Sicko, For Pets!

“I just got off of the phone with the insurance company [VPI Pet Insurance] that covers our puppy. They advertise a broad range of protections for pets and make lots of promises about the great coverage that they offer. They were recommended to us by our vet as one of the most reliable in the field. It seems, though, that they are just as shady and unreliable as so many other insurance companies that we hear horror stories about.”

About eight weeks ago, our dog was treated for a stomach bug, a bout of diarrhea. He was treated and we submitted the claim. This one was denied because it fell between the time when we applied for the insurance and when the policy kicked in. No problem. Then, several weeks later, he had some vomiting, we took him to the vet and filed a claim with the insurance company [VPI]. Now that claim is being denied. They are claiming that all stomach-related illnesses fall under the category of “pre-existing conditions” although he has no chronic stomach problems and the two incidents were entirely unrelated to one another. Both incidents occurred after we applied for the policy, but the second one is being denied because we filed the first one during the short window before the policy kicked in. This seems entirely unfair, as we applied for the policy in total good faith, when he was in great health. Now I am told that we cannot get reimbursed for any medical expenses related to stomach issues, because they will all fall under the category of pre-existing illness, although he has no illnesses to speak of. He will have to go for a full year without any stomach problems (almost impossible for many puppies) before we can apply to have the exemption removed.

I’m not sure what to do, other than to write a long letter to the Insurance company and to alert everyone to the unethical practices of VPI Insurance. They don’t care about pets, only about profit.

Yours,
Barry T.

It’s almost like VPI, and said hey, those are some great ideas. Let’s do the same thing, except for pets.

We don’t know, can you file a chargeback against an insurance company? Otherwise, yes, take your own advice and write a letter to the company. But don’t make it long. And don’t make it about how unethical they are. Make it about how you feel there was a misunderstanding and you feel your claim was unfairly denied. Here’s a how to to get you started.

(Photo: Catskills Grrl)

Comments

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  1. hoosierdaddy812 says:

    I say write up a decent complaint to the Insurance company. Don’t whine and moan about how they are being unfair and unethical but send them a mature and professional letter of complaint and you are sure to get an answer. If need be maybe the Consumerist can get the number of the CEO and you can address your complaint to him.

  2. Steve518 says:

    Though I can’t offer any useful response, I’d be very interested to see what comes of this. I was actually recommended VPI by my vet, but I ended up going with the insurance through the ASPCA. so far, I haven’t had to use it yet.

  3. mike1731 says:

    I seem to recall Consumer Reports did something on pet insurance, and ended up questioning it’s value for exactly these sort of reasons — they were selective about “pre-existing conditions”, only provided partial reimbursements, etc.

    My first thought would be to cancel the insurance and move on. Another thought would be to write my state insurance commissioner (cc’ing VPI on everything) complaining about this denial.

    Not sure what their experience with pet illness has been, but we have two dogs and have been very lucky (knock on wood!) with no major medical issues other than having to have some dental work done. I’d get a great vet and discuss preventative medicine routines while they have a puppy, then move from there.

    Totally sad story, though! Makes you hate insurance companies more than normal to hear things like this.

  4. beavis88 says:

    One of our cats got hepatic lipidosis a few years back. With his total vet bills in the thousands of dollars, I took a long look at pet health insurance. My conclusion was that, if you have some savings, or even just access to credit cards, you’re far better off pocketing the premiums and skipping the insurance. Even overlooking all the exceptions and gotchas, the reimbursement rates were rarely high enough to cover more than 50-60% of the actual costs we incurred. In our case, treatment was provided through an animal hospital, so perhaps rates would have been lower elsewhere – and thus insurance, relatively speaking, a better deal.

    Bottom line is that the insurance company is in it to make money. Unless you are living on a very tight budget, or don’t have ready access to credit, I would recommend putting those insurance premiums into an interest-bearing savings account somewhere and using that as your insurance policy instead. Thousand dollar vet bills are nothing to sneeze at – but they’re not going to kill you the way a hundred thousand dollar hospital bill might. Plan your risk mitigation strategies accordingly.

