When it’s time...to Remove a Pet from your Pet Insurance Policy

When I read this post that Embracer Lea wrote, I had a heavy heart and a tear in my eye. I've known Lyger as long as I've known Lea and he's been a wonderful part of Embrace's history.

It's hard to think you would ever drop your pet insurance policy for your older dog. What do you think about Lea's decision below?

Back in 2006 when I started with Embrace as one of just two employees, we weren’t even selling policies yet--just getting ready to.  But when the big day rolled around come October, we all jumped up and celebrated, then set to selling each other our very first insurance policies. Lyger, then just a six year old nutball who would sneak into the board meetings of our office neighbors, was among the first to be “embraced”.  We set him up with the “$5,000 max/$200 deductible/80% reimbursed” plan.

Flash forward a few years and his policy looks quite different.  Until he hit his “tweens” he’d been mostly healthy, with the exception of some arthritis so I reduced his coverage to a more catastrophic $500 deductible and 90% reimbursement option.  And that policy continued to serve us well, reimbursing for his mast cell tumor removal in 2012 and acupuncture in 2012.  Then his renewal rolled around last week, a happy reminder of how many years we’ve been selling policies, but also a reminder of how frail Lyger’s become, and how much the cost of insurance goes up with the advanced age.

During his last vet visit the doctor and I discussed his overall quality of life and noted that his arthritis and a large benign tumor were starting to take their toll on him.  I realized that the cancer surgery he had last year had been very hard on him, a trauma that he hasn’t fully recovered from.  While that’s bought him an extra year, it’s not the sort of procedure I’d put him through again. 

Realizing that Lyger’s $500 deductible wouldn’t serve much use in a situation where we had switched to pallative care, I took a look at the cost benefit of our coverage. Ultimately, Lyger’s insurance reached about $55 per month for a catastrophic plan that wasn’t paying for any of his home pain medications. (I’d opted out of the prescription drug coverage, and stand by my decision to do so...but that’s a post for another day.)  I consulted with my long-time colleagues about my decision, but ultimately took Lyger off of our Embrace plan.

So, now it feels very final.  No going back. No coverage “just in case”, because we’ve sadly hit that point at which  the next major step will be euthanasia.  And honestly, making the decision to jump off of the policy was difficult, but I have come to a resting point at which I no longer need to “make good use” of our policy.  In the insurance industry, we talk about avoiding “financial euthanasia”, or putting an animal to rest because the care is unaffordable.  But, we’re now at a polar opposite...I’ll no longer feel like I should proceed with treatment, just because I can.  It’s almost like I’ve made an internal agreement with myself. No more extreme measures, just respite care.

And I’m ok with it.  For now. Until that hard day comes.  In the meantime, I’ll opt to spend the savings I would have spent on premium on a few trips to his favorite ice cream stand.

A few notes from your Embrace agent about adding/removing pets:

  • Pets can be removed from the policy at anytime, though age guidelines may apply for pets being added to a policy. 
  • Pre-existing conditions may also apply if adding or re-adding a pet to your policy.
  • Coverage changes can be made, but any increase to your coverage will result in pre-existing conditions being reset.
  • Euthanasia is covered by your Embrace plan so long as the decision is brought about due to a covered condition. Cremation and burial costs are not included at this time.
  • When a pet is removed, for any reason, the coverage ceases and the policyholder is issued a refund for the remaining portion of premium paid.

Lyger celebrating a dog birthday in the office Lyger celebrating a dog birthday in the office

Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk pet insurance

Laura May 2013This time, the tables are turned and Dr Patrick Mahaney asks me, Laura Bennett, CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance (EPI), questions on the topic of pet insurance. It is after all, Pet Health Insurance Month.

Questions covered are:

  • What is the (estimated) number or percentage of pet owners in the U.S. who have insurance for their pets?
  • What are EPI’s top canine and feline health claims?
  • What are the main reasons pet owners give for establishing health insurance for their cats and dogs?
  • Why should a pet owner get pet insurance?
  • Does the typical pet owner keep their pet on Embrace's insurance throughout the pet's life?
  • Does EPI cover any pre-existing conditions?
  • Does EPI cover complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic, and so on?

