January is Eye Care Month at Embrace Pet Insurance

IMG_3459Back in 2001, my cat Simon started to be concerned about his left eye. He'd rub it, and rub it some more, and then really had go at it until it was so swollen, he couldn't open it - all in the span of two days.

I took Simon to a local cat vet and we tried putting an antibiotic cream into his eye but he'd rub it out so fast, it hardly made a difference. I tried an E-collar but that didn't seem to help the condition (and he was a houdini when it came to the collar). So, off to the kitty opthamologist at the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Her assessment was that if we couldn't fix the issue, Simon was going to lose his eye. I couldn't believe it!

Ultimately, a tiny vial of antiviral juice saved the day (at only $100 a pop back in 2001) and Simon was diagnosed with an eye herpes that could flare up at any point in the future if he became stressed (which luckily only happened one more time in his life). Definitely a candidate for pet insurance - prior to getting the condition of course!

I was thinking about how quickly Simon's eye issue came up when the topic of eye care came up for our theme for the month.

This month at Embrace, we're going to talk all about eye care and eye issues. If you have any questions for us to discuss with any of our experts, post them in the comments and we'll do our best to answer them.

Related Posts
January is Eye Care Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Common Eye Issues as seen by Dr Rex Riggs
Podcast: cat and dog eye questions with Dr Patrick Mahaney
Claim Example: Dog Cataracts



Guest Post: Summer Dangers with Dr Patrick Mahaney

Today we're continuing to chat about summer dangers for your dogs and cats at Embrace Pet Insurance, and Dr Patrick Mahaney chimes in on the topic.

Here are some of the questions we cover in this podcast:

Kayla This may be silly, but when we got Tucker (a lab/golden retriever mix), he had lived primarily outside for his first six months, and his nose was all black. He's been a mostly indoor pet for the year we've had him, and now his nose is pink and black. With spending more time outdoors in the summer months, will his nose darken again? Should we do anything to keep it from darkening? Is that a puppy
tan?

Kate: Should I do anything different or be extra cautious about sun exposure for my black Doberman? It seems like he could overheat quickly being so dark or am I just thinking that because I know what it's like to wear dark colors outside and be sooo hot?

Laura: Dr Patrick, what else would you highlight as summer dangers to be aware of…

The answers to these questions and more are discussed in the audio below.

[btw, Dr Patrick was rather naughty and expressed his personal political opinions in this podcast. I apologize in advance if you are offended or surprised this pops up during your listening]

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Summer Dangers Q&Amp;A  

Related Posts:
June is Summer Dangers Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Summer Dangers with Dr Patrick Mahaney
Claim Example: rattlesnake bites Great Danes three times!
Claim Example: Mox the Labrador gets a Foxtail in the neck
Guest Post: it's been a record year for flea and ticks

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney


Dr Patrick Mahaney
Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for www.PatrickMahaney.com and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's TeddyHilton.com, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on OutImpactRadio.com, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2012 through Havenhurst Books.



Learn about Embrace and Pet Insurance directly from the Chief Embracer's mouth, Laura Bennett

Over the previous winter, we worked on a fun project to put together some videos of me talking about different aspects of pet insurance. For your viewing pleasure, they are now up on YouTube on the Embrace Pet Insurance Channel.

The topics include:

Why Should I get Pet Insurance?

Researching and Buying Pet Insurance

How Pet Insurance Has Changed

Dedicated Savings or Pet Insurance?

What Sets Embrace Apart

And many more...

Yes, I apparently do look and sound like that (especially after a long night of pet insurance actuarial pricing - see video thumbnail below)

Here's one for you that we get asked a lot - Pet Insurance and Pre-Existing Conditions.

Any other pet insurance topics you'd like to see that we missed?



Is it possible to train a cat to walk on a leash?

We shall see!

When we think of the term "pet behavior", we think of issues, like chewing or inappropriate urination or freaking out in a thunderstorm, not something more positive like getting your cat to walk on a leash. So I am taking up the challenge of training my cats to walk on a leash.

