Best Pet Insurance

Best Pet Insurance

Fri, 09/08/2023 - 17:00
1 comment

Protect your pet with a pet insurance plan. Discover the best plans. You can trust us.

Pet Insurance Cost

The boast

Any time you see sites boasting to be able to direct you to the “best” pet insurance, know right away they are selling something.

♦ Do a little price comparison and you will find that the more expensive plans tend to be rated the highest.  These plans often pay more in referral fees.

Of course, the “best” plans will have tons of glowing reviews and very few if any negative ones. Customer service will be great and claims will be processed quickly. These are all the things people hope they will be getting, not what most people actually do receive.

♦ All sites weave in words to pressure the reader to buy insurance because it is the right thing to do if you love your pet.

There will be a story or two about a very ill pet needing very expensive treatment, all covered by insurance. There will be no mention of how often claims are denied nor the average amount paid out.

• All of these sites claim to have done an “in-depth investigation,” so you can trust them. But curiously, there is never any mention of hefty premium increases a few years later. So hefty that most people end up dropping the insurance three to four years down the road.

Enough warning

Okay … you are worried about your pet and want to do your best for him or her. What to do besides putting a little money away for emergencies?

Below is a list of the better-known companies. Most have been around for a number of years.

There are some new players but they are a bit risky as new players sell low to get clients hooked but are fast and furious with price increases.

24Pet Watch
AKC Pet Insurance
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance
Fetch (formerly PetPlan)
Healthy Paws
PetFirst (eaten by MetLife)

We provide a brief history on each company near the end of this article. Price comparisons are what most people want to see first.

Common denominator

These days almost all plans allow you to customize your plan for whatever deductible and benefit level you are comfortable with.

→ Different breeds mean different rates.

Every plan will ask you to identify your pet’s breed. Insurance companies keep statistics on various breeds and know which ones are more prone to hereditary conditions. Be truthful, they will eventually see how your family veterinarian identifies your pet. Your description and your vet's description should match.

• All plans have a waiting period. Usually, 14 days for illness but it could be 6-months for something like an orthopedic condition. Some plans have a short waiting period for accidents, like 2 to 3 days.

♦ Standard pet insurance coverage is for unexpected care, not routine checkups, vaccinations or teeth cleaning. Most plans offer add-ons for these services but the cost is too expensive.

• You are required to tell your insurer if you moved so they can adjust your premium. It is not a good idea to skip this because later if a large claim comes in, they will do everything they can to avoid paying it. Don’t give them the opportunity to use your move against you.

♦ Installment fees are common. If you elect to pay monthly, most plans will charge a fee. It could range from as little as a $1 to as much as $5. Pay attention to the final quote before you click on BUY NOW.

There are age cutoffs for illness coverage. Nationwide has one of the lowest cutoffs for cats at 6 years. At 6 years, you can buy accident and illness coverage but at 7 years and older only accident coverage.

How we compared

We ran price comparison for a cat enrolling at age 1, 8 and 14. Ms. Coco our Siamese cat will soon to be 14-years old. She does not have an insurance card.

♦ To tell the truth, it really isn't practical to insure an older pet.

An older animal is going to have a medical history. You may not think it is terribly bad but companies selling these plans will have a field day scouring medical records for even a hint of a pre-existing condition.  Putting the money in a savings account is better than enduring unyielding claims examiners.

That said again...

The table below shows prices start out very similar for a young cat.  By 8 years, prices are varying considerably and benefits are getting reduced.

• 24PetWatch, Fetch, Figo, Healthy Paws, MetLife and PetsBest have better pricing and benefits for years 1 to 8.

I guess we will call them the Top 6.

After year 8 prices and benefits diverge so much some plans are not worth the time to consider.

At age 10, Figo is nearly $9 cheaper than second best 24PetWatch.

At age 12, Figo and 24PetWatch are essentially tied in price. Healthy Paws is about $30 per month more at age 12. Healthy Paws is not so aggressive for prices in the early years but past age 8 things change.

At age 14, 24PetWatch is nearly $15 a month cheaper than second place Figo. Healthy Paws won't insure a kitty older than 12.

An annual max of $4,000 or $5,000 is rather high for a stay in the house cat.

• 24PetWatch is the only plan out of the six which allows you to select a lower annual benefit ($2,500) and as a result lower premium.

PetsBest's prices rise a little slower with age then Fetch. Fetch and Healthy Paws would be in the running if we knew we would not keep the insurance beyond 8 years of age.

♦ Whichever insurance you decide, review their policy carefully looking for wiggle words they could use to get out of paying a claim.

Look for exclusions that your pet's particular breed is susceptible to, like hip dysplasia.

