Auto insurance coverage. The Best Pet Insurance of 2018,

The Best Pet Insurance

The best pet insurance offers coverage that’s broad enough for whatever healthcare your dog or cat needs — with high enough limits to cushion you in a worst-case scenario. We consulted with vets and pet care experts on what’s essential (and what’s simply a nice-to-have). Then we dug into the policy details, analyzed coverage, and put each provider’s customer service to the test. Pet life insurance.

How We Chose the Best Pet Insurance

To start, we combed the web for all insurers that sell individual pet policies in all 50 states. We wanted to compare only actual insurance, so veterinary discount plans like Pet Assure or financial relief programs like Red Rover were off the list. That left us with 12 companies that offer accident and illness coverage for dogs and cats.

Comprehensive medical coverage

You want your pet’s plan to guard against the full range of costly medical issues that could occur over the course of his or her life. This means that in addition to accident and injury protection, you want continual coverage for cancer and other chronic illnesses, as well as hereditary or congenital conditions (such as cherry eye or liver shunts). The “continual” part is key here, Without it, your coverage could disappear when the policy year rolls over, even if your pet still requires care.

Coverage based on actual vet bills

All pet insurance works on a reimbursement model: You pay the vet bills yourself and then get reimbursed for covered services. Reimbursement should be based on your total vet bill, rather than on a benefit schedule or “usual and customary” charges.

The problem with benefit schedules is that they set a maximum payout for the diagnosis your pet receives. So if the actual treatment costs more, you’ll have to pay the difference out of your own pocket. “Usual and customary” reimbursement is slightly better, but it also caps payments (at amounts deemed typical for the treatment in your geographic region).

Both models are risky if your pet’s care costs end up being higher than normal, which is why we’re only recommending providers that base their reimbursement on the amount paid to the vet.

No limit for specific conditions

Additionally, a good plan should not place a limit on how much it will pay for specific conditions or incidents. Some plans have an annual maximum for covered expenses (say $10,000). Because you can’t predict what will happen to your pet, you want that full amount to be available for whatever comes up.

For example, if your cat swallows a string and needs surgery to remove it, you don’t want to find out that only 20 percent of your $10,000 benefit is eligible to pay for it. Similarly, if your puppy develops cancer, you don’t want to learn that your policy only reimburses up to $3,000/year for cancer treatments.

Prescription drug coverage

For pet owners, prescription medication is not a matter of if, but when. Pet Health and Safety Coach Arden Moore says that prescription drug coverage is vital: “Many conditions require continual medication, which can quickly get expensive without this provision.” Even small things, like a $30 bottle of ointment to treat ear infection (a recurring problem for many dog breeds), can add up over time.

To be clear, this coverage is not for preventative medications (like flea treatments), but it covers anything your vet prescribes. This makes it easy to buy prescribed medication directly from your vet, without having to worry about cost.

The 3 Best Pet Insurance Providers

Runner-Up: Good for Cats and Small Dogs

Runner-Up: Good for Young and Purebred Pets

Why we chose it

Generous tiers of coverage

Figo’s three tiers of coverage all include comprehensive medical protection. The main difference between them comes down to how much they’ll cover in a given year: $10,000, $14,000, or unlimited (though, the more coverage you have, the higher the premiums). Whichever plan you choose, Figo has perks that exceed the typical pet insurance on the market:

It pays vet exam fees (generally around $50) when the exam is related to a covered accident or illness. This comes in handy if you need to make multiple visits for something like a broken leg.

It reimburses claims within 30 days (as opposed to 60 for Trupanion).

Life insurance premium quote

It waives the copay and deductible if your pet ever needs immediate, lifesaving treatment.

It has some of the shortest waiting periods before coverage kicks in (five days for accidents, 14 for illnesses), and no additional exclusions for hip dysplasia (unlike Healthy Paws).

Cloud medical record storage

Figo's cloud-based storage system, Pet Cloud, stores your claims and pet’s medical records on its mobile app. The fact that you can access records from the company’s mobile app also has the potential to make a real difference in an emergency, and Figo is the only provider we surveyed offering it. The Pet Cloud can also geolocate Rover if he runs away, remind you when shots are due, and point out relevant landmarks like dog parks and pet stores based on your current location. Figo’s website is also a technology win, with easy-to-read coverage checklists, sample policies for both dogs and cats, and a responsive live chat.