Click on the link below for the podcast.

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney pet insurance 2013

Related Posts

September is Pet Health Insurance Month Across North America
Guest Post: Veterinary Perspective on Pet Insurance
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney and Laura Bennett talk pet insurance

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney

Dr Patrick MahaneyDr. 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 atVeterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA. 

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) forwww.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 2013 through Havenhurst Books


Guest Post: Veterinary Perspective on Pet Insurance

In Pet Health Insurance Month, Dr Riggs weighs in with his veterinary perspective on pet insurance.

If you talk to a number of vets about pet insurance, you will get many different opinions. There are many vets, like myself who have researched and done my due diligence, and see it as a win/win/win situation for the client, the vet, and most importantly the pet.

Some vets think pet insurance is evil, and the industry is trying to control veterinary medicine and tell us how to practice medicine, as it has human insurance.

Then you have the third group…"there’s pet insurance???"

It is true the early pet insurance companies were not very good. I initially had bad experiences with pet insurance myself.  This is where the newer pet insurance companies started to pop up, and thrive.  The newer companies, such as Embrace, have looked at Sweden, United Kingdom, and other parts of the world to see how to develop a new model.  In the United Kingdom, it is estimated around 25% of pet owners have pet insurance as opposed to the United States , where less than 1% have pet insurance.  The newer companies, have great customer service, quick claim payments, and almost nothing for the vet to fill out.  They truly have learned from others' past mistakes.

I think a lot of “older vets” got a bad taste for pet insurance because they had that same bad initial experience I did. The early pet insurance companies often denied claims, had bulky forms vets had to fill out and crummy customer service. That became a reflection on the vet, because they recommended it. It simply was not worth the effort.

In addition, some vets equate pet insurance to our human health insurance. I don’t need to tell anyone how messed up our healthcare system is. Some are concerned that it will become managed care and the insuraners will dictate how the vets would practice. There is a lot of fear and misunderstanding about pet insurance and veterinarians.

Pet Insurance is Indemnity insurance. It is not managed care. I compare pet insurance to car insurance. You pay the insurance company to protect yourself from some unseen problem. This prevents you from having to pay a large sum of your own money. Pet insurance is the same way, the policy holder pays a small monthly amount and if your dog eats someone underwear, or whatever, then you are protected from the high cost of the surgery. You hope you never need to use insurance but it is there, in case you need it and it takes away the problem of not having enough money to be able to treat your pet, which is a very difficult situation, for the vet, when you know you can help an animal and the people can’t afford it.

Managed care is not the intent of pet insurance nor the vets. Vets would not, and could not, allow that to happen. The number of people required to process human health insurance issues, would be cost prohibitive for vets. Payment to physicians can take up to 6 months and when they arrive, the reimbursement is a fraction of the charges. With pet insurance the client pays the vet at time of service as usual and then gets reimbursed by the insurance company.

Finally, veterinarians only benefit from pet insurance by allowing clients to be able to pay for what is needed for the pet. THERE ARE NO KICK BACKS.

Related Posts

September is Pet Health Insurance Month across North America
Guest Post: Veterinary Perspective on Pet Insurance

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

Embrace in the news

We've had a lot of excellent press coverage at Embrace lately. Some of the good coverage because of our recent change in ownership, and some of it just because.

Our recent change in ownership is our most exciting update since we changed our underwriter to American Modern Insurance a year ago.

Before I get into details of the transaction, the bottom line is that:

  • Embrace is staying and growing in northeast Ohio,
  • we are remaining independent from other insurance organizations, and
  • we will continue to provide the great Embrace experience you've come to know from us. Nothing is going to change that way.

As for details, there's a great Plain Dealer article on the transaction "Embrace Pet Insurance Finds Success Keeping Tails Wagging". A private investor with deep experience in the insurance world, Beauvest (US), acquired all the shares of Embrace except for those belonging to me (Laura Bennett) and Alex Krooglik (we're the co-founders). Once that was complete, five of the original investors bought back in, indicating their continued confidence in Embrace and Alex and me (which was very much appreciated by all of us.)