I have two indoor cats, Rocket and Rosie, who are 2.5 years old and have never gone outside. Here's a quick video introduction to them. 

I know they'd like to go outside but I'm committed to keeping them out of harm's way so we asked JoyKatz if we could test out some of their beautiful handmade walking jackets for cats.

So, here are the kittens getting their harness put on. 

And here they are wandering around with their harnesses. 

As you can tell, it is going to take a while for them (Rosie in particular) to get used to the harnesses and associate them with a fun walk outside. It doesn't help that I'm in Cleveland and it's cold and snowy outside, and will be for a while. Perhaps we'll have to practise in the garage.

I'll post every now and then with their progress and next time, I'll show you the harness in more detail and how it works.

Thank you to JoyKatz for supplying these two Walking Jackets - they are very smart and well made indeed, and to Erin for taking some of the video.

Related Posts:
January is Dog & Cat Behavior Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: Why Are Our Pets So Stressed?
Is it possible to train a cat to walk on a leash?
Embrace Pet Insurance covers behavioral issues
Guest Post: Seizure Behavior in Dogs



Winter Dangers: Protecting Our Pets Against the Extreme Cold

I received a question come up about the real cold and dogs - you know, the kind where your nose hairs freeze when you go outside. Here's the Q&Amp;A for your reading pleasure.

Q: I would like to see more on the dangers to our pets from minus temps like we had in the Denver area last January. Our dog would go out and start limping after just a few moments. What should you do and what should you be watching out for in sub zero temps? Our pets need to go out--but what can we do to protect them from such extreme cold?

A: I asked a variety of folks to answer this one - from veterinarians to people with dogs in cold climes, and here's what they had to say.

From Dr Riggs:

What I was taught was that dogs feet are less likely to be prone to get frostbitten.  The reasons are that the dogs feet are protected more by the fur around the pads and the thick leather like pads also help to insulate.  The dogs temp is higher then humans, 102 vs 98.6, thus also helping then keep warm. I think the most important thing is  that when cold, dog's blood is not shunted away from their feet keeping them warm. In people when we get cold, our blood is shunted away from our extremities to keep the core warm , thus our feet and hands get cold. 

Sled dogs wear booties more for abrasion protection, but can help to keep them warm. Just make sure snow does not get down inside the boot.

From a long-time resident of the Denver area:

Always shovel them an area to go potty and be extra careful you are using de-icer that is safe for pets.  Salt can be very irritating to them. 

Check their paws when they come inside and remove any packed ice and snow that has accumulated between the pads while they were out.

MuttLuks are awesome and I highly recommend them for dogs who are truly sensitive to cold on their feet.  http://www.muttluks.com/home.php

There is also a paste wax sort of thing you can put on the pads that will help keep them safe from salt and non-pet safe de-icers while out on their walks. http://musherssecret.net/testimonials.html

From Dr Carleton:

I think all my advice would be more or less the common sense recommendations. For example, dogs who get cold feet can wear booties which will help;  sweaters and coats for the small, thin haired breeds.

When very cold, only short periods of outdoor time. If a dog is being housed outdoors, I would recommend a heated dog house with a lot of warm bedding in it...

I always suggest dog coats for those breeds that do not have their own natural wooly coats (think min pins for example) to keep them warm.

Do you have any suggestions for people living in the coldest climates?

Related Posts:
November is Winter Danger Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Winter Danger: ingesting goodies that should not be eaten by a dog
Winter Danger: skiing is dangerous for your dog?
Guest Post: Winter Couch Potatoes - You and Your Dog
Winter dangers lurking in your own back yard
Claim Example: winter danger - toxic plant ingestion
Winter Dangers: Protecting Our Pets Against the Extreme Cold



Pet Insurance 101: a wellness/illness split claim

Lucydog-Daisycat-TennaRasmussenIt's been a very long time since I've written about the nuts and bolts of pet insurance. Since this is a pet insurance blog, let's blog about pet insurance!

Question: what happens to Embrace Pet Insurance claims where there are wellness and accident/illness items on the same invoice?

Answer: we create two claims - one for the wellness items and one for the illness items.

