Has anyone had a bad experience with ASPCA pet health insurance? I ask because it seems that a good number of people have, which led me to write this post. Sometimes, though, one can be misled by internet searches so some confirmation by PoC visitors would help firm up the impression that I have. It may be the case that there have been good experiences, in which case so much the better.
For visitors from countries other than the USA, ASPCA is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; an essentially good organisation fighting the good fight. The UK equivalent is, I suppose, the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Insurance is hard core business; a charity is not for profit – not a good marriage on the face of it.
As a money making exercise to raise funding, ASPCA sells pet insurance. They appear to do this by working with an insurance company rather than running their own insurance company. Although the ASPCA insurance website gives little indication of this. Small print at the base of the home page says that insurance plans are underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company and administered by Petsmarketing Insurance.com Agency, Inc., a subsidiary of the Hartville Group, Inc.
On the face of it this sounds sensible arrangement, if not a little dangerous. I say dangerous because the essential work of organisations such as the ASPCA is very worthy, charitable and not-for-profit. Whereas the insurance business is diametrically opposite in culture and ideals. It is wholly and completely about profit and the insurance companies have a habit of finding ways to avoid paying claims. That is to be expected and is normal for the insurance business. It has to be that way.
The insurance companies sometimes keep things muddy to confuse customers. They sometimes employ weasel words (see below) to trip people up. All in the name of profit. And I am not criticizing them when I say this and I am not saying that all insurance companies are the same; some are more transparent and open. They are in the business of making money. But their style of business does not sit comfortably with the style of a well run animal charity. And this seems to be the case with ASPCA pet health insurance.
The fact that the problems with their insurance probably damages the good name of ASPCA appears not to worry them unduly as the financial benefits are no doubt worth the negative trade off.
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance — The Problems
One of the problems with ASPCA pet health insurance comes from their representation on the home page of their insurance website. It says this:
>>Get reimbursed 80% of usual and customary covered charges.
The weasel words are, “customary covered charges”. This phrase has an open ended subjective meaning. What are customary charges? Does your vet charge at a level that is “customary”. If he or she does but the ASPCA pet health insurance people say he doesn’t you have a fight on your hands. How many people bother to fight? Some do and win but that is time and money. These unclear words in policies are one way of reducing payouts on claims and it is happening. Here are three comments from the Pet Health Insurance site – these are considered by me to fairly representative of all the large number of comments:
“….ASPCA settled and claimed that what I charged was above the “allowable” rates, but no one could give me where those rates came from….”
“….they (ASPCA) said that all items listed exceeded the customary fee or reasonable costs for the area….” (a much reduced payout was made accordingly)
“…When I called, they said they go by a NATIONAL AVERAGE AND NOT WHAT IT COSTS YOU…” – the customer phoned around and her vet’s charges were inline with the national average but a much reduced payment made.
Another problem is the excluding clauses in insurance contracts. Do we read the entire agreement and understand it? I am sure a lot of us do not and I would be one of those. This leads to false expectations which in turn to leads to disappointment.
“…these guys are following the insurance mantra of ‘deny, deny, deny'”. – comment from person denied a claim by ASPCA for spurious reasons it is alleged.
Someone has got to lose in insurance. The insurance companies must win. Bottom line, they just have to raise premiums to maintain profit margins. People with pets that are fit and well all their lives will lose out with pet health insurance. They subsidise the people who have pets that are ill a lot. It is just a means of spreading risk. Taking out insurance is a gamble essentially. Of course it does provide peace of mind but this seems to be a false sense of peace of mind as at the end of the day the customer may lose money with pet insurance.
People who make lots of claims will endorse pet insurance. We don’t usually know if our cat or dog companion is going to be healthy.
The Better Way
Save money and ring fence it. Open a account for pet health and don’t touch it. It takes discipline but it will be cheaper on average as there is no profit margin (
for the insurance companies) to factor into the overall equation.
Clearly there are times when pet insurance is advisable. Perhaps it could be argued that cat caretakers of top line purebred cats or dogs should insure for various reasons one of which is the greater likelihood of illness that experts say that purebred cats and dogs are more susceptible to.
Better Insurance Company
Early indications are that:
is a better pet insurance company. This is a USA company covering the USA only as far as I am aware. I do not receive any money from any insurance company so this is an entirely objective appraisal.
This post sets out my personal opinion.