So, for Alex and me, we are still as invested in Embrace as we were before (no Tesla for me this time around!) and we will continue to run Embrace as we have all these years. We also have a very long-term investor who has no particular time horizon for this investment. It's as perfect as it could have been.

The other part of the transaction is that we locked in our underwriting partnership with American Modern for another 5 years, which I am absolutely delighted about. Not only does that give me great comfort that I won't be looking for another underwriter any time soon, but also, the American Modern folks are a great group of guys and gals backed by the solid support of their owner, Munich Re, the largest reinsurance company in the world.

It's tough to say goodbye to Jumpstart, who got us off the ground, and NCT Ventures, who invested a significant sum back in October 2008 during one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression. Both organizations have supported us for many years and we would not be here without them. 

Having said that, I will continue to be very active with Jumpstart, encouraging and supporting other entrepreneurs in northeast Ohio. Personally, I'm delighted that the proceeds from Jumpstart's investment in Embrace will go towards other new companies in the area. Got to love that flywheel!

As for that other press we've been getting:

  • COSE magazine profiled Embrace along with two other local entrepreneurial companies, highlighting the exciting entrepreneurial environment here in NEO (and I got to be on the cover - woohoo!)
  • Scene Magazine did an extensive article on entrepreneurship in Cleveland in the article "Startup City" mentioning Embrace as well
  • Embrace was recently listed as one of 20 Cool Tech Companies in Cleveland
  • I recently participated in a Jumpstart podcast "For Entrepreneurs, By Entrepreneurs" discussing the importance of culture and opportunities created for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs, many of which are focused on peer networking and education.

Definitely exciting times! Onwards and upwards.

Your Chief Embracer,

Laura Bennett

Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery

Today, we have a claim story from Embrace's Claims Manager, Chris Wrona. She has recently gone through over $12,000 of veterinary bills and two health crises with her dogs and shares her story here.

Ozzie 1My little boy, Ozzie, has had a rough couple of months and I’m so very thankful for Embrace. I’m the type of pet parent who will go to the ends of the earth if I know it can help my fur kids and I’ve been in the extremely difficult situation of not having an insurance policy in effect when my fur kids got sick. This was well before Embrace and I will never be without Embrace insurance again.  Prior to having insurance for my other pets,  I worked multiple jobs to pay off the debt  from their unexpected, uninsured medical expenses. I don’t have to worry about the expense now that I have Embrace insurance and can strictly focus on the best care that is needed. 

This was put to the test this past May. Ozzie, my youngest, is an amazing dog. He can jump a 4 foot wall from a standstill and is just always so full of energy but in May, Ozzie had something so simple turn into a life threatening condition and I’ll never forget the words of the surgeon “Mrs. Wrona, I need to let you know Ozzie’s prognosis is guarded and most of the pets who experience this don’t make it.” 

Ozzie began licking his rectum in May of this year. Being a veterinary technician prior to Embrace, I knew this may be something simple but shouldn’t be ignored too long. I checked his anal glands and they were normal so off to the vet we went. We decided to change to a vet closer to home (our prior vet was great but pretty far away). The vet diagnosed Ozzie with anal sacculitis but I wasn’t convinced; however, I decided to follow the treatment protocol to see how he responded. 

Ozzie 3Just a couple of days into the treatment he began bleeding from the rectum and his poor little bum became inflamed. Not large amounts of blood but enough for a neurotic pet mom to rush him to the emergency room on Mother’s day. The emergency room vet, who knows Ozzie very well due to his appetite for anything inappropriate, noted that she didn’t see much wrong with his anal glands but he had been on antibiotics.  We changed the treatment protocol but were warned to make a recheck appointment if he didn’t get better. Ozzie did very well on this new treatment until the treatment stopped, then it all came back. Off to the Internal Medicine Specialist we go! 

The beginning of June, Ozzie visited the Internal Medicine Specialist who changed the treatment protocol and warned me that if this didn’t work we would need to do further diagnostics including colonoscopy. So far the cost was only $911.00 but I knew how much a colonoscopy/endoscopy would
cost. The new treatment didn’t do anything to help Ozzie and the day of diagnostics were scheduled.  Ozzie had to stay at the hospital for almost two days and while I couldn’t stay with him overnight, I was at the hospital by his side early the morning of his procedure (of course visited with him most of
the day prior too). I never once had to worry about how I was going to pay for this because he was insured with Embrace. I made sure Ozzie was insured extremely early in his life before he had a chance to develop any pre-existing conditions. I had confidence this would be covered and after submitting my claim and going through our stringent internal review for Embracer claims, it was.  I was able to be worried about my boy and focus on just being with him.