  5. LSonnenhimmer says:

    I am stunned that this is even on consumerist. While pets are cute and all there is a real problem to with the health care industry that need to be addressed first. Why all this interference with the real issues?

  6. v12spd says:

    We used VPI when we bought our puppy. Signed up for the Platinum Premier whatever plan that supposedly covered everything including spaying/neutering. We figured that the full coverage on fixing our pup would pay for the plan itself. We paid around 35 dollars a month as part of a promotion. We had her fixed and microchipped so she wouldnt have to go in twice. Then when we finally get our check back from them two months later, it was only for 90 dollars! Apparently since we chipped our dog in the same procedure, it voided the full reimbursement for the other operation. Thats like saying if I went to the doctor and he cured a cough and some back pain, the insurance wouldnt cover it since the cough was what I went in for. We cancelled right away and pay out of pocket now, luckily their check covered the monthly payment for our first few and last months with them. If anyone knows of a better pet insurance, do tell, and consumerist should do a write up of trustworthyreliable companies, I know of more than a few people who think the concept is great, but the application is crap.

  7. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Not to take the insurance company’s side on this, but how are they to know that a bout of vomiting one week *isn’t* related to a bout of diarhhea a couple weeks later? You have to understand an insurance company’s job is to calculate risk. The odds are that a puppy is not going to get sick twice in a x-week period, but your dog did. Therefore, looking at it from a purely analytical standpoint, your dog is a “high risk” insuree. So you’re gonna pay for it. That’s the way it is.

    You should’ve known better than to submit a claim to an insurance company before a policy was even instated. Now you know for the future. I don’t think you’re going to get anything out of the company, IMHO.

  8. pearlie69 says:

    We signed up for VPI when we got our puppy too. We weren’t sure how high the costs would be for vaccinations, spaying, and other office visits during her first year. I would say we would consistently only be reimbursed about 50% of our expenses, when we thought we’d have 100% full coverage. After the year was up, we decided not to renew.

  9. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    If you want to save money on pets and don’t have one now, the smartest thing to do is get one from the shelter. They’ll have been tested for pre-existing conditions, will have all their shots, and mixed breeds are usually healthier. Vet bills can be ASTRONOMICAL.

  10. beyond says:

    Cancel the insurance and get a healthier dog.

  11. whereismyrobot says:

    Has anyone had experience with Banfield Animal Hospital Insurance or their vets in general?

  12. umonster says:

    UrbanHound.com did a review of pet insurers: [ny.urbanhound.com]

    They didn’t particularly like VPI’s payouts. And they bemoaned the general lack of transparency and standards in the industry. Pet Assure has a discount program — not exactly insurance, but you get a break in price at the vet’s office. If your vet’s in their network, it seems like a good deal, and you don’t have to worry about reimbursements.

  13. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I’ve had generally good service with Banfield vets when I take kittens and cats in with minor issues (though others have had bad experiences; vets do vary no matter where they office out of). The insurance is pricey and covers nearly nothing: I had one cat on it since he had issues as a kitten, but the deductible was ridiculous; I wound up paying more at the end of the day, counting premium payments, than I would have with no insurance at all.

  14. ilovemypooch says:

    There’s a company called PET ASSURE, which im a member of. They are NOT ‘insurance’ but simply a vet savings paln. I save 25% at my vet!! I have 4 dogs and only pay like $150 a year – I made that back tenfold on my 4 pooches.
    Here’s what they say on their site:
    • They accept ANY type of animal, at ANY age, in ANY health condition.
    • There are NO forms to fill out or send in.
    • There are NO waiting periods. Benefits begin when your membership materials arrive.
    • There are NO deductibles, benefit caps, or limits.
    • There are NO health-related exclusions. Pre-existing conditions are not a problem.
    • There is no fine print.

  15. forever_knight says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: I did exactly what you recommend and have paid more than a thousand in vet bills so far. And that’s not even having the surgery to repair an ACL that he somehow tore.

    Whether you get a pet from a shelter or from a breeder, you aren’t guaranteed a healthy animal.

  16. bohemian says:

    VPI used to be sort of straightforward, they have adopted all of the cost saving strategies of the human health insurance industry. We looked at VPI after our older dog had some major medical issues. There were so many clauses that we really wouldn’t get our money back.
    Your better off sticking some money in savings.

