Pet travel insurance doesn’t currently exist in the U.S. — at least not the kind that’s comparable to human travel insurance, where you lay down a one-time fee to bet on the contingencies of a single trip. But consider that, not long ago, pet health insurance wasn’t very common, and pet travel was not nearly popular as it is today.
I’m now a big fan of pet health insurance, as I discussed in two earlier posts, Health Insurance for Pets? Hell Yes! and Pet Insurance, Part 2: Jasmine’s Story. But Frankie isn’t insured because, by the time I discovered it was an option, he was a senior citizen and had already developed diabetes, a pre-existing condition. I recently started wondering, however, whether it was possible to insure him for a brief jaunt.
This and other wonderings led me to Laura Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance.
How Pet Health Insurance Covers Travel
Bennett explained that although there is no one-time pet insurance for travel in the U.S., you can get a longer term insurance policy that covers unexpected events, including accidents, for a pet of any age. And when you’re traveling, accidents are the likeliest cause for health issues.
She noted that if you’re traveling around the country in an RV, say, the issue of pet travel insurance is irrelevant because all pet health insurance policies allow you to go to any vet throughout the U.S. As Bennett put it, “There are no HMO or PPOs. You pay the vet bill and you submit it for reimbursement.”
On the other hand, not all pet insurance companies cover every place you might want to visit. Some don’t cover travel outside the U.S; others draw the line at North America.
Embrace policies are international but the policy holder must maintain residence in the U.S., as mandated by law. The definition of “residency” is complicated, but basically, you have to have an address in the U.S. and live here six months out of the year. There may be exceptions, however — if, say, you are a student studying abroad. “We look a the specific circumstances of the case,” Bennett said.
Bennet explained that pet insurance is not like auto insurance, where there’s a very specific structure for what a company is required to cover and for how a deductible works. Each pet insurance company has its own rules. Therefore, it’s essential for consumers to ask lots of questions — and to get the answers in writing, whether via email or mailed document.
Bennett also strongly recommends checking with PetInsuranceReview.com, and suggests that people look look at the negative comments rather than the positive ones. “Those are the types of things that you need to know about,” she says. If there is a lower rater of reimbursement, it may be because the consumer bought the least expensive policy, but you need to know what issues you might face if you sign up with a particular company.
According to Bennett, the three most important things you have to consider in a pet policy are:
- Does it cover hereditary conditions? If it doesn’t you’re going to be disappointed if your pet develops an illness that is common to the breed.
- Does it cover chronic conditions for a lifetime? If I had insured Frankie before he developed diabetes, for example, some policies would have covered only the first year, and cut us off after that.
- Will what you pay to the vet be used as the claim reimbursement basis or is there some kind of prearranged benefit schedule? The former is clearly preferable to the latter.
Why the U.K. can already offer pet health insurance
Bennett explains that U.S. insurance laws are not only nonspecific but also much more bureaucratic than European ones. Because there is no federal plan, she says, “You have to file an insurance product in every state.” And, she adds, “The market in the US hasn’t justified the effort required to create policies like pet insurance.” In Europe, on the other hand, “You don’t have the equivalent of 50 companies in each country.”
Bennett agrees that there is a need for this type of insurance now that travel with pets — not just pet relocation — has increased dramatically. “We’ve looked at it a lot,” she says, and she predicts that at some point there will be insurance for specific situations such as sending pets in cargo. But “it’s very difficult to develop a product where there’s just one small fee….You have to partner with a major airline or another company to have enough of an audience to make it worthwhile to deal with 50 states. Right now, no one has expressed enough interest.”
I predict that’s likely to change sooner rather than later.
Note: I interviewed Laura Bennett because I’ve seen her at Twitter chats and on the BlogPaws website and she seemed friendly and accessible. I didn’t realize how impressive she and Embrace were until I browsed the company’s history, which includes partnerships with such organizations as Best Friends Animal Society, Tsunami Animal-People Alliance, and Amazon Cares. Read all about it here.
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