Pet Insurance Blues

By Janette Barkley, August 2012

As a paralegal who has worked for many years with insurance-related issues, I would respectfully point out that Ms. Wallick forgot to include a key point in “Risk Management.” At this time in the U.S. market, pet insurance companies’ policies are reimbursement policies. There are no vet-direct-bill policies. This means that in most injury/illness and especially emergency injury/illness situations, the pet parent must first pay the veterinarian, usually in full and at the time of treatment, and then apply to the insurance company for reimbursement under the policy. The insurance companies proceed to “adjust” the claim in accordance with how they interpret and apply their policies, which may be in favor of the policyholder—or not. I would like to see any one of the dozens of pet health underwriters step up to an existing market need and offer an “emergency services only” policy that offers vet-direct payment, preferably via a preauthorization phone call from an emergency clinic. Barring that, my personal preference would be to use personal funds, personal credit, CareCredit or, if any/all those are insufficient, apply to the increasing numbers of organizations offering at least some financial assistance for pet parents in difficult circumstances.

Pet insurance is not regulated to the extent that human health insurance is, and we’ve all seen how well that works. Pet insurance is definitely a “buyer beware” and “read the fine print” financial product.