  17. maebyfunke says:

    I’ve had VPI for about 5 or 6 years now, and my monthly payment has grown to $50 a month. My cat is now 13, and has some health issues but not anything that has been costing me money. My biggest issue with VPI is one that was stated above. I’ll pay a vet bill with my credit card, and the reimbursement is so minimal! My husband and I are considering cancelling it. We have access to credit cards, so God forbid if something were to happen we could charge it. The monthly payment is just so much now that it’s a big decision. Also, VPI takes about 30-60 days in general to get a payment after you send in your claim. They are slooooow and have horrid phone support when you have a question. Their website is for shit too. I’ve been on hold for 45 minutes with them just to have a simple question answered. I am starting to think VPI isn’t worth the trouble.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    As sleazy as VPI is, I’m glad they’re a bleeding abcess on pet owners, so Consumerist had the excuse to put this excellent, excellent kitty picture online.

  19. Youthier says:

    @beyond: Get a healthier dog? Sorry, while I’m not an pet=human sort of person, my dog is a part of my family and I’m wouldn’t just abandon it for vomiting on the floor. People don’t take pet commitments seriously enough!

  20. MercuryPDX says:

    @beavis88: if you have some savings, or even just access to credit cards, you’re far better off pocketing the premiums and skipping the insurance.

    QFT! I did some research about VPI when I got my dog, and even asked for opinions in the Greyhound newsgroups. Most said exactly what you did: Skip it, they’re out to make money off of you. Open up a savings account for “Rover” or “Fluffy” and put your “monthly premium” in there.

  21. JRuiz47 says:

    @LSonnenhimmer:

    You’re right.

    This post obviously takes away from the limited posting power of The Consumerist.

    It’s not like there are pet owners who could use the power of consumerism to get a little extra money in their pocket or service for their buck.

    Within two posts, I learned of something new (the ASPCA insurance) and am looking at it for my two dogs.

    If you’re waiting for The Consumerist to address this nation’s health care problems, then you really don’t care enough about it to do something yourself.

    Good post, Ben.

  22. trillium says:

    VPI was recommended to me as well for both of my cats. I refused to utilize it and am glad that I did. While dealing with the death of my oldest cat, I spoke with another pet owner at my vets. She had just gone through a bout of cancer treatment (which is what my oldest died from), and VPI wouldn’t pay any of the vet bills stating that the cancer was a pre-existing condition prior to coverage. This was despite the tumor being found relatively early in the developement of the disease. I am unsure what happened to her and her pet, but it still irks me when there is a company that is a financial buden on top of the actual bills for pet care.

  23. crichardson79 says:

    I got a puppy and right away signed up with Petsmart and their insurance type plan. You pay $100 dollars up front to join then $20 a month. It cover all doctor appointments, tests, shots, and spay or neutering of my puppy. The only thing it doesn’t cover is medicine. This was the best move I could have made with my puppy. She has been sick a few times already and I have saved over $300 dollars. I highly recommend Petsmart.

  24. @pearlie69: “We signed up for VPI when we got our puppy too. We weren’t sure how high the costs would be for vaccinations, spaying, and other office visits during her first year.”

    Any reputable vet should be able to tell you what the cost of spay/neuter and first-year vax will be, as well as their typical costs for routine office visits. (Frankly, the vast majority of vets would LOVE for you to call and find this out BEFORE YOU ADOPT.)

    Frankly I’m surprised (from other comments in this thread) that anyone who’s concerned about the cost of routine pet ownership pays to get INSURANCE for it. If the costs are that concerning, it would seem that research on costs is the way to go, not paying MORE out of pocket to get insurance.

    I am sympathetic to the desire to have insurance in case of more serious conditions: I have a diabetic cat that cost an arm and a leg to get initially regulated and now costs me in syringes and insulin (plus extra tests every checkup). It was a financial strain. But most vets offer payment plans on expensive procedures and in most cases you’re financially better off paying that way rather than paying premiums on insurance.