Excellent customer service

Figo’s extra perks and generous coverage was already enough to earn Figo our top spot. But its customer service also impressed, outperforming every contender we tested. A cheerful rep took our phone call almost immediately, clearly and patiently answered every question we asked, and never once pushed us to make a purchase. Each one of our phone, email, and live chat inquiries was quickly answered with the warmth and knowledge that you’d want when it comes to your pet.

Points to consider

Relatively young company

Figo is a new company in the pet insurance market, having sold its first policy in 2015. That inexperience initially made us hesitate, but our concerns vanished when we learned its policies are underwritten by Markel Specialty, an A.M. Best A-rated company with more than 70 years in niche insurance markets.

Why we chose it

Single comprehensive plan

Healthy Paws’ single plan offers comprehensive coverage that makes it an attractive choice. There’s no limit to how much its single plan will pay out each year, and it has only a 15-day waiting period for illness and injury coverage — the shortest waiting time of our top picks.

Great customer service

Customer service through Happy Paws, underwritten by the robust global insurer Chubb, is top notch. Company representatives were prompt and courteous, both on the phone and over email, and the website made it easy to find all the info we needed. While Healthy Paws doesn’t have the high-tech wizardry of Figo’s Pet Cloud, we do appreciate that you can file claims through a mobile app.

Points to consider

Weak coverage for hip dysplasia

While Happy Paws is a solid choice for dog health insurance, owners of large-breed dogs should be wary of a specific policy rule regarding hip dysplasia, a common genetic disorder. Healthy Paws has a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia coverage regardless of breed, and won’t cover it at all if your pet enrolls after age 6. Since early onset typically shows signs at four months, and later onset is due to long-term wear and tear, these rules effectively exclude most cases of hip dysplasia.

While many cases of hip dysplasia can be treated with simple pain medication, severe cases require surgery priced between $1,000 and $7,000 per hip (depending on the recommended procedure). If you own a breed that’s predisposed to this disorder, you may want to go with one of our other top picks to avoid possibly paying for surgery out-of-pocket. But, if you’re insuring a smaller breed dog or cat, it’s a solid choice.

Why we chose it

One deductible for related complaints

Trupanion's unique deductible structure is where it really stands out. Policyholders pay a one-time deductible per condition, regardless of how many related vet visits or follow-up care the pet has throughout its lifetime. With Trupanion’s “lifetime” deductibles, you pay a separate deductible every time your pet is treated for a new condition, regardless of when it occurs. If your pet has a lifetime of skin allergy problems, and you have a $250 deductible, you’ll only pay it once, and then all related skin allergy treatments will be covered for the remainder of your pet’s life.

Great standard coverage

Trupanion’s single plan offers complete medical coverage with no annual limits on payouts. While its 30-day waiting period for illnesses is twice as long as our other top picks, it’s still a great choice for large-breed pups because it has no extra exclusions for hip dysplasia or cruciate injuries (like a torn ACL), two issues that predominantly affect large dogs.

Directly pay vet

Trupanion is currently the only one of our top picks that can pay some vets directly if the coverage is pre-approved, saving you from having to wait for reimbursement (though Figo claims this feature is coming soon).

Points to consider

Subpar customer service

Trupanion’s customer service also left a tiny bit to be desired; it didn’t respond to our email and the website’s layout isn’t as user-friendly as Figo’s. There’s also no mobile app. Trupanion has been around the longest of any of the insurers we looked at — 17 years. We take that as a positive for financial stability, but noted that it also dates their customer resources.

Could be expensive

Trupanion’s “lifetime” deductible structure could benefit pet owners with puppies, kittens, and purebreds in particular — if your pet develops a chronic condition, the one deductible payment will cover your pet’s treatment for the rest of its lifetime, and you stand to save long term. But if your pet has multiple issues in one year, keep in mind that you’ll be on the hook for multiple deductibles.

