Saving your money for a rainy day, or putting it in a jar marked “vacation money” sounds like a great idea. For some people it may even work as planned; toss some loose change into a jar and watch it grow until you need it.
If you’re like me, however, the lure of cold cash can be impossible to resist and the temptation to dip into the available funds prevents any meaningful accumulation. For folks like us, it’s best to have our money hidden from view.
Pet insurance is a great boon to those of us who cannot save. You pay your premiums, and when you need the money it’s there for you and your pet. And it can’t be spent on anything else.
For today’s outing, we’re having a gander at ASPCA Pet Insurance.
ASPCA Company Overview
Yes, you read that right – ASPCA pet insurance. Perhaps you’re as surprised as I was that you can get insurance from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The Society was formed in 1866, and was the first organization dedicated to animal welfare in North America. They grant aid to shelters across the United States, lobby for animal protection laws, and boast more than 2 million supporters. Oh, and it’s a non-for-profit organization.
Wait, what? Non-for-profit, but selling insurance? Well, it’s not actually ASPCA selling you the insurance. It’s their strategic partner, Hartville Pet Insurance Group providing the coverage. Confused yet?
It’s really pretty straightforward. The ASPCA feels insurance is a good idea, and the insurance products offered by Hartville are in line with their own views on pet care. As such, they chose Hartsville as their only insurance partner.
The Hartville Group consists of the underwriter, United States Fire Insurance Company (USFIC), and Fairmont Specialty Insurance Agency (FSIA), who actually sell the insurance and handle claims, billing, and customer service. If that’s not quite clear, then you probably don’t want to know that FSIA and USFIC are part of Crum & Forster Enterprise.
Getting back to the marquee name, however, the ASPCA is a world-renowned organization that has been doing great work for pets and other domesticated animals for more than 150 years. Not a bad place to start if you’re thinking about pet insurance.
ASPCA Pet Insurance Plan Options
Rather than offering tiers of coverage, a search for a quote generates a single, pre-packaged plan based on the dog’s breed (and whether it’s pure or mixed), age, gender, and location. (I did find it a bit irksome that I couldn’t really read about the plans without putting in for a quote, which of course means giving my email address.)
If the initial quote doesn’t suit your needs or your budget, you’re free to customize various aspects until you get the plan you want.
The only other option available is an accident-only plan. Accident-only plans are budget friendly and are great for people who are of the mind their dog is more likely to get hurt than to get sick.
Overview of their Most Comprehensive and Popular Plan
Unlike other several other providers, ASPCA does not promote a particular plan with an eye-catching “Our Most Popular Plan!” banner, or some such call-out feature. It is reasonable to assume, however, that the pre-packaged plan is most frequently selected, and offers the best balance between coverage and budget.
Average Monthly Cost / Cost Range
Again, so that we’re comparing apples to apples (or whatever your fruit of choice may be), the sample plan was generated based on a 4-year-old male Golden Retriever living in California’s lovely 90210 zip code. (Incidentally, a Labrador Retriever is about $5 less expensive.)
The Complete Coverage plan offered provides my make-believe dog 90% reimbursement up to $5000 annually with a $250 deductible each year. The monthly premium for this level of coverage is $57.18.
If you want to max out your coverage, you can adjust the settings and choose 90% reimbursement with only a $100 deductible and no annual limit for $109.75 monthly.
At the other end of the spectrum, for $39.63 per month you’ll get a $5000 annual cap with a $500 deductible, but only 70% reimbursement.
And, for those who like to come right up the middle, select a $15,000 limit, 80% reimbursement and a $250 deductible for $67.30 a month.
- Accidents (including foreign object ingestion)
- Dental disease
- Behavioral issues
- Hereditary and congenital conditions
- Alternative therapy
- End of life expenses
- Intravenous fluids and medications
- Medical supplies (such as bandages, casts, and splints)
- MRI, CT, and X-rays
- Poison control consultation fees
- Prescription food to treat a covered condition
- FDA approved prescription medications
- Stem cell therapy
- Supplements prescribed to treat a covered condition
- Tooth extractions
- Veterinary treatment for accidents or illness including examinations, consultations, and laboratory tests
- Cancer treatment
- Microchip implantation
- Pre-existing conditions
- Cosmetic procedures (tail docking, ear cropping, etc.)
- Pregnancy, breeding, and whelping costs
- Routine anal gland expression
- Cosmetic dentistry
- Conditions occurring during a waiting period
- Non-illness related dental cleaning
- Experimental treatment or clinical trials
- Grooming and grooming supplies
- House calls
- Conditions resulting from intentional or negligent activities by owner, member of household or caregiver
- Toys, training devices, leashes
- Non-veterinary services (such as administrative fees, medical record expenses, medical waste, postage, and tax)
- Prescription food for prevention or general health maintenance
- Preventative care (unless covered by additional rider)
- Supplements and vitamins for prevention or general health maintenance
- Conditions resulting from coursing for sport or hunting, organized fighting, law enforcement or guarding, personal protection, or racing
Choose from $5000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 or unlimited.
Waiting Period For Payouts
Coverage for the diagnosis and treatment (including surgery) for an illness, or ligament or knee conditions begins 14 days after the effective date of the plan. (The effective date is generally the day after purchase.)
Any conditions that arise during the waiting period are ineligible for coverage until the dog is cured and free of symptoms for 180 days.