    But seriously, people, if you can’t afford routine veterinary care, probably you shouldn’t be acquiring a pet. Paying for insurance is only going to make it cost more.

    (And for God’s sake, adopt from the shelter!)

  25. Oh, also, if you need discount veterinary care, check with your county shelter. They often have deals with local vets.

  26. storm says:

    I’m really interested to read this. While I too am not in the pet=human category, my wife and I love our two dogs and would be destroyed if we had to choose between our dogs and money. As a result, we bought VPI insurance after my lab had an abscess and my pug swallowed a chicken wing.

    When I got my lab’s insurance form, VPI was trying to claim that “abscesses” were a pre-existing condition. I wrote back and said, no an abscess is just something that happens when a cut gets infected and one has nothing to do with the other.

    I am not holding my breath if our lab gets into something and gets another abscess, even though this doesn’t even remotely square with what “pre-existing condition” means.

  27. @LSonnenhimmer: That makes no sense.

    While pets are cute and all there is a real problem to with the health care industry that need to be addressed first.

    I suppose we also can’t have posts about porn stealing computer techs because of id theft as well. Also, we shouldn’t have any posts about restaurant service until world hunger ends.

    How does a post about pet insurance interfere with any discussion on medical insurance?

  28. kenposan says:

    Didn’t read the article but pet insurance is useless.

  29. The Bigger Unit says:

    Just like all insurance companies…”buy our insurance, just don’t fuckin’ use it”.

  30. alicetheowl says:

    @whereismyrobot: It’s good for preventative care, but I haven’t had the opportunity to find out how great it is for treatment. When a stray, half-starved kitten wandered into our yard, my husband and I realized we’d have to get her some health care and FeLV tests, so we signed up for Banfield’s “insurance” so all of our cats would be covered. It works out to paying 50% of the costs of preventative care in installments, rather than all at once. The kitten’s immunizations, tests and spaying are covered for the year, rather than all at once when we couldn’t afford it.

    As for the quality of care, I was pretty impressed. They had a lot of communication going with us, gave the kitten an adjustment period with me in the room before putting her out for spaying (she was so untraumatized by the vet visit, she climbs into the cat carrier whenever we take it out), and they checked all of our cats quite thoroughly and brought their shots up-to-date.

    It’s probably not worth it next year; there are fewer shots to be done, so we’ll be able to pay out-of-pocket for their preventative care. But paying only 50% for preventative and being on something of a payment plan is the biggest benefit to Banfield’s “insurance.”

    I keep putting it in quotes because it feels more like a discount than insurance.

  31. Steve518 says:

    Followup to the post and my previous comment, my dog (got her from the shelter, the only way to go for me) has the potential to have surgery in the upcoming years because of a particular leg ailment. It’s not a preexisting or congenital one according to their list of non-covered illnesses. The costs out of pocket would be much higher compared to the coverage that my insurance would provide. I did the due diligence by calling the insurer twice (two different reps) to get the best amount of info in making a decision.

    As to whether or not I’ll still get hosed by a loophole down the line, that remains to be seen.

  32. emmajane says:

    The banfield (petsmart’s vet) plan, does save you money…vs getting THEIR services individually. If you look at the columns on your receipt-they’ll list a comprehensive exam (which is just a physical exam, nothing else)as being $90 and then list everything separately-including the latex gloves they’ll use in surgery, and so on. Then it will show “no charge” for you if you’re on their wellness plan, so it seems like you’ve “saved” quite a bit. However, I think most people are better off getting a regular vet and paying their set charges instead of paying $20/month, plus $100 membership fee. But, hey, it works out for some people because they don’t have to fork out as much at spay/neuter time. Keep in mind, though, that they’ll try and get you to pay out of pocket then, too…You don’t want to send Fido home w/o EXTRA pain meds, do you???

    And by the way, yes, I used to work there, and I left on very good terms, but just think there’s better deals out there for pet care.

