Why I Got Pet Insurance for Allegra and Ruby

 pet_insurance

I’ve been on the fence about getting pet insurance for a long time, mostly because I’d rather put my money in a savings account than pay it to an insurance company. I’m pretty disciplined about putting money aside for Allegra and Ruby’s regular veterinary care. At five and four years of age, they’re both young, healthy cats. They get regular check ups twice a year.

Of course, this is also the best time to get pet insurance: while cats are young and healthy. And while I can easily cover their regular veterinary expenses, if, God forbid, I were faced with an emergency, the hit on my budget would be more significant.

I learned the hard way

I learned this the hard way when Amber came down with a sudden illness five years ago. After extensive diagnostics and three days in intensive care, I had to say good-bye to my beautiful girl. And with the devastating grief that came with such an unexpected and sudden loss, I was also faced with having to dip into my savings to pay off her vet bill, which was close to $10,000.

Responsible cat guardianship includes ensuring regular health care for your cat throughout her life. Costs for routine care varies; depending on what part of the country you’re in, they will range anywhere from $45 to $150 (exam only). And that’s only for well cat care. Illnesses and accidents can quickly increase these costs. The average cost for a visit to an emergency vet can run between $1000 and $2000, depending on the severity of the problem.

I was fortunate that I had the resources to deal with this expense when Amber was ill. I never once took money into consideration when I made decisions about her care. The only deciding factor was what was right for her, and I realize how fortunate I am for being able to do that. The sad reality is that when cost becomes a factor, euthanasia often becomes a part of the decision process.  This is known as “economic euthanasia” in the veterinary profession, and it’s a sensitive topic that is handled with great care by veterinarians and staff. “We can never really know what a pet means to an owner, “says Kris Boucher, the CEO at the Hope Center, a multi-specialty practice in Vienna, VA. “We make recommendations that fit into the client’s budget, and we offer payment options, but we never judge a client’s decision.”

When a friend’s dachshund recently had to undergo a $6,000 emergency surgery for a ruptured disk, I took it as a sign that it was time for me to reconsider pet insurance. There are a lot of different companies and a lot of different plans out there, and choosing the right one can be overwhelming.

The following questions can help you choose a pet insurance provider:

  • Is the company licensed in your state?
  • Does the company have a good reputation?
  • How long have they been around?
  • Is the policy information easy to understand?
  • Does the company offer customer service during business hours?
  • Can you see any veterinarian you want?
  • How much have premiums increased over the last few years?
  • Will premiums increase as your pet gets older?
  • What is covered and what is excluded from coverage?
  • What is the company’s policy on pre-existing conditions?
  • Does the company cover benefits for wellness visits and preventive care?
  • Does the company cover holistic care?
  • Is there a waiting period before coverage becomes active?
  • Is there a maximum age for enrolling your cat?
  • Are there reimbursement limits per case, per year, per lifetime?
  • Is a physical exam required prior to enrollment?

Why I chose Embrace Pet Insurance

After looking at a number of different plans, I chose Embrace Pet Insurance. They’ve been around for twelve years. They have a solid reputation in the veterinary community. And most importantly, I personally know Laura Bennett, Embrace’s CEO and co-founder. I have chatted with Laura at several conferences, and have been impressed with both her business knowledge and her energy (something that, while elusive, is critically important to me when it comes to making decisions about anything.)

I chose a plan that covers illness and accidents only with a $8,000 annual maximum, $500 deductible and 70% reimbursement.  I chose not to get a wellness plan. The premium to cover both girls is only about $25 a month. I’d say that’s well worth the price of peace of mind.

Pet insurance is one of these things you hope you never need to use. I’m glad I finally made the leap for Allegra and Ruby, and I’ll be even gladder if I end up paying all that money to Embrace “for nothing.”

If you decide to get pet insurance for your cats, do your research. Look at a lot of different plans, then choose the plan that is right for you and your cats.

If you would like more information about Embrace Pet Insurance, click on the image below to get a free quote for your cats.

Do you have pet insurance for your cats?

Embrace banner with seal

27 Comments on Why I Got Pet Insurance for Allegra and Ruby

  1. Cheri Collins
    March 1, 2016 at 4:58 am (1 year ago)

    Ingrid, you got a policy for only $25 / month for both cats? I asked Embrace about my Rosie, who is only soon to be 5, and the cost would be $33 / month. I’d save a little by paying by the year, but I was left wondering why / how you got such a low rate for cats the same age as mine?
    I think I have to shop around.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 1, 2016 at 5:56 am (1 year ago)

      I only got the illness and accident coverage, not the wellness coverage, Cheri. The girls have no pre-existing conditions. The monthly premium has gone up to $28 a month since I wrote the article.

      Reply
  2. JaneA Kelley
    October 15, 2015 at 10:28 am (2 years ago)

    I too learned about pet insurance the hard way. When my beloved Dahlia got sick, I spent more than $3,000 over a week and a half. I would have remortgaged my house to care for her if I had to, but unfortunately her illness was very severe and had a poor prognosis, so I had to have her humanely released from her suffering.

    After that, I started looking into pet insurance, but I was really confused by my options and what covers what, so I kind of gave up.

