Pet Insurance: Taking It Or Not Taking It? My Experience.

A few years ago, after our Golden retriever, Pouch – don’t ask about the name please! – was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Leukemia, I looked back, and saw in the background the remaining of my gang: 7 Labrador retrievers and my little terrier (little only in size!) and thought: “Gosh, five of them are the same age, being siblings, if they get sick at the same time, how am I going to be able to do the best for each of them?”

The worst nightmare if you have a furry kid – besides the fact that they don’t live long enough – would be not to be able to afford the best care in time of sickness. I talked to my ex vet, and he suggested I contact VPI. It was 3 years ago.

One day, I decided it was the day, and I called VPI. You know before you talk to these sales representatives, there is always a message saying that “the call is recorded for training purposes”. I swear, next time, I get that message, I will warn the rep that I am going to record the conversation as well for “accuracy purposes”! Really wonder how they are going to take it! Anyway, a guy, really nice – hey, remember he is a sales guy! He gets a commission for every sale he makes – so, yes he can be nice!

The sales rep got me right away. I was not interested in being covered for the annual exam and shots, but for accidents and illnesses. He suggested the $ 1,000 deductible since I had 8 dogs to cover, the premium would be less expensive while I could afford the deductible. I remember asking him if everything was covered after the deductible, and he told me yes, up to $ 14,000 per year. Cancer was not excluded, and if one of my mutts gets cancer, he will still be covered the following year. I am telling you: I was relieved! I suddenly became grown-up! I had health insurance for my pack! It was around $300.00 a month, and now I could sleep at night. My mutts were protected and will be safe. I was a happy camper!

They deducted the money right away from my bank account, and within a month I received policies for everyone. Did I read them? No. The sales rep explained to me whatever needed to be known. I felt confident, and neatly put every policy in the mutt’s folders.

A year ago, George, one of my beautiful pups, got sick on Labor Day weekend. He woke up with swollen limbs. One day he was his old self, the next day, he could barely walk. I took him to the emergency clinic where he was diagnosed with Lyme nephritis. I did not realize right away how bad it was, or I did not want to realize it. I kept saying that I had health insurance, that whatever was needed, they could do it, right? At one point, a vet tech came in and tried to make me understand that George was lost, he was not going to make it, and cost wise, it would make more sense to put him to sleep right away. I remembered looking at her like an alien, when they must have thought I was the alien. How could I have ever agreed to put to sleep my handsome 3 year old black lab? For God sake, he looked healthy the day before? I just could not even think about putting him to sleep. It was George, for God sake. I was the one to cut his umbilical cord. He was my special pup!

To make a long story short, I refused to put him to sleep, and decided to try to save him. George stayed at the emergency for 24 hours, and then, the day after was just a regular day, so I had to take him to a hospital where he was going to be seen by an internist while being taken care of in ICU.

His condition went from bad to worst within a few hours, and yes there was a possible treatment, but the internist, who was by the way, one of the most amazing ones I have met, and I have met a few, told me he was not going to make it. No amount of money will make him survive! At that point, after a full day at that hospital, I decided to put him to sleep. I could not bear the idea of him dying alone and we put him to sleep at that time, and let him rest in peace.

I paid the bills, and more bills. I just added them up recently to see exactly how much I had spent, not that it mattered. I would have sold the house I did not own to save him! The total amount was $7,795.69.

The days following George’s death, still in a daze, I started faxing every single bill to VPI, right? When I went online to check the claim, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw that they would be reimbursing me a bit less than $ 1000.00 including the euthanasia. All the anger I had from losing George was now aimed at VPI. I called them, and they explained very nicely to me that they do not reimburse the real expenses but they have a chart for each illness and they gave me the details:

Lyme for instance was $ 335.00, and then they were covering some blood tests. At that time, they gave me the link to the chart in question, and I realized that most illnesses or treatments were reimbursed for less than $ 1,000! Yes there were a few exceptions: chemotherapy was $2,000.00, Knee surgery was 2,620.00, but most of them were under $1,000.00. So, basically, no matter what, I was screwed since my deductible was $ 1,000.00 and my nice sales rep. blatantly lied to me like he must have been lying to thousands of people to make a buck.

Yes, I should have read the whole brochure I received for each mutt, the whole thing since the part which really matters is in the last few pages. That part is also on their website, but it’s not really visible. You have to know where it is in order to access it. They don’t talk about it, because you know, it’s just about how much you love your animal and want to protect him or her, right?

Here is the magic link.

Even if it’s written “sample” it was the chart of how much they reimbursed me at that time. Do you really think that, if I had seen that chart when enrolling, I would have enrolled? Nope!

At the end of the day, it was my fault, and only my fault! I did not read the brochure I received after the enrollment. If I had read it, I would have cancelled it right away because it was just major BS. How could anyone of their sales rep recommend a $ 1,000 deductible when most illnesses and accidents are under the $ 1,000.00 limit?

When I talked to my ex vet about it, she said that they do reimburse fast. True, but how much? She also mentioned at that time that each time she sees a patient for a specific problem; she makes sure that whatever problem it is, she writes in the chart, that it was solved. She learned that from experience. One of her patients, a German shepherd, was brought to her at one point for diarrhea. Obviously, the dog got back to normal, but she never wrote it in his chart. Two years later, he had a twisted stomach, and needed surgery. VPI denied the claim because the previous “stomach problem” was never cured according to the chart.

I was naïve, very naïve. How could I have trusted someone just because he said so? I guess because I still believed at that time that they could not misrepresent their services the way they did. But, you know, if I think for one minute about it: those health insurances for pets are there TO MAKE MONEY, nothing else. Why would they be better than health insurance companies for humans?

After George’s death, I was still trying to believe that somewhere there had to be a good health insurance for my furry kids. I was feeling so vulnerable without insurance. Oooopppsss, I forgot to mention that I cancelled VPI after I realized what they were about.

I tried two other health insurances for pets where they said “they reimburse the real cost of the treatments.” This time, it was easy! I asked them to evaluate George’s file, and to tell me what they would have reimbursed. Both of them declined. It would have been easy. I had his whole file until he died, but no, they just refused to do it. But when you read between the lines, they have the right to ask for you to bring your sick pet for other evaluations, therefore, your pet might be dead before he gets approved for whatever treatment is needed. I passed on them, and I passed on the idea of health insurance for my pets.

When I see reviews on pet insurances like not long ago on Angie’s list, someone saying: “I am so relieved now that I have VPI for my dog. They will reimburse me up to $ 14,000 a year for his medical expenses. This is great.” I become sad.

I understand the concept of making money of course, but making money by not saying the truth, the whole truth, is just a masquerade. No, they do not care, the only thing health insurance companies for pets have in their minds is the dollar sign, hey this is the country of opportunities. Everyone knows that pet parents spend more and more money every year on their pets. They just want a part of it.

So, what am I doing now? After George’s passing, I opened a bank account for the mutts. Every month I make a $300.00 deposit like a “premium”. In just a year, I have $ 3,600.00 there for them. This money is for my furry kids, and it grows fast. I know it’s there, and I know that when the time comes, because at one point, it will come, I will be able to give them the best care I can afford, which is much better that what I could have got from any health insurance companies.

Again, this is my experience. Maybe you are happy with yours! Share your stories, because the really only thing which matters here is keeping our furry pets safe.

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