  33. CaptainSemantics says:

    Sorry, I saw the first question about Banfield and immediately scrolled down. So if this has already been resoundingly answered, please accept my apology. We had an awful experience with Banfield. And by awful, I mean that the vet tech couldn’t find our dog’s vein. After waiting about 45 minutes for a simple set of shots, we finally got an inept vet tech that seemed surprised that we fed our dog beef or chicken every night. Yes, a bit too much, but after the pet food scare, we decided it would be best for Tonka. She was able to complete one test, the one where they test their feces. After that, she tried two times on his right front leg’s vein with no success. Then, she tried the other front leg once before we stopped the whole visit. Tonka is an average-sized husky, so it is not hard to find his vein. We paid for the one test they were able to pull off and left. We were there for a total of 1 1/2 hours, and there were no customers ahead of us. We never even SAW a vet, nonetheless received help from one.

    We will NEVER step foot inside a Banfield again. We received poor customer service, and the techs didn’t really care for the animals, just their paycheck. One bright note: we found a really great vet after that event. She saw Tonka that day, and the whole process took about 45 mins. And she can find Tonka’s vein. :)

  34. FLConsumer says:

    Health insurance for…. pets?!?! When quite a few Americans can’t even get health insurance for themselves? What kind of country are we living in?

    Whatever happened to sending these animals to the sausage factory? :)

  35. BarryT says:

    Hello,

    As the person who posted the original piece at the top, I’d like to thank the kind folks who have commented thus far. You’ve given me some great suggestions as to how best to care for our puppy.

    A few things, just to clarify. Of course we got him from a shelter, of course we recognize that there are costs and risks associated with having a pet. We took out the insurance mostly so that we would have a greater range of treatment options available to us if something catastrophic happened to Mazzel. Rather than, say, amputate a limb should he be hit by a car, perhaps with the insurance, we could afford to have the leg restored, that sort of thing.

    I’ll ignore the offensive, self-righteous comments, but I do appreciate those who have suggested things like creating a small savings account (perhaps one of the on-line high-yield) ones. That may be a much better way to go than to give our money to VPI.

    Yours,
    Barry T.

  36. Scazza says:

    Well, had a similar bull shit problem with Pet Care Insurance Brokers Ltd of Canada. We have been with them since he was a pup (7 years) and have always wondered if it was worth it.

    3 months ago, Cujo came down with a problem for his Prostate, we figured that the 500 bucks charge would be covered. We call them up, and they inform us that they only cover “the 5 major organs” or some crap like that. Which would be Heart, Lungs, etc… Then I kinda figured… If your dog comes down with a problem with any one of them, theres a good chance they are gonna put him down anyway, and deny his claim… So what good is pet care? They also don’t pay for food, unless its an approved food by them, which is insane, because even the vet that convinced us to get the insurance says the food they recommend is complete tripe…

    So we have been pondering whether to keep the insurance or not recently… But we also don’t want to one day find ourselves having to pay a few grand for medical care something ever happens (but who knows if it will be covered…)

  37. Melov says:

    File a complaint with the BBB. Your letter will be forwarded to the presidential department.

  38. Melov says:

    @FLConsumer:
    Pet insurance, $20 a month.
    Health insurance, $50 a week. You do the math…

  39. lauraloops says:

    My dog came with a free month of ShelterCare from the Humane Society, and it saved me $300 within the first month b/c he got into medicine while I wasn’t home. I signed up immediately with PetCare/ShelterCare and only pay $13 a month. I figure that what I saved in the first claim paid for the first two years of the policy. Knowing how much it can cost to treat some diseases, I think it’s worth it.

  40. Health insurance for…. pets?!?! When quite a few Americans can’t even get health insurance for themselves? What kind of country are we living in?

    @FLConsumer: I know!
    The even sell food made especially for pets. Don’t these people know that there are people on the street going hungry?

    Won’t someone think of the children?!!?!one!1?!!1


    (Yes, I know the original comment was sarcastic.)

  41. Brawndo says:

    I have to say, I signed up for VPI for my 11-week old puppy five years ago and haven’t had much of a problem. The commenters who are complaining that they only covered a small percent of the total bill don’t seem to understand the nature of insurance. For routine check ups and the like, I don’t expect to get paid in full. However, like my vet said, it eliminates the horrible, gut-wrenching decision of certain cases that would be arise out of financial considerations; It’s pay for the life-saving surgery or put the dog to sleep.