    A couple of years ago I started working for Trupanion, and in the course of my training I learned a lot about the policy — enough so that I was comfortable insuring one of my cats at my own expense (one other was paid for as an employee benefit, and one was too old for any insurance). When my Thomas had a dental and ended up having eight teeth extracted, Trupanion covered about $835 of my $1,200 bill — they didn’t cover the cleaning, but the cost of a cleaning is chump change compared to the cost of having eight teeth extracted!

    No pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions, so my Bella Donna’s diabetes will never be covered under her Trupanion policy even though she’s been in remission for more than two years, but I know enough about cats to know that a lot of other unrelated things can happen to them.

    If you want to learn about pet insurance through an unbiased source, I highly recommend a website called Pet Insurance University (http://www.pet-insurance-university.com/). It’s run by a veterinarian who has looked at every pet insurance policy and has compiled a list of benefits and “gotchas” for every policy (including Trupanion’s), in plain English. This site will really help you find the best coverage for your cats.

    (Disclaimer: Although I work for Trupanion, my opinions are my own and should not be taken in any way as official communication from Trupanion or official representations of Trupanion’s stance on anything.)

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 15, 2015 at 4:32 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experience, and this great resource, JaneA!

      Reply
  3. Susan
    May 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm (2 years ago)

    Sadly, after looking at embrace and pet first, it just does not make sense to insure Topaz. At 14, with already being diagnosed with kidney disease, I am afraid anything else that happens to her would be lumped into that diagnosis and I would be denied payment.

    I cannot afford to throw money away, despite having spent $1700 for Zesty in the last 6 weeks of her life, and looking to spend $300+ today for Topaz for wellness exam and bloodwork (senior panel) and upwards of $1000 for dental cleaning if she is deemed healthy enough to undergo anesthetizing, apparently health insurance is a no go for us. (Spent $1100+ on her for hyperthyroidism treatment less than a year ago too, I-131).

    I want, in time, to get another cat, and perhaps then it will make sense to get insurance.

    I am afraid for Topaz prognosis if she is deemed not healthy enough to undergo anesthesia too.

    What a mess trying to do the right thing and not go broke.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 1, 2015 at 1:17 pm (2 years ago)

      Unfortunately, insuring older cats is an expensive proposition, Susan. It’s why I got it for Allegra and Ruby now, while they’re both still young (I should have gotten it when they were even younger!). All my best to Topaz!

      Reply
  4. Esme
    February 5, 2015 at 1:36 am (2 years ago)

    Cost was never the issue and thankfully we could afford the bills for her but peace of mind helps. Between the visits and the meds it adds up.

    Reply
  5. Maxwell, Faraday & Allie (Lisa Richman)
    February 4, 2015 at 7:57 pm (2 years ago)

    Allie & Faraday are with Embrace, too. I love their “flex” option, since dental really isn’t covered all that well by *any* of the pet insurance companies. This allows me a “discount” of over 30% on my dental bills – and since I have cats with historically bad teeth, that makes my pocketbook happy!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 5, 2015 at 7:41 am (2 years ago)

      I did look at that flex option, and it sounds like a great option for cats with dental issues. Thankfully, at four and five years old, the girls haven’t even needed a routine cleaning, and I hope to keep it that way!

      Reply
  6. Leigh Ann
    February 4, 2015 at 6:52 pm (2 years ago)

    It seems that whether or not it’s a good idea to purchase pet insurance depends upon who you ask. Consumer Reports and Checkbook.org say it doesn’t make sense, while others swear by it. My parents had pet insurance on their dog a few years back and had a difficult time getting the insurance company to pay for claims. They now just put money aside each month for their dog in case he gets ill.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 5, 2015 at 7:41 am (2 years ago)

      It’s a very individual decision, Leigh Ann.

      Reply
  7. Karen F
    February 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm (2 years ago)

    We have Trupanion insurance for our cats and bless the day we decided to insure them.

    Those with Trupanion coverage should be aware that the company has a special department called Claims Express, that will help set up direct payment to vets. The vet has to be willing (most small vet offices are not). When the bill is going to be large, this can make a massive difference in what you have to pay up front.

    As a painful example, we lost a cat to illness over the summer. We were devastated emotionally, but would have been hit hard financially as well, had we been required to pay up front what proved to be a $5,000 bill. Fortunately, our cat was being cared for at a large veterinary hospital and they had experience working with Trupanion. As our cat was being admitted, we worked by phone with the hospital intake person, and Trupanion, to have her case set up through Claims Express.

    Not only can you try to use Claims Express handling in emergencies that encompass expensive end-of-life care — you can also try to use it for more routine situations, such as extractions, where the surgery is scheduled ahead of time and the costs are known to a reasonable extent. We did this successfully with an extraction a couple of years ago — in that case, the vet, although a small office, was willing to work with Trupanion.

    Claims Express likes to have a day or so to set things up when possible, but they will work swiftly in case of emergencies, as we discovered. On the downside, as mentioned above, most vets still will not go along with direct payment from an insurance company, at least in our experience. It’s just too new and they prefer not to wait a few days for payment. My hope is that the tide will turn at some point and this will become more the norm.

