For most pet owners, pet insurance is the best way to protect themselves from financial hardship caused by a pet’s injury or sickness. The increased popularity in pet insurance has caused a surge in companies to enter the US market in recent years and each pet insurance company offers slightly different plans, making it difficult for pet owners to choose among the different plans.
Colorado Health Agents independently reviewed the 12 most popular pet insurance companies since 2008. Embrace Pet Insurance ranked highest or tied for highest in every category including price, benefits, network availability, and customer satisfaction – easily convincing us to use Embrace as our preferred pet insurance provider.
Every Embrace policy protects your pet against:
- Genetic and Congenital Conditions
- Alternative and Complementary Therapies such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture
- Cancer and Chemotherapy
- Surgery and Hospitalization
- Laboratory Work and Diagnostic Tests including blood, urine, fecal, ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans
- Drugs administered during your pet’s stay in a veterinary clinic
- Dental Trauma due to an accident
Embrace Pet Insurance offers a customizable policy unlike any other on the market. This means that as a pet parent you decide how much and what type of coverage you want. Each pet on your policy can have different maximums, deductibles, and optional coverages. For example, if you have a young, healthy dog and an older, indoor cat then you could customize pet insurance coverages for each pet to get just the right level of protection. You can customize:
- Annual Maximum: Choose from $2,000, $5,000, or $10,000 per year
- Annual Deductible: Choose from $100, $200, or $500 per year
- Co-pay: Choose from 10%, 20%, or 35%
- Prescription Drug and Dental Illness Coverage: Choose whether you want this or not
- Continuing Care Coverage: Choose whether you want this or not
A customizable policy gives you a choice on how you want to split your veterinary bills with the insurance company. For example, one of the best ways to keep your premium low but still provide maximum protection is to choose a policy with a high-deductible and a high annual maximum. So if you choose a $500 deductible with a $10,000 maximum, you have excellent major medical pet insurance that won’t pay for the small incidents but is there to really protect you from the big stuff.
On the other hand, if you’re a student or a senior on a budget and you want to minimize your out-of-pocket costs then you can modify your pet insurance coverage to have a lower deductible and a lower co-pay. And it’s easy to do. The best thing is, you never have to sacrifice coverage and you get to choose how much you want to pay out of every veterinary bill and how much you want Embrace to pay.
Are there any “gotchas”? Well, not really, although pre-existing conditions are not covered – some may not be covered permanently while others may be covered in your second policy year onwards. See the pre-existing condition guidelines for a more detailed explaination.
Veterinary medicine has advanced rapidly in recent years and nowhere is this more obvious than with pet meds. As well as the usual medications designed specifically for cats and dogs, veterinarians are in many cases also able to prescribe human medications for your pet.
Many, many illnesses and some congenital conditions are treatable with drugs. Some of these drugs can be expensive when you realize that your pet has to take them for a long time, perhaps even the rest of her life. For example,
- Osteoarthritis can be treated with Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Etogesic, or Previcox costing $1 to $2 or more per tablet
- Congenital heart disease and high blood pressure can be treated with Lasix or Enalapril costing 20 to 50 cents per tablet
- Diabetes can be treated with insulin such as Vetsulin costing $1 or more per day
- Cognitive dysfunction can be treated with Selegiline costing 40 to 50 cents per tablet
- Skin allergies and canine dermatitis can be treated with Cyclosporine costing $1.50 or more per tablet
Prescription Drug Restrictions:
When there is a bioequivalent generic, it is required that your veterinarian prescribe this, it costs less and keeps everyone’s pet insurance affordable. For example, Atopica and Cyclosporine are bioequivalent yet Cyclosporine can be 35% cheaper.
Non-prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) items are not covered including:
- Flea, tick, and worm medications
- Heartworm medications
- Nutraceuticals like Cosequin or Glyco Flex
- Prescription food
Gum disease is unfortunately very common in dogs and cats with the number one problem being periodontal disease. Advanced dental disease is also known to cause bacterial deposits on the valves in the heart so keeping your pet’s teeth and gums clean and free of disease helps protect both the heart and other major organs.
