Pet Insurance: Money Saver or Scam?

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 5, 2010

pet-insurancePets can be a serious line-item in your yearly budget. A yearly vet physical can set you back anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars, depending upon whether the veterinarian finds anything wrong with your fuzzy, feathered, or scaly companion, to say nothing of the unexpected costs that arise when your pet is ill or suffers an accident.

I first became aware of pet insurance when my kitten, Maxwell, got into a scrap and had to have his face drained (sorry, TMI). I never signed up for it, though. It just sounded like a hassle and I wasn’t convinced the benefits would outweigh my assumptions.

Let’s find out if I was wrong.

There are many different pet health-insurance companies but the most impressive one is  PetsHealth Care Plan by The Hartville Group. This company has been insuring pets since 1997, and established a partnership with the ASPCA in 2006. Almost more impressive than that, though, is the fact that my nothing-but-the-best, of-exacting-quality, fellow game-show-contestant (she won $16,000 on Millionaire and trained me for “Win Ben Stein’s Money”) soul-sister Becky Johnson Sabin has used the PetsHealth Care Plan for seven years now and “love love love[s] them.”

This is high praise from the world’s most trustworthy source. I asked her to elaborate.

“I pay $15.35 each month — which balances out to one pricey lunch or inexpensive dinner monthly — and it gives me the peace of mind that if something catastrophic happens with Ken, he is covered,” Sabin said. Her decision was particularly guided by the fact that “events with pets seem to happen in the middle of the night, over the weekend, or during a holiday, when vet care seems to cost twice or three times what it would usually cost.”

Sabin recently experienced this truism when her beloved Ken the Kat (namesake of Ken Jennings of “Jeopardy!” fame), ate something poisonous to cats.

“I’d put a bouquet of lilies up high, where he couldn’t reach them, but some petals dropped to the floor and he ate them,” Sabin said. It was the July 4th weekend and only the emergency vet was seeing patients.

“He was at the Mayo Clinic of pet hospitals,” Sabin explained.

Sabin paid the resultant $2,000 bill out-of-pocket and then submitted a claim for reimbursement. The PetsHealth Care Plan claim form is one-page long and can be submitted by fax, email, or postal mail. Care provided by any licensed veterinarian in the U.S. or Canada is covered, and the reimbursement is 80% after a $100 annual deduction per pet, though Sabin thinks her reimbursement for Ken’s July 4th incident was reimbursed at a lower percentage because the care was offered after-hours.

She figures she has paid $1250 in premiums, but she was reimbursed “between 60- to 80-percent of $2,000″ for one claim alone. Sabin has submitted other claims, too, and knows she has ended up more than ahead of her investment.

“Even though you have indoor pets, stuff still happens. They run around and have accidents just like humans do; I mean, I broke my foot walking through my living room.”

Interested in what it would cost to cover my own furry darling, I filled out the PetsHealth Care Plan questionnaire and learned it would cost $7.50/month for an accident-only insurance policy. Accident and Illness coverage with a Continuing-Care rider would set me back $18.06 monthly. For this “Level 2″ plan, the maximum annual benefit is $8,000; $1,500 per incident; and has a $100 annual deductible per pet. Not bad. The same plan, but without the Continuing Care rider, would cost me about $12 each month.

PetsHealth Care Plan offers four tiers of service that, for my cat, topped out at $58.21/monthly. I’m not sure that I’d need to pay that, but $7.50 a month to cover up to $2,500 of an accident doesn’t make pet insurance seem like such a hassle now, and it doesn’t surprise me that, once again, Becky Johnson Sabin is a fount of true knowledge.


I used to research pet insurance companies, and have been really happy with They're a 10 out of 10 on that site, and they give back to rescues!
December 29 at 19:36 pm
Pet Care
Pet insurance is a great option if you love your pet.

Pet Care Expert from H2PMV
November 30 at 15:00 pm
lilly adams

I am looking for pet plan quote My pets cost me a fortune with all the visits to the Vet. Do you think paying a monthly fee is worth it? I think I would end up saving a lot of money in the long run. So far the best quote I received was from
October 27 at 12:55 pm
Pet Insurance
Many pet lovers now a days are planning for pet insurance which shows their care towards their pets. There are many advantages of pet insurance, top reasons to go in for pet insurance are Bears the cost of medical expenses, Insuring multiple pets and many more.
March 30 at 09:45 am
Dr. Doug Kenney
I'm glad your friend is happy with Petshealth. Several things to consider about purchasing pet health insurance:
1) True catastrophic coverage is when you have to file a claim e.g. $10,000. Petshealth's per-incident maximums leave the pet owner paying the majority of the bill in such a situation.
2) Petshealth pays benefits based on usual and customary fees in a certain zip code. That's the reason for your friend's perception that she was reimbursed less than expected.
March 9 at 15:57 pm
Lynn B. Johnson
Thanks for your comment. Hope Bean is all better!
March 8 at 08:18 am
This is a really great article. I think that everyone who has a pet should at least check out what some of the companies have to offer because it might make sense to get it if it's right. I know i shopped around for a while until i found a company that provided what i could afford and the coverage i wanted. I signed up with trupanion pet insurance and theyve helped tremendously since Bean got sick two months ago really badly. is their site if you want to see
March 5 at 17:31 pm
Lynn B. Johnson
There are definitely a lot of pet insurance plans out there, with a number of coverage options. I've had other people say they've been happy with VPI. Anyone else have first-hand experience with this topic?
March 5 at 15:08 pm
this is a great article & your reliable source I can vouch for has been an adoring pet owner the majority of her life. From the standpoint of a veterinary professional. Pet Health coverage is a "double edged sword" the plans that I have been exposed to ither cover catastrophy or maintenance. Shopping around & reserch are your best friend to find one for you!
March 5 at 12:26 pm

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