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Here’s What Pet Insurance Covers

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Choosing the right pet insurance plan is no less important or challenging than selecting any other type of insurance.

With so many options available online, pet owners may be tempted to sign up for the first company they find. However, it pays in both coverage quality and costs to do some comparison research first.

This article covers the features you should look for when insuring your pet and compares six popular pet insurance companies: Embrace, Healthy Paws, Nationwide, Pet Plan, Pets Best, and Trupanion.

Pet Insurance Features

You probably have a lot of questions about pet insurance:

  • What conditions does it cover? What isn’t covered?
  • Are there separate policies for different animals and breeds?
  • Do copays and deductibles work the same way they do for other kinds of insurance?
  • Do I need to provide any records or paperwork for my pet?

While each company offers different features, these are a few core items you should fully understand before making a final choice. Each is discussed in more detail below:

  • Coverage and exclusions
  • Exam fees
  • Alternative therapies
  • Routine care and wellness plans
  • Waiting periods

Coverage and Exclusions

There isn’t a pet insurance company in the world that offers a plan that covers everything.

But some companies offer more generous coverage than others. Below are some examples of coverage and exclusions. (Note: This information is subject to change; see individual company websites for complete lists and information, as well as quotes for specific animals and breeds.)

Embrace covers most accidents and illnesses, cancer treatments, surgery, hospitalization, dental diseases (up to $1,000 per year), diagnostic testing, and imaging. Embrace excludes pre-existing conditions, routine care, DNA testing, injuries, and illnesses caused by neglect, breeding, and pregnancy.

Healthy Paws covers hereditary, congenital, and chronic conditions, emergencies; cancer; specialty care; and diagnostic testing and imaging. Healthy Paws excludes pre-existing conditions, preventive care, elective procedures, and costs related to preventable diseases.

Nationwide offers three medical plans: Major Medical Plan, Medical Plan, and Emergency Plan. The information here is for the Major Medical Plan, which covers most accidents and illnesses, diagnostic services up to a specified allowance, and surgery. Nationwide excludes pre-existing conditions, conditions related to hip dysplasia, congenital disorders and developmental defects, and breeding and pregnancy.

Petplan covers accidental injuries and unexpected illnesses, exam fees, diagnostic treatments, and prescription medications. Petplan does not cover pre-existing conditions, preventive care, and cosmetic procedures.

Pets Best covers most accidents and illnesses, cancer, surgery, hospitalization, hereditary and congenital conditions, and diagnostic tests and imaging. Pets Best excludes pre-existing conditions, elective and preventive procedures, and parasite testing and treatments.

Trupanion covers all unexpected injuries and illnesses, surgery, hospitalization, orthotic devices, prescribed supplements and medications, and diagnostic testing. Trupanion excludes pre-existing conditions and preventive care.

Exam Fees

Exam fees (also called consultation fees) can cost $50 to $250 per vet visit, so having a policy that includes these fees can pay off quickly.

Are exam fees included in coverage?

  • Yes: Embrace, Nationwide, Petplan
  • No: Healthy Paws, Pets Best, Trupanion

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies, such as chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, and massage, are popular with many pet owners but are not always covered by insurance plans. They may need to be purchased separately as a rider.

Is alternative therapy included in general coverage?

  • Yes: Embrace, Healthy Paws, and Petplan
  • No or at extra cost: Nationwide, Pets Best, and Trupanion

Routine Care and Wellness Plans

Every pet owner knows that consistent routine care can help to avoid any accidents and injuries. Not all plans offer routine care plans and the costs for those that do vary.

Which plans offer routine care or wellness options?

Embrace offers a flexible routine care plan called Wellness Rewards. Owners can choose from one of three tiers:

  • Policy-year reimbursements of up to $250 (about $18 per month)
  • Policy-year reimbursements of up to $450 (about $35 per month)
  • Policy-year reimbursements of up to $650 (about $52 per month)

Some of the reimbursable items include teeth cleaning, grooming, nutritional supplements, training, and cremation or burial.

Healthy Paws doesn’t offer a routine care plan.

Nationwide offers two stand-alone wellness plans for dogs and cats and a comprehensive Whole Pet with Wellness plan:

  • Wellness Basic ($400 maximum yearly benefit, $12-18 per month)
  • Wellness Plus ($500 maximum annual benefit, $17-22 per month)
  • Whole Pet with Wellness (accident and illness, plus routine care, starting at $68 per month)

These plans include wellness exams, vaccinations, and teeth cleaning, and prescribed services such as preventive care or supplements. They do not include grooming, waste disposal fees, and pet obedience training.

Petplan does not offer a routine care plan.

Pets Best’s routine care plans are EssentialWellness ($16 per month) and BestWellness ($26 per month). Each reimburses up to a fixed amount per item per year. There is no deductible. Below are some examples of reimbursements for specific services:

  • EssentialWellness: $0 for spaying, neutering, and teeth cleaning; $20 for microchips; $50 for wellness exams
  • BestWellness: $150 for spaying, neutering, and teeth cleaning; $40 for microchips; $50 for wellness exams

Trupanion does not offer a routine care plan.

Waiting Periods

Every plan will have a waiting period after signing up, but before full coverage begins. It is essential to be familiar with the various waiting periods and any available waivers:

Embrace has a two-day waiting period for accidents, a 14-day waiting period for illness, and a six-month waiting period for dogs’ orthopedic conditions. The waiting period for orthopedic conditions may be reduced if a veterinarian gives the dog an orthopedic exam. The exam cost may be reimbursed under a Wellness Rewards plan but not included in medical policy coverage).

Healthy Paws has a 15-day waiting period for accidents and illness and a 12-month waiting period for hip dysplasia.

Nationwide has a 14-day waiting period for accidents and illness and a 12-month waiting period for orthopedic conditions.

Petplan has a 15-day waiting period for both accidents and illness.

Pets Best has a three-day waiting period for accidents, a 14-day waiting period for illness, and a six-month waiting period for cruciate ligament conditions.

Trupanion has a five-day waiting period for accidents and a 30-day waiting period for illnesses.

Making the Choice

The right pet insurance company for your dog, cat, or other animal depends on many factors, including many not mentioned here. An excellent place to start, though, is Embrace, given its comprehensive medical policy, wide-coverage, flexible routine care plan, and reasonable waiting periods. You can learn more about Embrace and other pet insurance companies on the Embrace website.