Today Show Pet Insurance: What you should consider before buying (Video)
The pet insurance industry is experiencing significant growth, yet determining its suitability can be a complex task. Vicky Nguyen of NBC offers insights into the key factors to ponder before making a purchase decision.
Today Show Pet Insurance: Pet Insurance 101: What you should consider before buying
With the surge in popularity of pet insurance, concerns among pet owners have grown regarding escalating costs, denied claims, and prolonged reimbursement waits.
Trupanion, a prominent player in this domain, assured a pet owner in New Jersey that their premiums would not escalate by more than 20% annually. However, the company has now indicated that the increase could reach 33.6%.
When Jeff Foose welcomed Lucy, a Boston terrier, into his family back in 2014, safeguarding her well-being became a paramount concern. Acting on his veterinarian’s recommendation, Foose invested in pet health insurance from a company known as Trupanion. He found solace in the company’s policy, which guaranteed that his premiums would never experience an annual increment exceeding 20%.
This commitment proved short-lived. Evidence from his documents reveals that Trupanion exceeded this ceiling in certain years, and recent communication from the company suggests that Foose and fellow New Jersey pet owners might encounter a steep 33.6% premium hike this year. Adding to his predicament, Foose shared that he cannot switch insurers due to Lucy’s existing skin condition, which a new insurer likely wouldn’t cover.
Trupanion, headquartered in Seattle and holding a dominant position in the pet insurance sector, cites escalating veterinary costs as the driving force behind their premium increases. Foose, however, is disenchanted, asserting, “It’s maddening when a seller commits to something they ultimately disregard.”
In 2022, a total of 5.4 million pet insurance policies were in effect across the United States, representing a remarkable surge of over 21% from the previous year, as reported by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. Trupanion, in particular, insured 1.5 million pets as of December 2022, as disclosed in its financial filings, which is roughly triple the count in 2018.
Since 2018, the annual growth rate of insured pets in the U.S. has averaged nearly 23%. Of these, approximately 80% comprise dogs, while cats constitute the remainder. However, the increasing popularity of pet insurance has also led to a rise in consumer grievances, which primarily cluster around extensive waits for claims reimbursement, denials based on pre-existing conditions, and hikes in premiums.
The cost of goods and services has experienced an upward trajectory across industries, and the realm of pet care is no exception. Government data reveals that veterinary service costs surged by 10.6% in July, marking a year-over-year increase.
Trupanion’s recent premium hikes have outpaced this inflation rate, as indicated by regulatory and customer documents. A case in point is Victoria Boyd, a Las Vegas resident who shares her home with two cockapoos, a Shih Tzu, and a Labrador retriever. Boyd bemoans the escalating cost of veterinary coverage through Trupanion, which is now nearing $400 per month. Similarly, Foose’s premiums have risen significantly above the stated cap in his policy.
In just two years, the cost of insuring one of Boyd’s cockapoos has risen by 57%, exemplified by the increase from $77.94 to $122.11. Likewise, the monthly premium for her Labrador retriever, Chance, surged by 38% from 2022. Despite these hikes, Boyd has never initiated an insurance claim for Chance.
Initially a supporter of Trupanion since 2017, Boyd’s perspective has shifted. She reflects, “The rates were attractive initially, and Trupanion’s strengths included direct payments to veterinarians and absence of payout limitations for conditions or ailments.” Nonetheless, she now perceives it as a “bait and switch” tactic, feeling ensnared by the initial enticing rates.
Margi Tooth, Trupanion’s president, expresses her disappointment with Boyd’s sentiment. She maintains that the company expends significant effort to transparently convey its value proposition. Tooth attributes the premium hikes to the inflation of veterinary costs and regional variations in care expenses.
Tooth refrains from clarifying the rationale behind surpassing the premium cap in Foose’s policy. She does elucidate, however, that any alterations to a customer’s policy, including coverage, benefits, and pricing, are meticulously outlined in an annual summary.
Companies offering pet insurance are subject to state regulation, and certain recent rate increase requests by Trupanion notably surpass the overall inflation rate. In Florida, for instance, Trupanion sought a 48.9% increase atop a previously approved 14% hike in February. Similarly, a requested 28% rise in California yielded only a 12% approval.
Trupanion’s SEC filings highlight the potential adverse impact on its financial standing should state regulators delay its price adjustments. Bradley Safalow, an analyst covering Trupanion at PAA Research, anticipates ongoing regulatory resistance to these hikes, consequently betting on a stock price decline. He underscores that California policyholders account for nearly a fifth of the company’s revenues.
NBC News undertook a comparative analysis of prices among five major pet insurance providers, including Embrace, Figo, MetLife, Pets Best, and Trupanion. Uniform parameters of dog breed, age, size, and coverage were used for each quote. Trupanion’s rates notably exceeded those of the other providers by three to four times for a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old male Jack Russell terrier mix.