This way, we can keep track of the wellness costs separately, taking them out of your Wellness Rewards pot of money, while the accident/illness costs are taken out of your insurance benefits. We'll let you know that we've split the claim up when we send you your claim acknowledgement.

To maximize your payout, we'll assume that your office visit for the split claim applies to the Wellness Rewards coverage (we don't split it in half); however, if you are close to your annual Wellness Rewards limit (either $200 or $400, depending on what you picked), we will set the office visit to be taken care of in your accident/illness claim if that would give you more money back.

The exception to where the office visit applies is if your wellness charges were parasite control items only, such as flea/tick medication. Then the office visit will be taken care of on your accident/illness coverage since it is likely that you just picked up your flea/tick meds when you were in the office for an accident/illness split. Clear as mud?!

You may notice your Wellness claims are often processed faster than your accident/illness claims (not always but the majority of the time), which is because they are often more straightforward than the insurance claim and can be dealt with more quickly. We'll remind you about your outstanding accident/illness claim when we send you your wellness claim Explanation of Benefits. 

Questions or comments?

Background on Wellness Rewards:

Many of you know that we have the best pet wellness product on the market. If you need a quick reminder of exactly why it's the best (no deductible, no category sublimits, no copay), check out our Wellness Rewards page on our website.

One of the nice things about wellness is that Wellness Rewards is not insurance - yay! That's because there's nothing uncertain about it, nothing unknown, which is a requirement to be insurance.

The Embrace Wellness Rewards product is more like a health spending account where you get a pot of money to spend on wellness items such as spay/neuter surgeries, prescription diet food, and toe nail clipping.



Pet Insurance and Divorce

Bud Face on At Embrace Pet Insurance, a number of divorce or separation situations have come up and the following scenarios and solutions untangle the complexity so you can get what you need for you and your pets with minimal anxiety.

Scenario 1: you have sole custody of the pets and you have always owned the pet insurance policy yourself

Call into the pet insurance company to check your policy details for the following:

  • Who is listed as the insureds on the policy? You can have two or more insureds on a pet insurance policy, all of whom can all make decisions about the policy, including cancellation and billing decisions. Make sure your policy is limited to the people you want to be making those changes.
  • How is the policy paid for and by whom? Make sure you confirm the billing is your own credit card or bank account as soon as possible. You don’t want your ex cancelling the premium payments and lapsing the coverage. Make sure that if the payments come out of a bank account, the account is going to remain active going forward.
  • Which addresses are listed on the policy? Several considerations here:
    • Your premium may change upon a change of address - not much you can do about this but don’t be surprised by an unexpected change when your next premium is billed
    • You don’t want your claim check going to your ex so confirm they are all going to your current location. Even better, have the claim reimbursement deposited into your own bank account so there’s no way for the money to go elsewhere by mistake
    • Make sure the email address on record is your current one. You don’t your email going to a defunct address or worse, your ex’s

Scenario 2: you have sole custody of the pets but your spouse owned the pet insurance policy before your split

If you are taking over the policy from your spouse, you’ll have to transfer it into your name as soon as possible. Call the pet insurance company to find out their procedure for transferring the policy as most will allow you to do it. You do not want to have to restart the policy as this might trigger new pre-existing conditions, which you do not want to happen. If you do not know which insurance company the policy is with, there's a handy list over at www.petinsurancereview.com (for the US and Canada). Call them all, starting with VPI (it's the largest at the moment) until you find the right one.

If the policy has lapsed because of non-payment, ask the pet insurer if the policy can be reinstated without restarting the policy. If it is just a week or so from lapsing, it’s a good bet they’ll reinstate your policy as long as you pay the unpaid premium. If it’s longer than that and the company says no, plead your case to the underwriter who issued the policy for some leniency (often different from the company you deal with on a day to day basis_. You will still have to pay unpaid premiums if the insurer agrees.

Once you have control of the policy, check the policy details in scenario 1.