This extra coverage protects your pet against illnesses related to the teeth and gums. For example, it reimburses you for the treatment of:
- Malignant or Cancerous Growths
- Feline ondoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL)
Embrace will reimburse you for:
- Oral examination
- Surgical removal of teeth
- X-rays and Dental Radiology
- Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
- Anesthesia and Pain Medication
- Bone Implants
Embrace does not generally cover any of the following:
- Orthodontic Treatment including crowns
- Endodontic Treatment including root canals
- Fluoride Treatment
- Professional teeth cleaning not associated with an illness
Continuing Care Coverage:
We strongly recommend that every pet parent add Continuing Care because it gives your pet the broadest protection available against long-term conditions. Continuing Care Coverage reimburses* you for treatment of an accident or illness that first showed up in a prior period of insurance. In other words, it protects your pet against chronic illnesses or problems that last more than 12 months, including allergies, diabetes, thyroid imbalances, and osteoarthritis, to name a few.
* The maximum reimbursement you can receive in any given year for chronic conditions is 25% of your policy maximum. For example, if you choose $10,000 as your annual maximum then your continuing care coverage provides up to $2,500 (25% x $10,000) of protection against any chronic conditions that your pet required treatment for.
Why choose Embrace Pet Insurance?
1. You can customize your own plan
Embrace is an innovative pet insurance company that has changed the pet insurance model by letting pet owners build a custom pet insurance policy tailored to their budget. The pet owner specifies maximum cash outlay, deductible, co-pay, and optional coverage. In total, there are potentially thousands of different combinations but the beauty of the Embrace approach is that everything is packaged into an easy-to-use process that requires less than 60 seconds to get a quote, and only a few more to buy a policy. The application is completed online, the policy is clearly explained, and then delivered via e-mail just seconds after purchase.
2. Claims Based on UCR Method – Not a Benefit Schedule
Embrace opts for the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) method of reimbursement. Most pet insurers pay claims based on a benefit schedule. Benefit schedules are determined by the insurance company and limit the amount of payout. UCR policies tend to deliver more generous payments since UCR takes into account variables such as increased pricing for emergency care and regional price differences. With Embrace the customer – not the insurer – chooses the annual maximum payout. This guarantees fewer surprises when seeking reimbursement. Plus, every Embrace policy comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
3. You can visit any veterinarian in the United States
With Embrace, you can go to any veterinarian in all 50 states and obtain care for your pet. The client pays the bill out of pocket and submits a reimbursement claim. Embrace in turn promises to turn around the claim in ten business days.
4. There are no excluded breeds or age maximums
Another difference: Embrace doesn’t exclude any breeds. And once your pet insured with Embrace they cannot “age” out of the insurance (yet another reason to get that policy early!).
5. Genetic and Congenital Conditions are covered
Some pet insurance plans are ambiguous about their coverage of genetic and congenital conditions, and deny claims that pet owners expect to be covered. Embrace includes coverage for genetic conditions, including cancer, into all of its plans. Embrace is the the only per insurance company in the United States we have found to date – updated July 23, 2008.
6. They cover a chronic and recurring conditions
This determines whether the plan will continue paying for treatment of a single illness over several years. Many companies will limit treatment of a single illness (like cancer) to a single year or per-incident claim limit, but Embrace will cover them for the duration of the illness and without a per-incident claim limit.
7. They have the highest customer satisfaction
They have consistently received excellent customer feedback. Embrace ranks highest in nearly every category on petinsurancereview.com, where pet owners rate their own pet insurance policies.
How Pet Insurance Works
Pet insurance is actually quite flexible. All pet insurance companies in the United States permit you to visit any veterinarian in the country including general, specialist, and emergency veterinarians. Some pet insurance companies, including Embrace, will even cover you in Canada, Mexico, and other parts of the world when you are on vacation.
Insurance for your dog or cat is what is known as a indemnity insurance where you pay the claim up front and the company reimburses you after applying your deductible and co-pay, until you reach your policy’s annual or lifetime maximum.
Step 1: Get a Policy
Most pet insurance companies will issue a new policy to pets aged 8 weeks to up to 8 or even 10 years old, sometimes older if your pet undergoes a medical exam. Usually there is a waiting period and some pre-existing conditions may be excluded temporarily or permanently from your policy.
Step 2: The Waiting Period
The waiting period is the time between when you first sign up for cat or dog insurance and when your full coverage kicks in. For example, if you sign up and begin coverage on March 1st then your waiting period for accidents may be two or three days after, say March 3rd, and for illnesses as long as 4 weeks later, say March 31st.