How they define pre-existing conditions would be critical to understand when an older pet is being enrolled.

Plan Age Monthly Premium Deductible Reimbursement Annual Limit
24PetWatch 1 $20.40 $250 80% $4,000
24PetWatch 8 $36.97 $250 80% $4,000
24PetWatch 14 $88.29 $250 80% $4,000
ASPCA same as 24PetWach    
AKC 1 $24.07 $250 80% $5,000
AKC 8 $50.97 $250 80% $5,000
Chewy 14 $40.00 $250 80% $2,000
Embrace 1 $21.66 $250 80% $5,000
Embrace 8 $46.73 $250 80% $5,000
Embrace 14 $113.43 $250 80% $5,000
Fetch 1 $21.66 $250 80% $5,000
Fetch 8 $37.01 $250 80% $5,000
Fetch 14 $113.43 $250 80% $5,000
Figo 1 $12.50 $250 80% $5,000
Figo 8 $22.50 $250 80% $5,000
Figo 14 $82.83 $250 80% $5,000
Healthy Paws 1 $13.89 $250 80% unlimited
Healthy Paws 8 $21.89 $250 80% unlimited
Healthy Paws 12 $84.43 $250 80% unlimited
MetLife 1 $20.21 $250 80% $5,000
MetLife 8 $27.21 $250 80% $5,000
MetLife 14 $36.38 $250 80% $2,000
Nationwide 1 $25.40 $250 80% $5,000
Nationwide 8 accident only    
PetsBest 1 $21.71 $250 80% $5,000
PetsBest 8 $33.18 $250 80% $5,000
PetsBest 14 $83.73 $250 80% $5,000
PetFirst eaten by MetLife    
Trupanion 1 $26.69 $250 90% unlimited
Trupanion 8 $75.13 $250 90% unlimited
Trupanion 13 $129.41 $250 90% unlimited

What to expect ….

Simply, pet parents are happy happy at first when their pet is young, premiums are low and claims small. But owners are pissed off when their pet is older, premiums are hefty and claims are high.

Read the details

If you are going to buy pet insurance, do it after you review the plans carefully.

• Read sample policies, look for lists of things excluded and vague references to ways they can avoid paying.

• If you are concerned about certain tests being covered like x-rays and MRI’s look for clarification in the policy documents.

♦ Make note of any waiting periods, there always are some.

• Most policies do not state clearly how they will change premiums but you must expect them to go up over time.

• How do they pay? Is it based on a percentage or a schedule of benefits?

Most plans will try to use the words Reasonable and Customary to give them wiggly room to pay lower rates than a lot of veterinarian’s charge. It will be tough to find this explained clearly in the policy documents but look for stuff like this.

• Is there a maximum and what is it? A yearly maximum, lifetime maximum or condition maximum? You need to understand this stuff before you buy not years down the road.

Not insurance for life

Pet parents join these plans with the expectation of insuring they family member their entire life. Most have to make the heartbreaking decision to drop this insurance a few years down the road because they cannot afford it.

• Most pet parents sign up for insurance when their pets are young and monthly premiums are low. Premiums gradually rise at first. Trupanion reported in 2016 to the Insurance Commissioner of Washington State that the average policyholder insures their pet for only three years.

♦ Around four or five years, most companies start to aggressively raise premiums. This is because six years of age seems to be the anticipated age where vet bills start to climb and insurers would prefer you drop coverage before that happens.

Don’t be sad if you have to drop Woofy’s insurance. Setting aside a little money every month for emergencies can work just as well for most people, especially if you have a smaller dog or cat.

Brief History

24PetWatch provides Pet Protection Services and Pet Insurance policies. Many animals adopted from rescue centers have microchips with monitoring by 24PetWatch. Their US office is located in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

• They used to offer a 5% discount if you have one of their microchips. May need to call to ask.

They also offer accident-only coverage. Their insurance plans are underwritten by couple different companies depending upon where you live.

They state they no longer consider a condition to be pre-existing if it has been cured and free from symptoms and treatment for 180 day, exception being new and ligament conditions.

Their website states the do cover hereditary and congenital conditions like kidney disease, heart disease, eye disorders and hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a condition most commonly affecting large dogs but any size dog and even cats may be affected.

It would be best to read their policy for any references to exclusion and lookback periods. It is the fine print in the policy that will be used to deny a large claim.

They do say they will never cancel or downgrade your pet’s coverage because of age. However, premiums increase as your pet gets older. It is nice that they are upfront about these points.

They have a 5 out of 5-star review rating with the Better Business Bureau. This is rather surprising.

The ASPCA is not an insurer. They only lend their name to these policies for a royalty fee.