  42. beyond says:

    @missbrooke06: Well true, but I also wouldn’t take a dog to the vet just because it threw up. Most animals will recover on their own just fine without expensive pills and treatments. Going into debt by “charging it” is stupid. Vet bills can be ridiculously high, and sometimes you just have to let the pet go.

    I agree that pets are a commitment. I had a ferret that broke his leg 2 days after I got him and it cost me $400 while the pet store wanted me to just bring him back and replace him for free. But thousands of dollars? Unless I’ve got it sitting in the bank and it wouldn’t hurt my family to spend it, no way.

    I don’t think people understand how well animals get along on their own, too. A sick cat can usually take care of itself. I knew someone with a cat that got caught in one of those sleeper sofa mechanisms, broken jaw. Vet wanted something like $5k for surgery, post-surgical treatments, etc. Didn’t have that money, so they just bandaged the cats head and fed her mushy kibble through a eye dropper. Cat was healed and eating regular food in no time. Sometimes you just need to let nature work on its own.

  43. tcp100 says:

    I had VPI for five years. Had to take a cat to the emergency vet; cost $600, due to a reaction to a rabies shot. Pretty routine emergency, and necessary but also something that vets can do something about.

    VPI paid me $140 for the claim, at a rate of $50 for an emergency vet visit and $90 for the treatment. Ha!

    I didn’t expect to get everything paid for, but their schedule of vet rates seems like it’s based off of a vet from 1975 in North Dakota. $12 for an exam? Yeah, in what decade?

    I added up all my premiums over those five years, and found I definitely would have been better off just saving the premiums. I cancelled VPI. If something serious comes up, I’ll use savings or charge it. (Oh, and for those of you who have other opinions and prefer to just put your animals to sleep when they get a cold, your thing, but screw you.. Pets are more than an accessory to some people.)

  44. poochpop says:

    PET ASSURE IS A GR8 ALTERNITIVE!! (petassure.com)

  45. dalejo says:

    I’ve had VPI for both my dogs since they were puppies. You are much better off just putting the money in a savings account. I’ve had a handful of big vet bills over the years and I’ve been lucky to get 25-30% of the cost back from VPI. I’m waiting for my last submission to come back and then I’m cancelling both policies. I finally figured out that the money I’ve spent just on insurance each year would likely have paid for all my vet bills over the same period.

  46. clickertrainer says:

    I use the AKC Health insurance program, and I opted for the least expensive option. Insurance should be about covering disaster level losses, not reimbursement for yearly expenses such as vaccines. When one of my dogs was in the ICU a few years ago, the bill was $2400 for a 10 hour stay. When I got my new puppy, I got the AKC plan. And yes, they enroll all dogs and even cats.

  47. enkipdx says:

    We signed up for Pets Best pet insurance after we dropped $2 thousand on surgery for our dog. After paying about $20 a month for a year we finally had need to file a claim with them when our dog partially tore his ACL. Pets Best worked great. They paid us back 80% of everything over the deductible($200). We made back more than we have spent in the last year on premiums. I don’t know if pet insurance is for everyone, but this company reimbursed us quickly and fairly.

  48. Gopher bond says:

    Our vet is excellent. They have a slush fund they use to do operations on pets when people can’t afford it. We spend $1500 on a cat who was having bladder blockages. The $1500 was for 3 separate rounds of catheters, flushes and week long stays at the vet all in a period of 6 months. When it happened again, we were prepared to tell them to put him to sleep. The only option was a surgery that would cost another $2000. No bloody way. But the vet’s felt that the $1500 we previously spent was in good faith and should have fixed the problem so they dipped into the slush fund and did the surgery for free. Cat’s been fine ever since.

  49. worriedshoes says:

    I never thought my first comment on Consumerist would be in defense of the insurance company but having worked in that field for many years, it sounds to me as if the policy has a clause in which any diagnosis during the first 30 days of the policy (waiting period) or prior to the effective date of the policy (as is the case with this post) would render any future claims for the same or related diagnosis invalid for a period of time, usually one or two years. It’s a common clause in non-major medical insurance plans. You might find upon reading your policy that the insurance company is not in the wrong here. They are simply abiding by the contract agreed upon between themselves and you upon applying for the coverage.