The emotional/financial rollercoaster doesn’t stop there. It turns out Ozzie had Irritable Bowel Disease but not only did his story continue, my little girl, Mysha, became seriously ill 3 days after he came home.  Again, something simple that turned out to be serious. She coughed once and I didn’t think much of it. The cough progressed and of course we were into the vet immediately but despite the best efforts by the vets, they couldn’t save her. Ozzie came home on Tuesday and my Mysha
crossed the rainbow bridge the following Sunday. Ozzie’s expense for his diagnostics were an additional $2500 and Mysha’s expenses were $2600. It’s never about money when it comes to my babies care but knowing we didn’t have to worry about the financial side let me mourn my little girl and focus my efforts on Ozzie’s care.

Ozzie 2Well you guessed it, Ozzie wasn’t out of the woods yet. His treatment for the Irritable Bowel Disease caused more harm than good. I watched my beautiful boy waste away to nothing.  He was lethargic and lost all of his muscle mass. He didn’t play anymore, had trouble getting off and on the couch , we had to lift him onto the bed and my baby who once gave me kisses any chance he could, stopped giving me kisses. I consulted with the vet weekly and continually pressured to change the treatment because of what was happening. Again, Embrace came through and I was able to get a second opinion without worrying about the expense.  This occurred near the middle of August, and the new Internal Medicine Specialist changed his treatment. After only two days on the new treatment, Ozzie was more alert and wanted to play. He even gave me kisses again.

The next day he was playing and doing so much better but we didn’t realize we were at the top of another hill on the roller coaster ride. Ozzie vomited at 3:00 am on a Sunday morning, he had a lot of activity the day prior and he didn’t seem critical so we decided to wait a bit to see how he did. Later that morning, he was worse and didn’t want to eat anything including my breakfast, which is not like him.  We rushed to the emergency room again.  The vets were suspicious of a foreign body but due to the treatment of Irritable Bowel Disease he was not a good candidate for surgery. They decided to keep him and have the radiologist review the radiographs and possibly do more diagnostics. I decided to go home because I couldn’t stay with him and I would just wait for the vets update. 

I hadn’t been home for 15 minutes when I got the call. The veterinarian called to say that Ozzie’s stomach had ruptured and she needed my authorization to rush him to emergency surgery. I went back to the hospital to at least be in the building during his surgery. I was able to visit with Ozzie and meet the surgeon who reviewed all of the details with me including the uncomfortable (for the vet) topic of expense. I think he actually breathed a sigh of relief when I told him Ozzie was insured and we didn’t need to worry about expense.  

My husband left work as early as he could and met me at the hospital to wait. Over 4 hours later the surgeon emerged to let us know that Ozzie did well through surgery but the prognosis was bad. Ozzie had ingested 5 socks and a bandana but the surgeon felt this isn’t what ruptured his stomach.  He let us know that he took a biopsy sample to figure out what caused this. This is when he let us know that Ozzie most likely wouldn’t make it (well, at least that’s what we heard) but he was going to do the best he possibly could. The surgeon let us know he would call us immediately if Ozzie worsened so we could be there if he should go to meet his sister across the rainbow bridge. Again, we were not concerned about finances and could just focus on Ozzie.  My husband and I have been through this before and knew this was going to be between $5000 and $8000. The final bill was $7500.

My strong boy amazed everyone and not only pulled through but exceeded everyone’s expectations.  He has since gained most of his strength back and has returned to the hyperactive boy he was before this whole ordeal. His Irritable Bowel Disease in maintained and we are weaning him off of all treatments. 