Scenario 3: you are sharing custody and the finances of the pets

DSC_0057 If you are sharing custody of the pets on the policy and want to share the cost of the policy and have the reimbursements go to the appropriate person, this gets tricky. Most pet insurance companies cannot handle multiple bank accounts or addresses for premium payments and claims reimbursement depending on who paid for the vet bill so you will need to coordinate the financials with your ex. You should include how you are going to handle this in your divorce settlement.

Note that if you just want to pay for your own policy to cover any vet bills you might have when you have the pets, your spouse does not need to get involved in your policy. It’s totally up to you.

Scenario 4: the pets on the policy go to different homes

Some insurers have multiple pets on a policy so it becomes complicated when some of the pets stay on the old policy and some go to a new home. The pets that are going to a new home will be split off from the old policy onto a new one, possibly trigger new pre-existing conditions for those pets. Ask the pet insurer if a special dispensation could be made so that the new policy does not trigger new pre-existing conditions. Most pet insurers will have no difficulty accommodating this request.

Finally...

Under all these scenarios, if something goes wrong with the policy and you do not get the solution you are looking for from your pet insurer, be sure to write to the insurance company that issued your pet insurance policy for a compassionate review. You can often get a positive response if you go right to the source.

Are you going through a divorce right now and are having to handle this situation? Let us know in the comments and I might be able to help.



Ten Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Embrace Pet Insurance Experience

Yay! You have your pet insurance policy in hand. Now what? Here are 10 points we like to share on how to have the best experience possible in using that policy. 

  1. Store the Embrace phone number on your cell phone
    800-511-9172 You never know when you'll want to call in with questions about your coverage. We've had people call in while  driving to the emergency clinic to check on their policy.
  2. Update your email friend list
    Add Embrace to your friend list and set it to allow anything from @embracepetinsurance.com through. We email pretty much everything, some of which has attachments that some email systems don't like. Don't miss out on important Embrace info. 
  3. Print out 2 copies of your personalized Claim Form for each pet
    Put one in your car's glove compartment in case of emergencies and take one to your veterinary clinic and ask them to put it in your file.  They can run off copies next time you should need a claim form, so it’s one less thing to think about during a health issue.
  4. Have your Pet checked by a veterinarian
    Not only is it a good idea, particularly if you don't have any health history for your pet (when it is required to start your insurance), but you can have your vet complete the Orthopedic Report Card to reduce the 6 month waiting period for orthopedic issues down to 14 days (only needed for dogs).  This will ensure that you’re covered in the first six months in the event of something like a ligament tear or a broken bone.  And, you can take care of task #5 too while you are there…
  5. Fax in your pet's health history
    800-238-1042 (it's on your claim form too - the one you are going to put in your pet's file, right?) Specifically, ask your vet to fax us your doctor's hand written notes (aka SOAP) for every vet visit your pet has made, including routine visits and for every vet including one-off visits to other clinics. If your pet is older than a year old, start with the last year's worth of history.  We’ll even review your pet’s records to let you know if we find any pre-existing conditions that might affect future claims - just ask for a Medical History Review.  
  6. Maximize your discounts
    We offer discounts for spayed/neutered pets (5%) and microchipped pets (another 5%) so if your pet wasn't spayed or neutered and/or microchipped when you signed up for your insurance but that changes, phone in (remember the number?) and let us know. We'll drop your premium immediately.
    Your policy has a deductible and copay component so to be financially prudent, you might want to set up a small fund to cover your annual deductible and copay. For example, if your annual deductible is $200 and your copay is 20%, you will be paying the first $200 of a claim and then 20% of the total thereafter. On a $500 claim, that's $260 out of pocket and on a $1,500 claim (about what an inexpensive cruciate repair costs), that's $460.
  7. Read your terms and conditions!
    I know, this is so obvious, why should I even mention it? But my experience is that only 1 in 10 pet parents actually read their policies (you can be the 1 in 10 for today, right?). At the very least, check your information is correct and your policy is what you asked for. Then read the rest of the policy; understanding your terms and conditions will make for a much better pet insurance experience. 
  8. Set up your own pet health savings account
    Your  policy has a deductible and copay component, so to be financially prudent, you might want to set up a small fund to cover your annual deductible and copay. For example, if your annual deductible is $200 and your copay is 20%, you will be paying the first $200 of a claim and then 20% of the total thereafter. On a $500 claim, that's $260 out of pocket and on a $1,500 claim (about what an inexpensive cruciate repair costs), that's $460.
  9. Friend Embrace on Facebook
    You'll find lively conversation about Embrace, the pets in our lives, and news and views on pet insurance. We’ll also keep you informed of your options and ways to save money on your pet expenses.
  10. Call us with your questions
    The number again is 800-511-9172 (of course, it's already on your cell phone, right?) Now that you've read your policy, you probably have questions. Call now to get those questions answered that from the lobby of your local emergency vet clinic.
  11. And bonus points - send us photos of you and your Embraced pets. We love the cute and fuzzies and you might see them in the Embrace newsletter "Belly Rubs" one day!