  50. AlexFromEmbrace says:

    It is disheartening to read the litany of problems that pet lovers have been forced to endure at the hands of some pet insurance companies. Many scoff at the idea of pet insurance but after you receive a $3,000 or $4,000 vet bill few are laughing. And it’s far more common than many people think due to advancements in treatment options. If they can do a procedure on people they can usually do it on pets too.

    Regarding VPI, one of the reasosn that pet owners are uniformly disappointed in them is because of the fact that they pay claims to a benefit schedule. VPI’s benefit schedule was last updated in 2002 and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics veterinary fees have risen 40% in the intervening 5 years. So you get a triple whammy with VPI: benefit schedule caps the amount in 2002 dollars, they have a $4,500 per-incident limit in case the benefit schedule doesn’t get you, and then you have the fact that their policies don’t take inflation into account. I urge everyone with a VPI policy to ask hard questions about their claims reimbursement standards, they do not reimburse based on the actual veterinary bill like most other pet insurance plans. You will in all likelihood get more of your veterinary bill back if you look elsewhere for pet insurance.

    Umonster’s comment about the general lack of transparency in the pet insurance industry is spot on. Things are changing though with a few new players that are attempting to set the industry on a straighter course. But I fully agree that only with greater transparency and accountability will pet owners feel like they’re being listened to and taken seriously.

    To those who believe that saving $20/month is going to help I ask you to calculate the real risks. $240/yr is barely going to cover a teeth cleaning let alone major surgery. And unfortunately your pet isn’t going to wait until you’ve got enough saved up before he gets sick. You can get major medical pet insurance for about $20/month that will cover $10,000 or so of vet bills with a $500 deductible. You can call me biased but unless you believe your pet will never, ever get sick then a major medical pet insurance plan is the next best thing to it.

    At our company we try hard to educate pet owners about the true risks of a pet getting sick and we disclose a lot of stuff up front so that pet owners can decide for themselves. We believe that responsible pet owners get pet insurance as part of caring for the overall health of their pet(s).

    Read our reviews [www.petinsurancereview.com], you’ll see that people do appreciate honesty and being upfront about things. I want pet owners to know that there is at least one company out there that is trying harder.

    Alex Krooglik
    Co-founder
    Embrace Pet Insurance
    Cleveland, Ohio
    [www.EmbracePetInsurance.com]

  51. Brazell says:

    I didn’t know that there was health insurrance for animals. I’ve really got to move forward with my Dog/Cat marriage service.

  52. brokennails says:

    @RECTILINEAR PROPAGATION:

    EXACTLY what I wanted to say. A-men.

  53. jitrobug says:

    @AlexFromEmbrace:

    “To those who believe that saving $20/month is going to help I ask you to calculate the real risks. $240/yr is barely going to cover a teeth cleaning let alone major surgery.”

    I could have missed it, but I haven’t seen anyone on this thread say that pet insurance has actually covered major surgery for them.

  54. no.no.notorious says:

    @MichaelBrazell: lol yeah i agree, i had no idea.

  55. VPIGuy says:

    Dear Bloggers and Pet Lovers,

    As an employee of VPI, I cannot emphasize enough the veterinary component of Veterinary Pet Insurance. Our company was not founded by, nor is it run by opportunistic insurance professionals. VPI was founded and continues to be supported by veterinarians. The noble hope of these veterinarians was to end “economic euthanasia,” that all pet owners would have the ability to pursue optimal treatment and no one would ever have to put a pet to sleep for financial reasons. This continues to be the goal of our company. Our employees are a dedicated group of pet lovers and veterinary professionals who work here because they believe in this vision.

    Many people on this blog have referenced insurance company stereotypes. Stereotypes that do not apply to VPI. To the contrary of Barry T’s original letter and several subsequent statements, we want to pay claims. A well-paid claim means we have a working product and a satisfied customer. Our clearly-stated policy exclusions work to this end by keeping premiums affordable and guarding against insurance fraud. The majority of our more than 445,000 policyholders are thankful for the money they have received in return for everything from routine care to major medical treatment.