We found out that his stomach was the perfect storm. He was immune-compromised due to the treatment of the irritable bowel disease and he developed an overgrowth of bacteria that caused an ulceration in his stomach. Plant material was found on biopsy of the tissue so we can only speculate that he ate a piece of plant material that was hard and it punctured the weak spot causing it to rupture. Where most dogs eat grass when they’re stomach is upset, Ozzie eats clothing.  We are
doing everything to prevent a relapse and we have puppy proofed the house even more diligently than before.

As an Embrace employee, it’s difficult to tell people about my claim stories because many feel that employees get special treatment working for Embrace; however, this is the farthest from the truth.  Employee’s undergo a much more strict claim review than our non-employee pet parents. Our claims are processed according to the same policy terms and conditions but there is an additional review by our Chief Embracer to ensure there’s no funny business and are audited by our insurance underwriter twice a year. Our claims are just as real and even if I didn’t work for Embrace, all of my pets will be insured by Embrace.  There’s no way I could save up to pay for the $12,000 in bills that piled up in just 4 months.  Thank you Embrace for all you do and helping me to provide the best care to my family members without having to worry about how we will afford it.

To date, Ozzie is recovering remarkably well and has been spitting his ball onto my laptop trying to get my attention as I was typing this.  He’s even gone as far as licking my laptop screen :)  I’m so very thankful to have my boy with me today and thankful to Embrace for being the company they say they are. Ozzie sends you many puppy kisses for helping to save his life!

Related Posts:
October is Pet Adoption Month at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: veterinary perspective on adopting your cat or dog
Claim story: Ozzie's "perfect storm of a stomach" surgery
Guest Post: Dr Patrick Mahaney talks about pet adoptions

"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - surgery for vicious dog attack

This claim was Embrace's first big claim and I couldn't believe how perfectly it illustrates why you should get insurance - you just can't imagine a scenario like this. Poor Storm, an Akita puppy, was attacked by the dog next door. Norma Jean tells the story in her own words.

DSC00019_editedStorm was in our fenced backyard with Rich (my husband). He was running along the fence when our neighbors Malamute managed to get a part of his head under the fence and as Storm ran by he grabbed Storm's right front right leg and tried to drag him under the fence. Storm was just a few months old and the other dog was about 6-7 yrs old. My husband had to go over the 6 foot fence and beat the dog off to free Storm.

We rushed Storm to the emergency clinic. His poor little leg was barely attached and when the people at the clinic saw it, their first thought was to try to save his life. The bone was shattered and he Storm after forelimb surgerywas just barely alive. They managed to stabilize him and found that the main artery going to his foot was still intact. Our Hero, Dr.Paul Moss, did surgery on him for hours and Storm came through it. He had an external metal brace with pins that kept the bones in place and Dr Moss adjusted it for his growing leg about once a month.

Storm had a number of other surgeries over the next year and a half. He is now 6yrs old and weighs about 150lbs and limps a little, but other than that he is doing pretty well.

Now for Embrace. A few days before the accident, I was on the net looking at Pet Insurance… I checked with a number of the companies, but when I spoke with the person at Embrace (I think it was Laura), she was so nice and caring that I decided the take out a policy right there and then. I paid the insurance premium.

DSC00460ALittle did I know how soon we would need it. Storm's accident happened just a few days later …we didn’t even have a copy of the policy yet. I call Embrace and told them what had happened and they were wonderful. There was never a question about their paying the bills and to top it off they stayed with us by phone and email the whole way. They were rooting for Storm as much as we were.

We have been with Embrace since that time and had other claims and they have been just great. They pay more quickly than our own health insurance! And we feel as though they are a part of our family. They are always there when we need them and I recommend them to anyone who has a pet.

I've written about Storm's claim details before but an update on all Storm's claims over the six years insured by Embrace is as follows:

