Consumer Reports pokes its nose into pet insurance


Veterinarians will want to know what the consumer watchdog is saying to pet owners about four purveyors of pet health insurance.

National Report -- Consumer Reports has waded once again into the world of veterinary medicine, this time with an online article exploring pet health insurance.

The organization's newsletter Consumer Reports Money Adviser compared nine plans from four insurance providers—ASPCA Pet Insurance, Trupanion, 24PetWatch, and VPI—in cases of a 10-year beagle and two cats with rare medical conditions.

Pet owners wouldn't see savings with typical routine care, according to the article. The authors question the value of wellness-care riders and encourage pet owners to read the fine print and distrust vague language in claims policies.

The organization did, however, find that some plans paid off for pet owners willing to pay for care for cats and dogs with major health problems. However, Consumer Reports said the majority of pet owners would "draw the line" at $500 for veterinary care for an illness. A 2009 DVM Newsmagazine survey found veterinarians reporting an average $1,407 stop-treatment point. And three-quarters of survey respondents said they would like to see wider use of pet health insurance among their clients. (Click here for a closer look at DVM Newsmagazine's data.)

Spokespeople from both Trupanion and VPI say they're happy with the article. A spokesperson from 24PetWatch, which sells pet microchipping as well as pet health insurance, had no comment. ASPCA Pet Insurance had not returned a call by press time.

The issue for pet owners considering insurance is definitely how much they'd spend in the event of a serious accident or illness, says Trupanion CEO Darryl Rawlings. "If you ask yourself the question, 'If my four-legged family member had a serious medical condition, would I provide it the same level of care as my two-legged family member?' and the answer is 'yes,' you're a candidate [for pet health insurance]," Rawlings says.

VPI spokesperson Grant Biniasz says he was glad to see what he called a "change in tone" from previous Consumer Reports looks at pet insurance. He says the organization previously focused just on dollars and always on a "return on investment."

"Now, the tone has changed," Biniasz says. "The story points out that pet insurance can benefit pets that need major care."

Click here to read Consumer Reports' original article.

For more on past Consumer Reports looks at pet food and veterinary healthcare and a handy client handout on comparing pet insurance plans, see related links below.

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