims, they didn't pay a cent.

I cancelled the insurance, and not once has anyone contacted me to find out why.
posted by engling at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2007

Same here as engling. My dog had a small operation to remove a ruptured cyst, it cost $150. After getting the vet to sign the form etc, sending it in, and waiting, I got.... $15 back. Meanwhile, I've been paying $30/month for this for about 10 years. What a ripoff. They never asked me why I cancelled either.
posted by Workingtill85 at 5:20 PM on May 8, 2007

I've paid over $1200 for my cat in pet bills for upper and lower respiratory infection and a facial abscess. I got about $900 back from VPI. It seems to be a matter of what conditions are covered in terms of what you are reimbursed.

Their customer service has been exceptional and they even processed a claim past the period you can submit it. With that, I have to say that I am happy with VPI. I'll be submitting claims for inflammatory bowel disease which cost about $1400 in tests (x-rays, ultra-sound) and I won't know how much I'll get back. Depending on the outcome, I may switch to ASPCA.

I have never regretted paying the premiums for pet insurance considering it is mostly for emergencies and diseases that could be prohibitively expensive. I wouldn't want financial costs being a determination in the kind of care my cat receives. The money I got back from submitted claims has more than paid for the premiums I've paid in the 4 years I've been with VPI.

My cat is an outdoor/indoor cat so it was the main consideration for getting pet insurance. With all the kinds of potential harm he could encounter from being outside, it's literally been a good idea for having "insurance".

Good luck to you in choosing an insurance company. Happy health to you and your dog.
posted by loquat at 10:33 PM on May 8, 2007

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