Ask Laura: changing veterinarians and your pet insurance policy

IMG_20101223_085243 Here's a question I just received from Amy:

Question:

Hello- I have an Embrace policy for my dog Finnegan.  I am considering switching to another vet and I was wondering if there was anything that I would need to do regarding his policy.  Amy H

Answer:

Amy, there’s nothing you need to do for your policy. You can use it anywhere in the US and travelling on vacation around the world. Laura

Do you have any questions about your policy?

Related Posts:
Other "Ask Laura" questions



Revising Your Embrace Pet Insurance Coverage At Renewal

IMG_2157 Here is a post by Lea, our renewal specialist at Embrace, on renewals.

[here's Lea at Blogpaws West this summer. She is on the right of the picture, with Meg, an Embraced pet parent with her Embraced dog Dagobaz in the middle, and me, Laura Bennett on the left]


Now that we’re in our 6th policy term, it’s quite interesting to see that some pets have had quite a few claims over a few terms, while others have had none at all!  With a large chunk of our policyholders coming up for renewal in the summer months, you might already be thinking about whether or not your pet is “overinsured.” 

This situation came up recently, when one of our policyholders received her renewal notice.  The woman, on a fixed retirement income, received a renewal quote for her fourth policy term.   Her rate has gone up a bit, due to inflation, her policy parameters ($10,000 annual maximum and 10% co-pay) and the fact that her dog is now a senior.  She began to consider reducing her dog’s coverage to lower her annual payment.

But, her dog has had 22 claims over the past 3 years-mostly minor things (allergies, skin issues, and a mass removal).  So, we crunched some numbers to help her decide whether or not a change in her pet’s coverage was a smart financial decision:

First, we took a look at the claims she’d had over the past 3 years, and came up with an average dollar amount spent on her dog’s unexpected vet bills (wellness excluded).  That average came to about $1200 per year.

Then, we looked at how her current coverage would pay if she had another $1200 year.

$1,200 in vet bills
-$200 deductible
$1,000
-10% co-pay
$900 reimbursement

Then, we looked at a couple of alternative quotes.  A higher deductible ($500) would result in a 35% decrease in her premium (an annual drop of $230), but the reimbursement would be less:

$1,200 in vet bills
-$500 deductible
$7,000
-10% co-pay
$630 reimbursement

A higher co-pay would also offer a 23% drop in premium ($151), but $100 less in anticipated reimbursement.

$1,200 in vet bills
-$200 deductible
$1,000
-20% co-pay
$800 reimbursement

In this case, she felt she was better off to stay with her current policy level for the piece of mind.

Ultimately, policy changes are a personal decision.  It’s not a science - it’s up to you, and your budget to decide if and when you want to make a change.  Things to consider:

  • Is your pet getting older, and more likely to have unexpected visits?  
  • Are your finances now able to take on more out-of-pocket? 
  • Do you feel comfortable that your pet is overally quite healthy, and a low risk for major events? 

It’s an overwhelming decision, and you never know if you’re making the right call.  But, your Embracer will always be happy to share some quotes and options with you, and can help you make the informed choice. 

[Note that you can revise your policy coverage at any time but there are underwriting implications when increasing your coverage - here are the rules around changing coverage]





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