Pet Insurance…Is it worth the price?

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At some point before my cat Fred was diagnosed with cancer, I decided to investigate pet health insurance.  It had been a while since my cats had been checked out and I knew they would both need expensive procedures like having their teeth cleaned.  So I set off and started investigating Pet Health Insurance.  After doing a lot of research, I fould that there were only a couple of companies that would accept older pets like Fred and Jewel, so I started reading the reviews on these providers.  One pet insurance provider in particular stood out…ASPCA Pet Insurance.  I wanted to use Banfield at Petsmart, but they would not accept the cats due to their age.

ASPCA was a name that I trusted, and the reviews seemed favorable, so I decided to bite the bullet and get policies for both of my cats plus the little newborn kitten my wife found during Tropical Storm Fay.  Things went fairly smoothly, and I paid the first month’s premium for the cats.  First, we took the kitten in for her shots and a general checkup.  The total for the shots and exam came to something like $139 and I submitted a claim to the ASPCA Pet insurance office.

A few weeks passed during which time I took the kitten back in for boosters and submitted two more claims to ASPCA.  During this time, I logged in and made an account and had customer service combine the accounts under one online ID.  So far so good.  About a month passed and I had all but forgotten about the $200 and something claims that I had submitted, so I logged on to see the status.  As it turns out, the first claim was processed but the EOB said there was no payout since I had to meet my one-time $100 deductible, which was for all three policies.  The booster vaccine claims were rejected since these particular boosters “were not covered.”  Ok…fine.

Later, I took in the other cats for their checkups.  Jewel got looked at and had some minor issues like ear mites and dandruff, so I got these things taken care of and submitted claims for them.  I also took Fred, and this is when he was diagnosed with hip neoplasia.  According to the insurance documents, all of these things should have been covered at 80%.  But when I checked my EOB, it said that there were no eligible claims.  I contacted them and was told that the exams were indeed covered and I was issued a check for a grand total of $17 for those.  Why $17?  Because they only pay “reasonable” costs, with the term “reasonable” defined by THEM.

With Jewel’s checkup and minor issues, a $120 claim was simply denied outright.  No explanations.  After I contacted them, I was told it was because they “could not locate prior health records”.  Nowhere was this mentioned when I got the policies.  Next, Fred.  His claim ($279) was denied since they say he had a “pre-existing condition”.  I took him in for a limp…ith no idea that he would have cancer!  With the way things were going with ASPCA pet insurance, I opted at this point to cancel the policies.  I also wrote to them and contested their prior decisions, only to be sent a rather cold response…my original policy documents.  In other words, they were telling me to buzz off.

I carefully reviewed the policy documents and read the fine print.  According to my calculations, I should have gotten reimbursements for a lot of the services that ASPCA denied.

My advice to anyone with a pet or considering a pet is this:

  1. Pet Insurance will end up costing you more money than it is worth unless you go with a reputible pet insurance company.  My friend uses Banfield, and has saved thousands with them.
  2. Pet Insurance underwriters at ASPCA will find a way to contest and refute any of your claims
  3. If you need Pet Insurance then perhaps you really cannot afford the pet.  Why?  Because owning a pet means you need to be prepared for regular routine health checkups and maintenance costs.  You also need to be sure you have the money for food and toys and other things like pet carriers and pet beds.  If you are gonna do it, do it when they are kittens and use the insurance frequently to keep your pet healthy and to get your money’s worth out of the plan.

Bottom line – just pay for animal medical care as you go if you have an older pet…it will be a lot less frustrating in the end.  As for the favorable reviews for ASPCA…never underestimate the ability of the insurance companies to hire their own review-writers.

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