ASPCA plans are underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company and Independence American Insurance Company. These are the same two underwriters used by 24PetWatch.

They also offer accident-only coverage like 24PetWatch. In fact, ASPCA plans are identical in terms and cost to 24PetWatch. Their websites even look the same.

They originated in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. They tied up with the American Kennel Club in 2003. In 2017, they were bought up by The IHC Group.

A quick quote for Coco our cat finds she can buy an accident only plan, no illness coverage. A couple years ago the cut off was 9 years old. Now the cut off is 8 years to be able to buy injury and illness coverage.

They offer a number of add-on items like coverage for routine exams, special breed coverage, hereditary and congenital conditions. These are conditions that deep down in the policy they will most likely claim as excluded unless you purchase them as an add-on.

It is possible to find an example policy for your state. A pet parent really needs to read their policies very carefully, watching for the exclusions especially.

They state, premiums will increase as your pet ages. Premiums may also increase if benefits increase, veterinary cost inflation, and other vague actuarial changes.

Chewy sells plans. Chewy asks you to log into your account and from there they pull the information you have shared earlier with Chewy about your pet. They don’t actually have their own insurance.

They offer mostly Trupanion plans but they also offer a plan from Lemonade. No, not the drink.  Lemonade Insurance Company located in New York.

The Lemonade plan appears attractive for our older cat. The website though is very skimpy on the details.

Could not find any links to read example policies. This is usually a bad sign.

Embrace is located in Cleveland, Ohio. They sold their first policy in 2006. Little is known about them.

They allow enrollment up to 20 years old for both dogs and cats.

Your pet must have been examined by a veterinarian in the past 12 months or first 14 days of the policy with access to the records for coverage to begin. You have the option to select the annual maximum, deductible and coinsurance that you are comfortable with.

There is a link to read an example policy based upon where you live. The terms and exclusions are quite extensive and worrisome.

They have a 3.34 out 5-star review rating with the Better Business Bureau.

PetPlan is Fetch. PetPlan is a sister company of PetPlan, UK. PetPlan, UK was founded in 1976 and is the largest insurer of pets in the UK. PetPlan has licensed companies based in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, the Netherlands and France.

PetPlan was the fourth largest MGU (insurance intermediary) in the US and Canada dedicate to pet insurance. It covered more than 280,000 pets.

PetPlan, USA started selling policies in 2006. They insure dogs and cats of all ages. They cover exams as long as they are not routine.

In 2021, PetPlan entered into a partnership with AXIS Insurance. AXIS insurance was looking for a way to enter the lucrative pet insurance business.

In March of 2022, PetPlan officially rebranded itself as Fetch by The Dodo. This followed the company’s partnership with the online animal platform The Dodo.

• Fetch claims they cover 350,000 pets.

Plans are now quoted through the Fetch website. They are quite expensive. They include some things you may not need such as kennel fees and a vacation cancellation reimbursement.

• Fetch says they cover hereditary conditions linked to breeds.

An example policy could not be found at their website. A Better Business Bureau complaint has a response from Fetch about a large claim. They responded to the claim they were dragging their feet on.

It is “Fetch’s standard protocol is to review detailed medical records for the two years prior to the policy inception date, through the waiting period to the date of the treatment… We require these records to confirm whether the condition is a pre-existing condition…”

• A two-year lookback is quite a long time. Most plans refer to a one-year lookback.

A pet parent needs to read the policy in great detail after it arrives. If you are not comfortable with such a long look back you should cancel and find another insurer.

They have a 1.17 out of 5-star review rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Figo is located in Chicago. They are relatively new. They started offering plans in 2015.

Figo offered our cat three levels of coverage: Most Popular, Higher Coverage and Value Plus. But these can be customized by changing the deductible, yearly maximum and percent payment.

• The lowest annual coverage is $5,000. This is rather high for an indoors cat.

With a little effort an example policy can be found. Pre-existing conditions have a 12 months period. Undiagnosed conditions may be considered pre-existing. It is import to have an annual health exam for your pet.

If your pet’s condition has been cured and free from treatment and symptoms for a period of 12 months, that condition will no longer be subject to the pre-existing provision or exclusion. This does NOT apply to ligament and knee conditions.

Costco gold members can receive a 15% discount.

They have a 1 out of 5-star review rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance was started in 2009. They are located at Bellevue, Washington.

Healthy Paws used to compete head-to-tail with Trupanion but now Healthy Paws comes in cheaper than Trupanion in the younger years.

They state there are no maximum annual or lifetime payouts just like Trupanion.

Healthy Paw’s cut off for cat insurance seems to be 12 years. Ms. Coco cannot use this company.