Life insurance quotes online for seniors

How to Choose a Pet Insurance Provider

Work with your vet before you seek quotes

Knowing the health risks associated with your pet’s breed will help you keep pet insurance cost down overall by avoiding spending money on a policy that doesn’t apply. Even if your pet is a mix, knowing that he or she is part Labrador can help you evaluate insurers, since some companies exclude conditions common to that breed.

Pet Health and Safety Coach Arden Moore gave us a few examples of common dog and cat breeds that are prone to developing expensive health issues:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers and Siberian Huskies: hip and elbow dysplasia, cancers, and allergies

French Bulldogs: cherry eye and brachycephalic respiratory distress

Siamese cats: asthma and hip dysplasia

Himalayan cats: polycystic kidney disease and progressive retinal atrophy

Ragdoll cats: bladder stones and HCM

Ask your vet to help you calculate the price tag for a potential worst-case scenario. The cost for vet services varies according to geographic location, so make sure you’re buying a plan that will cover you for as much as you need if your pet ever needs extensive care. Your vet can help explain the costs of specific treatments and give you an idea of how high the total could climb, allowing you to be better prepared in a crisis.

Get quotes from different providers

"How much is pet insurance?" is likely your biggest question as you research companies. The average annual premium for an accident-plus-illness plan in 2015 was $464, but cost varies widely depending on your specific pet and situation. To find the best value for your pet, you’ll need to weigh your quoted premiums against the coverage each provider offers for your pet’s health risks.

In our sister-review of the best cheap pet insurance providers, we collected quotes from each of our top picks for a variety of common pet scenarios. Check out the charts below to compare the average cost of pet insurance across different types of pets and providers.

Of all factors that influence cost, age has the biggest impact

Insuring an older dog costs more. In some cases, a lot more

These factors will change the price you’re quoted, no matter the provider. In general:

Pet insurance for dog costs more than pet insurance for cats.

An older pet costs more to insure than a younger pet.

Metropolitan life insurance

A pet that lives in an urban area costs more to insure than a pet that lives in a rural area.

The larger your dog is, the more expensive it is to insure.

How much those factors impact your cost differs widely across providers. For example, look how just how sharply premiums rise for a small, mixed-breed dog as it ages.

Insure as early as possible

It goes without saying, but your pet is never as healthy as when it’s young. The ideal time to buy pet insurance is when your pet is less than a year old, before most hereditary conditions have manifested to the point where they’d be called pre-existing. But if you’ve adopted a middle-aged or older animal, the rule of “insure as soon as possible” still applies.

Opt for insurance over self-insuring

There are plenty of cost-benefit analyses out there, including one from Consumer Reports that suggests setting money aside for your pet rather than buying insurance. But while it’s true you may never recoup the premiums you pay to the insurance company (which is a good thing since it means your pet stayed healthy), there are problems with this approach.

First, it relies on time passing to allow the savings to build up. If your cat gets sick two months into your $40/month savings plan, you have $80 to put toward its care rather than a potential $10,000 or more if you’d paid that $80 as premiums. There’s also a peace-of-mind benefit from knowing your pet is covered: You’ll probably worry less and allow them more freedom.

Read your policy’s “pre-existing conditions” section carefully

This might sound familiar from your experience with human health plans: Pre-existing conditions aren’t covered. Knowing your pet has a certain medical issue makes him or her way riskier to insure, which is why all pet insurers exclude pre-existing conditions. But the way they define them in their policies varies. For this reason, it’s crucial to read the actual policy (which is sure to be referenced in any dispute) for vague or misleading definitions that could come back to bite you.

Carry documentation with you

Whether your pet insurance provider allows you to access your pet’s medical documents via app or website, or you need to make due with hard copies, make sure you know where they are and can access them in hurry.

Pet Insurance FAQs

The Best Pet Insurance: Summed Up

More Pet Insurance Reviews

We’ve been researching the top pet insurance providers for quite some time, and we’ve compiled a list of previous reviews covering several different categories and use cases below.

rates-life-insurance.com
Overall rating page: 3.6 / 5 left 116 people.

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