The Fine Print:
To me this is the best weapon of the insurance companies to NOT do what they say they will: cover the costs of vet bills. What is important to remember, their first goal is profit, not insurance. so decisions and choices made by the company are made through the lens of the company's needs, not yours or your pets.
I do think Pet Insurance can be a good idea; as with all insurances, READ THE FINE PRINT. They bury the nasty stuff in there, the clauses and excuses to take your premiums yet deny coverage.
For instance: Does yours exclude normal behavior?
Pet insurance, like most forms of insurance, definitely qualifies as a “Buyer Beware” purchase.
The Hard Way
Jamie Richardson found that out the hard way when her seven-year old dog Muddy tore a ligament in his leg and her insurance company Petsecure refused to cover his veterinary care. One reason for denying the claim was that Muddy was running when he hurt himself. Specifically, he was happily running through the woods, which can also be described as “being a dog”.
Unfortunately for Richardson, “being a dog” is essentially excluded in her accident policy. The fine print states that any injury sustained while the dog is “jumping, running, slipping, tripping or playing” is not covered.
Additionally, any accident that the guardian does not witness is not covered. In Muddy’s case, even if he had torn his ligament in full view of Richardson while he was, say, eating his dinner, none of the $4,200 in veterinary costs would have been reimbursed by the insurance company due to a “pre-existing condition” clause that relates to arthritis or degenerative joint issues.
Though X-rays at the time of surgery showed no signs of arthritis, the fact that the presence of bone spurs had been noted in Muddy’s medical records allows the insurance company to deny the claim. That’s true even though the surgeon said that the accident was not caused by arthritis and the veterinarian pointed out that those bones spurs are normal for seven-year old dogs, and minor to boot. Two vets saying no pre-existing conditions are present does not prevent the insurance company from denying the claim based on the “pre-existing condition” clause.
Richardson has cancelled her policy, since it did her no good at all. She borrowed money to pay her bills, and is now saving a little each month just in case Muddy has another accident or an illness that requires expensive veterinary care. She continues to let him be a dog, though, and he still runs through the woods near her home in Yukon.
What To Do?
Pet insurance can be a good idea, you have to do your homework and look for the escape clauses in the coverage (that's them escaping paying you).
Read EVERY word of the policy.
- Pre-existing condition clause, even if unrelated to the incident?
- Limitations of coverage?
- Which vets will they pay or how do they determine how much they will compensate you?
- Be suspicious of any language or wording that seems obscure or unclear- it is not likely to be in your best interests.
- Check reviews of the company online from a few sources.
- Consider what things you are most concerned about for your pet and insurance: accident, injury, illness.
- Vet bills can be ridiculously expensive and most of us simply hand over the credit card in a crisis. Insurance can seem as a good fall back, but as the story above illustrates, it can end up being a black hole, sucking money time and rage as they do not provide the coverage you anticipated.
Its awful when something happens to our pets and money is such a big part of care for them. Be smart, be aware and be careful.