Diagnosis Claimed Covered Paid
Dog attacked - fracture left radius and ulna 1,927.92 1,797.14 1,277.71
Follow up visits and removal of ring fixator 1,251.42 918.62 734.90
Follow up care, right rear leg patella luxation 185.81 119.99 95.99
Rebandage leg 100.00 100.00 80.00
Recheck ulnar ostectomy 100.00 100.00 80.00
Recheck ulnar ostectomy 25.00 25.00 20.00
Follow up reck on ulnar ostectomy 75.00 75.00 60.00
Follow up radiograph on Ulnar Ostectomy 25.00 25.00 20.00
Ulnar Osteotomy 766.93 727.73 582.18
Recheck Ostectomy 50.00 50.00 40.00
Bilateral Medial Luxating Patellas 1,377.52 1,266.72 853.38
Re-stabilze Tibial Crest 545.33 461.05 368.84
Medial Patella Luxation, Losing Weight 463.33 394.89 315.91
recheck x2 50.00 50.00 40.00
re-operate left medial patella luxation 192.00 70.00 56.00
dermatitis - insect bite 89.00 33.00 26.40
dermatitis, dermatophytosis and pyoderma 315.82 48.00 38.40
dermatitis, alopecia, trauma or insect bite 89.98 33.00 26.40
Upper Resp Infection, Conjunctivitis 55.70 33.00 0.00
Lick Granuloma, Dermatitis 104.95 33.00 0.00
Dermatitis, Allergies 130.45 48.00 0.00
Forelimb lameness and Diarrhea 235.62 207.42 5.94
Diarrhea 235.36 211.10 168.88
Total 8,392.14 6,827.66 4,890.93

Related Posts:
September is Pet Health Insurance Month
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - painful choice to euthanize
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - close encounter with dental floss
Guest Post: can I get pet insurance for that?
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!
Guest Post: Pet Insurance Q&Amp;A from Dr Patrick Mahaney
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - hip dysplasia surgery for 1 year old German Coolie
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - surgery for vicious dog attack
"So Glad I Had Pet Insurance" story - cats and lilies do not mix

"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!

Continuing the theme for Pet Health Insurance Month, here's a story from Chrissy, one of the Veterinary Account Representatives at Embrace. I love seeing Bella in the office and had no idea of this story until today.

I have worked as a technician in the Cleveland, OH area for the past 10 years.  While I always thought pet insurance was an excellent idea for clients, I never dreamed I would need it for myself.  Being in the profession, getting a hefty staff discount, and having a whole bunch of great contacts in the field, I did not foresee the cost of veterinary care ever becoming a problem.  I could not have been more wrong! 

Rewind to Christmas Eve 2007.  Bella, at the time a 2 year old pit mix, was always getting into things she wasn’t supposed to. She was obsessed with having things in her mouth so it didn’t surprise me when she vomited that morning.  However, a few hours later come breakfast time, I started getting concerned when she was not interested in her food.  She is a chow hound so that was very out of the ordinary.

As the day progressed, Bella really started to go downhill.  She had vomited many times and it had that characteristic, foul, obstructed smell.  I knew we were in trouble and as much as I wanted to try to make it wait a day and half until my hospital opened, I knew Bella needed immediate attention.  Off to the emergency clinic we went.

After bloodwork and x-rays, it was determined it was either an obstruction or something irritating the bowels passing through.  It was hard to tell exactly what was causing her symptoms as nothing was very clear or apparent on the x-rays.  They hospitalized her, put her on IV fluids, gave appropriate medications, and decided to see what tomorrow would bring and hope whatever she ate would pass on its own.

She improved somewhat on Christmas morning (even chewed out her IV line 3 times!), but still didn’t want to eat and the improvement was very short lived.  When I came to pick her up on December 26, I was told exploratory surgery was in her best interest.  I took Bella to the hospital I worked at, as we were now open after the holiday to be opened up.  The surgery was less than routine because there was not one object that was causing the problem!  She was obstructed in multiple places with tons of hair! Yes, hair! The doctor had to open her stomach, pylorus, and small intestines in a 3.5 hour surgery.  The copious amounts of hair had her poor intestines so inflamed that the doctor even felt it was necessary to biopsy, just in case.

So we think the worst is over……but not quite!  Back to the ER we go with Bella that night due to complications with her protein levels being so low from not eating for 3 days.  Fortunately, after another day of hospitalization and some more IV fluids, she was ready to eat and on the upswing within a few days.

After all was said and done, I paid over $2500 out of pocket between the ER visits and surgery – which was a HUGE hit being just out of college.  The Emergency doctor was even very generous, giving me a 25% veterinary professional discount for Bella’s visits. 