    Unfortunately, I can’t speak for every pet insurance company. In our 25 years of business, we have seen more than 50 competitors come and go. Many of these competitors have failed due to a lack of customer transparency and a base of support in the veterinary community. Many of these competitors appear to market themselves by criticizing VPI and promising higher claims payouts. We have seen time and time again that these fly-by-night insurance companies fail to deliver, going bankrupt and leaving policyholders no coverage and medical conditions that any other pet insurer has to classify as pre-existing.

    We believe that our benefit schedule is an important way we promote customer transparency and distinguish our company from the competitors. After a $50 per incident deductible, policyholders receive 90% of the benefit allowance for the diagnosis. You will find that other pet insurance companies reimburse up to 80% of what they determine are “usual, customary and reasonable” fees. They determine what is “usual, customary and reasonable” by following a published guide of average costs for veterinary services — in other words, a benefit schedule. This hidden benefit schedule surprises a lot of people. We hear complaints from people who didn’t know their company was using the ambiguous “usual, customary and reasonable” clause to veil a benefit schedule that they knew little or nothing about. VPI’s benefit schedule is made clearly available online and sent to all policyholders upon enrollment, so they can know exactly what to expect. We believe that this is good business.

    One thing that I can agree with is that all pet owners need to do their research and ask hard questions. VPI has years of experience, thousands of pleased policyholders and a foundation in the veterinary community that will ensure many more years of successfully insuring America’s pets. We are confident in our product and dedicated to our vision of being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers.

    Grant Biniasz
    Veterinary Pet Insurance
    Corporate Communications Specialist

  56. jitrobug says:

    Grant, have you contacted the original poster to resolve their issues?

  57. BarryT says:

    No, they haven’t been in touch with me, other than to pass on a form letter stating that I have to file an appeal, even though I already asked for an appeal to go ahead. Mostly, I am getting the run around, which seems to be confirming my belief that they care less about pets than they do profits. One would hope that they at least cared as much about pets as they do profits….. We’ll go ahead an file the appeal, but we have very low expectations, based upon the many horrible reviews we’ve seen about their company. We’ve also gone ahead and filed claims against them with the state insurance board, which will be looking into the matter, plus the BBB, and the state Attorney General’s office.

    Again, thanks to everyone for their concern. Keep linking to this page and hopefully the pressure will build to force VPI to live up to its promises to protect pets!

  58. BarryT says:

    Final update: VPI’s review board refused to drop the exclusion on all stomach issues. We cancelled the policy. The new chant that I plan on repeating until it makes their ears bleed: Hey, hey VPI, how many pets did you cause to die?”

  59. jitrobug says:

    Sorry to hear. I hope this thread gets found when people google VPI to see that the most they can produce in response is an empty PR statement..

  60. BarryT says:

    The follow-up. We ended up switching Insurance companies to Embrace pet insurance. They were very helpful in getting our dog set up with a good plan. He just had an accident which required a trip to the emergency room, many stitches, and cost about 500$. Embrace paid us back more than 40% of that, without any hassle at all. They really lived up to their mission. [www.embracepetinsurance.com]

  61. Brit1 says:

    Ok so I have a headache from trying to figure out which insurance option to take (will be going with Embrace). I could get $10,000 with a $500 deductible and 20% copay for a total of $391 for BOTH my dogs annually. If I go to the 10% copay it would cost me $440 annually for BOTH. If I go with $5,000 with $500 deductible and 20% copay it would be $352 and with a 10% deductible $390. As I said, these quotes are for both of the dogs, not individually. Hubby says to go with the first one. My recently adopted dog had a $6,000 ER visit while in the rescue’s care and altho I could have forked out the money it would have been a hardship. However, having two dogs to cover and us being senior citizens I am trying to keep the annual premium down. The idea of putting away $200 monthly in a special account for them would be the other option, I do have a CD I could cash if anything happened before I accumulated several thousand but we figured this way we are not putting out too much. I do fear that no matter how good the company they may find reason not to pay up IF either dog gets anything that could be related to an issue each one has healthwise. So please give me the benefit of your wisdom :)Thanks