    For unknown reasons, the Claims Express feature is not findable on Trupanion’s website. But it definitely exists and it’s important to know about. It’s mentioned on Trupanion’s claim form, which you can find here:

    http://trupanion.com/-/media/files/trupanion/pdfs/trupanion-claim-form.pdf

    In other ways, too, our experience with the company has been excellent: clear communication, prompt customer service, and reasonable prices. We wish we’d gotten insurance sooner and we will never be without it again.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 4, 2015 at 5:01 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Karen.

      Reply
      • Esme
        February 5, 2015 at 1:35 am (2 years ago)

        We also went with Trupanion. Thankfully we have not used it but got it because of our experience with one cat. She was diagnosed with heart failure-between the diagnosis, the cardiologist and two emergency visits we ended up with a staggering bill. We then decided to get it for her brother. I hope we never have to use it. but gives us some peace of mind should we need to.

        Reply
  8. Connie Ventimiglia
    February 4, 2015 at 4:41 pm (2 years ago)

    Great article Ingrid. I have definitely learned my lesson for future kitties. Thank God money is not that much of an issue treating Maddies small cell lymphoma right now but down the road who knows.

    Connie

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm (2 years ago)

      It’s sad that we all seem to learn the hard way, isn’t it Connie. All my best to Maddie!

      Reply
  9. Sue Brandes
    February 4, 2015 at 2:24 pm (2 years ago)

    I wanted to get it for Charlie but; most insurance plans won’t cover him as he is too old-14 years and also him being sick all the time with colds. Usually say won’t cover pre-existing conditions so I gave up. Not sure how this one is. Need to look at it still. Thanks for the info cause I do like to know about these and what others who have them say.

    Reply
  10. Diane A.
    February 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm (2 years ago)

    Excellent article and very helpful. Thank you!

    Reply
  11. Sara Radak
    February 4, 2015 at 11:56 am (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing your pet insurance story, Ingrid! We’re so glad you went with Embrace. If there is anything you ever need from us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. – Sara Radak, Content Strategist, Embrace Pet Insurance

    Reply
  12. Melissa & Truffles
    February 4, 2015 at 11:21 am (2 years ago)

    Truffles is young and healthy too so I keep debating if this is the right time for pet insurance. Great, informative post.

    Like you with Amber, my Tara’s bills were ridiculous, but never once did I think about the cost. If she needed it, she got it. I am tremendously thankful that I didn’t need to worry about the money but I know that is not the case with many people. Peace of mind truly is priceless.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 4, 2015 at 4:58 pm (2 years ago)

      I’m glad this post helped, Melissa.

      Reply
  13. Caren Gittleman
    February 4, 2015 at 10:13 am (2 years ago)

    Great post and I can’t stress enough how important it is to have Pet Insurance. I have insurance for Cody and Dakota from Trupanion (love your guidelines to help people select the right company for them), Trupanion is the perfect choice for us.

    After spending well over $1000 on Cody’s recent health scare, it was wonderful that we received approx $500 back (after we paid the deductible)

    It was our first claim and I was so pleased with their promptness, and the turn-around time.
    We also have Care Credit (which I strongly encourage), because you always have to pay “out-of-pocket” first until you are reimbursed from the insurance company.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 4, 2015 at 10:33 am (2 years ago)

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Caren. Care Credit is a good option for many cat guardians when it comes to these unexpected expenses.

      Reply
  14. Steve howard
    February 4, 2015 at 9:05 am (2 years ago)

    I recently took out a policy on my young cat after losing my other cat in December. If I had realized how affordable it was she might still be around.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 4, 2015 at 10:32 am (2 years ago)

      My heart still breaks for you that you had to make that decision, Steve.

      Reply
  15. Fur Everywhere
    February 4, 2015 at 7:47 am (2 years ago)

    I don’t currently have pet insurance on Carmine and Milita, though I’ve thought about it. From what I’ve heard, the insurance won’t cover any pre-existing conditions, and Carmine has several of those. Carmine and Milita are also 9 (10 on the 18th) and 11, respectively, and I’ve heard many of the pet insurance companies won’t accept pets of that age. For now, I do my best to set some funds aside for the regular and anticipated needs. When I get another cat (hopefully many many years from now), I will definitely be looking into insurance for him or her. I think it’s a good idea and well worth the cost, even if you never need to use it.

    Reply
  16. Pat Wolesky
    February 4, 2015 at 7:08 am (2 years ago)

    I’ve had pet insurance for a number of years. Like you, I don’t have routine care coverage since I can manage that, but I was really glad I had insurance when a few big things happened. Quite a few of Raleigh’s expenses related to kidney disease were partially reimbursed, and when Coco needed surgery (tortitude – she chewed up an exercise cord and got blocked) and when she needed radioactive iodine treatment for her thyroid the insurance money helped greatly. I chose a lower cost, lower coverage option. For most covered items it reimburses at about 50%. I went with VPI, which at the time I got the coverage was the plan that best suited my needs. They’ve been pretty good to work with. They do have plans that cover at a higher rate.

    Reply

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