After pretty much breaking the bank with this ordeal, I have been a pet insurance advocate ever since and will never be without it again! 

This is just one example of why even veterinary staff members need pet insurance too.  You can never plan for accidents and illnesses that necessitate you visiting an ER or Specialist and these things always seem to happen at the most inopportune times!

Related Posts:
September is Pet Health Insurance Month
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - painful choice to euthanize
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - close encounter with dental floss
Guest Post: can I get pet insurance for that?
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!
Guest Post: Pet Insurance Q&Amp;A from Dr Patrick Mahaney
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - hip dysplasia surgery for 1 year old German Coolie
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - surgery for vicious dog attack
"So Glad I Had Pet Insurance" story - cats and lilies do not mix

Guest Post: can I get pet insurance for that?

This month, we are turning the tables from pet health and having our veterinary expert, Dr Rex Riggs, chime in on our theme for the month, pet insurance. Today, Dr Riggs talks about his perspective on pet insurance as an active practitioner.

“Can I get pet insurance to pay for this?” 

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that question, immediately after I just have informed a client their pet will require a big surgery or treatment. Too late.  I wish they would have thought about pet insurance when the pet was young. 

I can see why they did not consider pet insurance five or six years ago.  It was not very good.  That is the problem we deal with today.

Pet Insurance has come a long way in the past 5 years.  In my mind, it has been reinvented in the United States.  England has always embraced pet insurance, where over 25% of pet owners have insurance these days. In Australia, around 15%.  But in the United States, less then 1% of us have seen the value of pet insurance.


Well, I can give you my opinion.  When I see new patients now, especially puppies and kittens, I tell them about pet insurance and tell them it is something I recommend. But if you'd asked me 5 years ago, I would have told them to forget about it. 

The original pet insurance was not very good, but did a great job of frustrating both clients and doctors.  It was very hard to get claims paid.  Every thing was coded.  You were given certain maximum amounts that would be paid for each ailment or condition and once you reached that, you were out of luck. Claims would be denied and the vets had to send more information and they just did not see the worth of pet insurance.  It was just too much work for minimal gain. These bad experiences have soured many vets and they simply think all insurance companies are the same and will still not recommend any.

Time has changed though! 

Through visionary companies like Embrace Pet insurance and others, the pet insurance industry in the US has changed.  No more coding of ailments for many companies.  Great customer service, with people who really want you to get paid.  No Really! What a concept!  

I recommend people look at pet insurance when they come in for the first time. If the pet is healthy, there are likely to be no preexisting conditions.  I tell them they might not need to use it in the early years, with most health care costs coming in the pet’s last 3 years. But it is there for when it it needed.

It is there for those labradors that eat underwear or anything else the can stick in their mouth (I always say the lab's motto is, “let’s put it in our mouth first and ask questions later”!)  It is there when the gate is left open and your pet gets hit by a car.  It is there for diabetes, the tumors, the allergies…. You get the point. Some of these can get bills in the thousands pretty quickly. Pet insurance is a great thing in these situations.

Vets get no kickbacks from pet insurers.  We have no incentive other then the client will be able to pay the bill. Pet insurance is like car insurance, it is called indemnity insurance.  It is there when you need it.  It is not managed care, like our health insurance.  That will never happen in veterinary medicine simply because vets will not allow it.

We do have road blocks with veterinarians and clients alike to break down, brought on by past experiences. Educate yourself and educate your vet. Pet insurance is a win/win proposition for vets and the pet owning population.

Related Posts:
September is Pet Health Insurance Month
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - painful choice to euthanize
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - close encounter with dental floss
Guest Post: can I get pet insurance for that?
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!
Guest Post: Pet Insurance Q&Amp;A from Dr Patrick Mahaney
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - hip dysplasia surgery for 1 year old German Coolie
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - surgery for vicious dog attack
"So Glad I Had Pet Insurance" story - cats and lilies do not mix

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

September is Pet Health Insurance Month

Bulldog_PurpleIcepackLet's talk about pet insurance!

Many of you know, I am the Chairperson of the Board of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) where our goal is to increase awareness and trust of pet health insurance across North America. Pet insurance has been around for over 30 years in the US but less than 1% of cats and dogs are insured. Compare this to over 25% insured in the UK and you'll understand our goal more clearly.