• One main difference is that Healthy Paws has an annual deductible, whereas Trupanion's deductible is per-condition and lifetime.

Healthy Paws is good buy if you enroll when your pet is young. It is not a good buy if you enroll when your pet is 8 years old. At 8, cats get dinged with $1,000 deductible and low payment of 50%.

The policy for our state says there is a 15-day waiting for accidents and illnesses and 12 months if illness is related to dysplasia. The policy is underwritten by Westchester Fire Insurance Company.

• For pets younger than 6 you'll have to provide documentation of a complete physical within the last 12 months.

Pets older than 6 must have had a complete examination within the last 30 days. If not then they must have an exam not later than 15 days after the policy issued.

They have a 1 out of 5-star review rating at the Better Business Bureau.

• In 2020, MetLife gobbled up PetFirst.

During the application process they ask you to list your employer. They say you can save as much as 10%.

You can easily customize your plan by choosing a different annual benefit amount, deductible and percentage reimbursement.

A quote for 14-year-old cat doesn’t look bad at $36.38 per month but on closer inspection we find they are cutting the annual benefit down to $2,000. Pay $436 a year for possible $2,000 benefits? Keeping the money in a savings for pet emergency seems a better choice.

They try to sell an add-on for preventive care which is too expensive. A one-year-old cat would cost an additional $13 a month just for that.

The enrollment page has no link to example a policy.

They have a 1.09 out of 5-star review rating with the Better Business Bureau but this is not believable, if you take the time to read some of the reviews.

MetLife handles a number of different insurance products. The reviews shown by the BBB that are listed under MetLife Pet Insurance tend to deal with people’s dental and health plans, not pet complaints.

PetFirst had a pretty good record for handling complaints. It is not clear how well MetLife is doing for pet complaints.

Nationwide owns Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI). VPI was founded in 1980. VPI is most famous as being the company that insured Lassie.

• VPI was the first to insure exotic pets in 2000. In 2008, VPI joined with Nationwide. In 2015, the VPI name was retired.

They are one of the larger providers of pet health insurance. MetLife has been promoting Nationwide pet insurance along with their own products as one more form of company benefit.

They offered only accident coverage for Ms. Coco because of her age. A young cat is welcome but priced a little higher than other companies.

It appears the cutoff for cats is 6 years. Older than 6 and they can only buy accident coverage.

PetsBest was founded in 2005. It was located in Boise, Idaho. In 2019, it was acquired by Synchrony, a consumer finance company. The company is now called Pets Best Insurance Service. The insurance agency is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

They have three plans: Essential, Plus and Elite. Essential does not cover exam fees. Elite covers exams and also rehabilitation. They all cover emergency care, labs and x-rays. Routine care and vaccinations are not cover but this is very common for pet insurance.

A few years back we looked at this company. Their prices were reasonable. They continue to have some of the lowest prices.

You have the option to select the annual maximum, deductible and coinsurance that you are comfortable with.

A sample policy can be found by expanding the Coverage Details (a small link beneath the price chart).

The policy does not state how far back they might look for a pre-exiting condition but you can be sure they will look back when a large claim comes in.

The policy does say, your premium may change if your address changes. This is a common statement hidden in the policy.

They have a 2.83 out of 5-star review rating with the North Carolina Better Business Bureau.

PetFirst started in 2004. They are located in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They had no age limit.

They also stated something interesting that most plans do not about their review of past medical history. “We only require the last 12 months of veterinary records upon your first claim.”

They also stated, “We do not require pet parents to administer and treat their pets with all preventative care recommendations from their veterinarian, and we will not cancel your pet’s policy or deny a claim based solely on wellness care provided to your pet.”

All of this uniqueness came to an end. They were devoured by MetLife in 2020.

Trupanion was founded in Canada in 1999. In 2005, the company expanded into the United States. They are what is called self-insured.

They created a separate underwriter called American Pet Insurance Company. This company also underwrites for some other insurers.

Enrollment is limited 13 years and younger.

They advertise unlimited payouts for life.

• Trupanion has a lifetime per-condition deductible. This means you have to pay a deductible once for a condition. This is no longer explained at their website and there is no link to an example policy at their enrollment page. A Google search led to a FAQ section at their website that explains their style of deductible.

This could be a cheaper way if your pet has to receive repeated treatments for the same condition over more than one year. Usually, this type of plan is too confusing for most people to budget for.

It is difficult to understand how many different conditions our pets may need to see a veterinarian for during a year let alone their lifetime.

They have a 1.18 out 5-star review rating with the Better Business Bureau.


Submitted by AKT Thu, 01/23/2020 - 20:38
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