In response to the price differential, Laura Bainbridge, Trupanion’s head of corporate communications, emphasized that pet insurance products are not directly comparable. Trupanion, she noted, distinguishes itself by offering fewer exclusions and covering conditions to which a pet might be predisposed.
Tooth defends Trupanion’s product, highlighting its value through absence of coverage limits or caps and direct vet payments. She underscores the provision of “lifetime coverage that addresses unexpected contingencies,” which, she asserts, is tailored to a pet’s lifespan.
However, Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Consumers’ Checkbook, cautions that pet insurance can be a steep investment. He explains that while the initial monthly payment might appear modest, the overall cost can become substantial should multiple issues arise with a pet.
Today Show Pet Insurance: Pet Insurance 101: What you should consider before buying
Pet insurance 101: What you should consider before buying
Pet insurance can be a valuable investment to help you manage unexpected veterinary expenses for your furry friend. Here’s a rundown of what you should consider before buying pet insurance:
Coverage Plans: Different insurance providers offer various coverage plans. These can include accident-only coverage, illness coverage, and comprehensive plans that cover accidents, illnesses, and even preventive care. Choose a plan that aligns with your pet’s needs and your budget.
Exclusions and Limitations: Carefully review the policy to understand what is covered and what isn’t. Most policies have exclusions for pre-existing conditions, hereditary conditions, and certain breeds. Make sure you know the limitations and restrictions of the policy.
Waiting Periods: Many policies have waiting periods before coverage kicks in. This prevents people from getting insurance after their pet is already sick or injured. Be aware of the waiting periods for accidents, illnesses, and other types of care.
Deductibles: Similar to human insurance, pet insurance often comes with deductibles. This is the amount you need to pay out of pocket before the insurance starts covering costs. Understand how the deductible works and if it’s per-incident, annual, or per condition.
Reimbursement Rates: Insurance policies typically reimburse you for a percentage of the eligible costs after you’ve paid the deductible. Reimbursement rates can vary, usually ranging from 70% to 90%. Choose a rate that fits your financial situation.
Premiums: Your monthly or annual premium is the amount you pay for the insurance coverage. Premiums can vary based on factors such as your pet’s breed, age, location, and the level of coverage you choose. Make sure the premium is affordable and reasonable for you.
Network and Freedom of Choice: Some pet insurance plans have networks of veterinarians where you can use the insurance. Others allow you to visit any licensed veterinarian. Check if your preferred vet is in-network, and decide whether the freedom to choose any vet is important to you.
Routine and Preventive Care: While most pet insurance plans focus on accidents and illnesses, some also offer optional coverage for routine and preventive care, such as vaccinations, dental cleanings, and wellness exams. Consider whether you want this additional coverage.
Customer Reviews and Ratings: Research the insurance provider’s reputation. Look for reviews and ratings from current or past policyholders to get an idea of their experiences with claims processing, customer service, and overall satisfaction.
Age of Your Pet: The age of your pet can affect the cost of coverage and the availability of certain plans. Some providers have age restrictions, so make sure to find a policy that’s suitable for your pet’s age.
Claim Process: Understand the process for filing claims. Find out how long it takes to get reimbursed and what documentation is required. A smooth and efficient claims process can make a big difference when you need it most.
Renewal and Price Changes: Be aware that premiums can increase over time due to factors like your pet’s age and changes in the insurance market. Understand the renewal process and how the price might change.
Cancellation Policy: Check the policy’s cancellation terms. Some policies might have penalties for early cancellation, while others offer more flexible options.
Comparisons: Don’t settle for the first policy you come across. Shop around and compare different insurance providers, their plans, and their costs to find the best fit for you and your pet.
Remember that no insurance policy will cover every single expense, so it’s important to carefully read the policy documents and ask questions if you’re unsure about any details. Pet insurance can provide peace of mind in case of unexpected health issues, but it’s crucial to choose a plan that aligns with your pet’s needs and financial situation.
Purchasing pet insurance is a decision that requires careful consideration to ensure the well-being of your beloved companion while safeguarding your financial stability.
By evaluating coverage plans, exclusions, waiting periods, deductibles, reimbursement rates, and premiums, you can find a policy that suits your pet’s unique needs and your budget.
It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of routine care coverage, assess the provider’s reputation, and understand the claim process to make an informed choice. Remember that each pet is different, and their age, breed, and health history will influence the optimal insurance plan.
By taking the time to research, compare options, and understand the policy’s terms thoroughly, you can make a confident decision that provides both peace of mind and the best possible care for your furry friend in times of need.
Your pet’s well-being is at the heart of this choice, and with thoughtful consideration, you can navigate the world of pet insurance with clarity and assurance.
Thanks for reading “Today Show Pet Insurance: What you should consider before buying (Video)” Also read: How to Switch Pet Insurance: A Comprehensive Guide