There are many what I call structural differences between the two countries so will pet insurance ever reach 25% cats and dogs insured in the US? I doubt it.

Americans just aren't as enamoured with insurance as the Brits and the rules around advertising and regulation of insurance in the US are rather onerous compared to the UK.

I can see us doing much much better to provide great benefits to pet parents who want the flexibility to provide care for their pets in times of financial need rather than putting them down. How about 10% anyone?

So every year, the pet insurance industry highlights pet insurance in September to increase awareness and to talk with pet parents across North America about the benefits it can bring to their household, both in financial and emotional terms.

On the Embrace blog in September, I will talk about different aspects of pet insurance and the benefits and go over the Embrace policies and how they can work for you. We will even have some stories of those with pet insurance and those who wish they'd had pet insurance.

Please feel free to add your comments and experiences with pet insurance as well.

Laura Bennett
Chief Embracer

Related Posts:
September is Pet Health Insurance Month
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - painful choice to euthanize
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - close encounter with dental floss
Guest Post: can I get pet insurance for that?
"Wish I'd had pet insurance" story - vet techs need pet insurance too!
Guest Post: Pet Insurance Q&Amp;A from Dr Patrick Mahaney
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - hip dysplasia surgery for 1 year old German Coolie
"So Glad I had Pet Insurance" story - surgery for vicious dog attack
"So Glad I Had Pet Insurance" story - cats and lilies do not mix

Embrace's new Healthy Pet Deductible

When I announced the Embrace Pet Insurance move to our new underwriter, American Modern, I promised to tell you about our new diminishing deductible feature, also known as the Healthy Pet DeductibleTM.

If it sounds familiar, it's probably because you have seen quite a few TV ads from several large auto insurers with their own versions of the deductible reducing every year of claims-free driving. The Embrace Healthy Pet Deductible is very similar - if you go a year without any claims paid out for your pet, your next year's annual deductible reduces by $50 and so on every year, until you reach a $0 deductible.

Embrace is the first pet insurer in the world to offer this feature.

The point is not to discourage you from sending in your claims but to offer encouragement for those pet parents whose pets stay healthy and are not using their Embrace policy to stick around for when they ultimately will need their pet insurance.

It just kills me when someone cancels their policy because they haven't used it for 3 years and then call in 6 months later asking if we'd cover an accident or illness that has occured after the insurance was stopped. I never want that to happen again.

For specifics, you can learn more on our Health Pet DeductibleTM  webpage. For example, it is only available to those policies underwritten by American Modern so you'll have to wait until your policy coverts over to start earning those credits.

In the meantime, here's an example that I put together on how it works. 

Consider a multi-pet policy with my cats Rocket (annual deductible $500) and Rosie (annual deductible $200).

Year 1 – one covered claim for Rocket of $300 and one for Rosie for $300 as well.

  • Since Rocket’s claim is under her $500 deductible, there is no claim payout; therefore, Rocket accumulates a $50 deductible credit for year 2.
  • Rosie’s claim, however, is over her $200 deductible so there will be a claim payout in year 1; therefore, Rosie will not accumulate any deductible credits for year 2.

 Year 2 – another covered claim for Rocket of $600 and no claims for Rosie.

  • Rocket’s claim is over her deductible ($500 - $50 = $450), so there is a claim payout; therefore, Rocket will not accumulate any deductible credits for year 3 and her accumulated deductible credits are reset to zero.
  • Since Rosie has no claims in year 2, she accumulates $50 in deductible credits for year 3.

If we rewrote the example this way, you can see how the Healthy Pet Deductible accumulates:

Year 2 – another covered claim for Rocket but this time for $300 and no claims for Rosie.

  • Rocket’s claim is under her deductible ($500 - $50 = $450), so there is no claim payout; therefore, Rocket accumulates another $50 to make her total deductible credits equal to $100 for year 3.
  • Since Rosie has no claims in year 2, she accumulates $50 of Deductible Dollars for year 3.

So if you claim, you get reimbursed (if it's above the deductible) and if you don't (it's below the deductible), you get a credit.

What's not to like about that?

Related Posts:
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