Most pet insurance companies have a waiting period of between 2 and 14 days for accidents and between 14 and 30 days for illnesses. The waiting period is there so that no one takes out insurance immediately after an accident or illness.
The waiting period only applies in your first policy year, after that there is no waiting period on your pet insurance.
Step 3: Making a Claim
Once you’ve gone to the veterinarian, you pay the bill and fill out a claim form that your veterinarian signs. You fax or mail this form in to the pet insurance company along with your paid and itemized veterinary bill.
Some pet parents wonder why the pet insurance company can’t reimburse the veterinarian directly like in human health insurance.
The main reason is that pet insurance is a very, very small industry compared to human health insurance. The computer systems aren’t in place that would allow direct reimbursement to the veterinarian and these networks are incredibly expensive to build.
However many companies, including Embrace, can and do make exceptions to this but these must be arranged between you, your veterinarian, and the pet insurance company on a case-by-case basis.
Step 4: You Receive Your Claim Check
Once you’ve sent in your claim form, it is assessed and you usually receive a check or direct deposit back into your account minus any deductible or co-pay that apply to your policy, until you reach your policy’s annual maximum.
If you paid for additional coverages like routine care or prescription drugs then these will be reimbursed on your claim too according to your pet insurance plan’s limits.
Why You Don't Need Routine Care Coverage
Routine care includes all those treatments and vet visits that you do every year for the benefit of your cat or dog’s health. Most routine care coverage includes:
- Annual checkups
- Prophylactic teeth cleaning
- Spaying & neutering
Those that argue pet insurance should include routine care believe that it’s not about money, it’s about a hassle-free life. They don’t want to worry about what is or is not covered, they just want to send in their veterinary bills. They pay a regular premium and, in exchange, everything is covered. What’s not to like about that?
Then there are those that argue pet insurance should not cover routine care. They understand that insurance is for the unexpected things in life. These pet parents don’t want pet insurance to pay for routine visits that are predictable because they know what insurance is for.
Ultimately when pet insurance includes routine care it ends up costing you more, in the form of higher premiums, than if you had just paid yourself. Why? Because insurance companies have overhead when processing a claim.
Just imagine how much more expensive car insurance would be if it included oil changes, tire rotations, and a checkup every 10,000 miles. The $300 to $400 that most of us pay for our car insurance every 6 months would probably double or triple. The same thing happens to pet insurance when it includes routine care.
Embrace strongly supports routine care for your pet, just not routine care coverage for pet insurance.
Coverage For Genetic Conditions
There are hundreds of genetic conditions that affect dogs and cats. Most pet insurance companies consider genetic conditions to be pre-existing and do not cover them. However, Embrace is one of the few companies that covers genetic conditions. Treating genetic conditions may involve drugs, for example NSAIDs to treat oesteoarthritis, or even surgery, say to treat cancer. This care can be expensive and having pet insurance that covers genetic conditions is an effective way to manage these unexpected costs.
Coeverage for Pre-Existing Conditions
In general, pet insurance companies exclude any health issue that appeared before the start of your policy, even if the condition has not yet been clearly diagnosed or is in remission. These exclusions may be temporary or permanent and some companies allow coverage for the condition to start again after an incident-free period of time has passed.
But it gets more complicated. At renewal, some companies reset the pre-existing conditions and cut off coverage for chronic illnesses. This coverage is less expensive than policies that cover chronic conditions as long as you continue to pay your premiums but might not be what you expected from your pet insurance policy.
Embrace will not cover health conditions that occurred during the year before your policy first started or chronic conditions you already knew about when you signed up. They may remove exclusions if the condition has not reappeared for a year, and also give you the option of choosing Continuing Care Coverage so that your pet is always protected against chronic conditions.
See some examples of how Embrace handles pre-existing conditions
All pet insurance plans have a waiting period, normally just when you first sign up. There is usually one waiting period for accidents and a separate one for illnesses although they both start at the same time. This prevents people taking out insurance just to make a claim and this makes it fairer for everybody that is insured.
Embrace has a 14 day waiting period for both accidents and illnesses, and a 6 month waiting period for cruciate ligament injuries. The waiting period for cruciate ligament injuries can be shrunk to 14 days if you provide a letter from you veterinarian that shows your pet currently has no cruciate injury. There is no waiting period when your policy renews.