Accident coverage begins on the effective date, excluding knee and ligament issues.
Choose from $100, $250, or $500 annually.
Spay / Neuter Requirements and Limitations
The ASPCA is a major advocate of spaying and neutering. Although there is no coverage in the Complete Coverage plan, there is coverage available in the general wellness riders. (Which are described in detail in the next section.)
Whether or not your pet is already spayed/neutered does not affect coverage or premiums.
Available Options / Add-on packages
Accident-Only Coverage is offered in much the same way as the Complete Care Coverage: a pre-set plan is presented that you can either accept as is or customize to your liking.
The pre-set plan gives up to $5000 annual coverage with a 90% reimbursement rate and a $250 deductible each year. All this for the low, low price of $21.98/mo. Not good enough? Well, you can mess around with the options for annual cap, deductible and reimbursement rate.
Maximum coverage comes with no annual cap, $100 deductible and 90% reimbursement for $38.38.
Minimum coverage is $5000 annually at 70% with $500 deductible for $15.58.
Cutting it right down the middle gets you $15,000 per year at 80% with a $250 deductible for $25.98.
Whether you choose Complete Coverage or Accident-Only Coverage, you have the option of adding on preventative care options. It’s available at three levels, Preventative Basic, Preventative Standard, and Preventative Prime.
Here’s the breakdown:
Basic - $9.95/mo. offering:
- Dental cleaning up to $100
- Wellness exam up to $50
- Deworming up to $20
- DHLPP vaccine/titer up to $20
- Rabies or Lyme vaccine/titer up to $20
- Fecal test up to $20
- Heartworm test up to $20
Total Annual Benefit - $250
Standard - $14.95/mo. offering all Basic coverage plus:
- Choice of neuter instead of dental cleaning up to $150
- Health certificate
- An additional $5 each towards deworming, DHLPP vaccine/titer, rabies or Lyme vaccine/titer, fecal test, and heartworm test
Total Annual Benefit - $350
Prime - $24.95/mo. offering all Basic and Standard coverage plus:
- Flea/heartworm prevention up to $50
- Bordatella vaccine/titer up to $25
- Blood test up to $25
- Urinalysis up to $25
- An additional $25 towards dental cleaning or neuter
Total Annual Benefit - $500
Minimum age: 8 weeks
Maximum age: 23 years (but expect very high premiums for a senior dog; I got a quote of $214.41 for a dog born in 1994)
Working dogs: Not excluded, but no coverage for illness or injury suffered on the job.
Breeding dogs: Not excluded, but no coverage for issues arising from any aspect of breeding.
Pre-existing conditions: Not covered, but coverage is not precluded.
Veterinary exam: The site is a bit vague about this. Evidently, it’s not a requirement for coverage. However, they may ask to see your pet’s medical records at any time. As the sample plan states: “When you submit a claim, you authorize us and our administrator to access all medical information that we need to assess your pet's health. For example, we may ask you for the name and contact information of any veterinarian that has ever seen or treated your pet.”
Depending on your plan choices, ASPCA will reimburse 70, 80, or 90% of the actual bill, minus exclusions. Claims can be made online, by fax, or email.
If your vet agrees to do so, his or her office can submit on your behalf and get paid directly. Otherwise, reimbursement is via a check in the mail or direct deposit into your account. ASPCA estimates 14-16 business days are needed to fully process and reimburse a claim.
You are free to visit any veterinarian, emergency clinic or specialist in the United States or Canada.
What Sets ASPCA Insurance Apart from Other Insurers?
One of the first differences I noticed was the ability to customize your payment plan. You can choose from traditional monthly payments, or pay quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. By choosing to pay annually, you save $18 because they waive the installment fee.
The second thing I noticed (and this is odd and only slightly likely to be useful) was on the list of exclusions. Actually, it’s what’s not on the list of exclusions that I spotted. In the incredibly unlikely event that your dog is hurt or becomes ill due to an act of war, terrorism, or nuclear accident… you’re covered!
They are so confident in their product, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee at the beginning of each enrollment period. And if you like what you’re getting, you can save 10% by enrolling a second pet.
A.M. Best Rating
A.M. Best rates insurance companies and allows the public to access reports about financial stability and the projected ability to pay out claims. Given that they’ve been performing this task since 1899, it’s a safe bet they know what they’re talking about. A good rating from A.M. Best should give a prospective customer confidence in the company.
Not too surprisingly, the ASPCA is not rated on the site. Neither is Hartville Pet Insurance Group. However, United States Fire Insurance Company is rated, so we’ll go with that.
Rating: A (Excellent)
An ‘A’ rating is the third-highest score A.M. Best offers. Incidentally, USFIC’s first rating was Feb. 14, 1906. Pretty dependable company, I’d say.
Better Business Bureau Rating
For more than 100 years, the BBB has provided a forum for customer satisfaction concerns for all kinds of businesses. They issue ratings based on the volume of complaints and how effectively they are handled, without any bias in either direction. A good BBB rating is indicative of a company that strives to keep its customers happy.
Searching for “ASPCA Pet Insurance” led directly to ratings for Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group. It should be noted that only two reviews have been posted about this corporate entity. BBB gives it an A+, their highest rating.
Customer Review Rating: 100% negative, 0% positive
Composite Score: 3.68 out of 5 stars
Summary of ASPCA Pros and Cons
Our Overall Impressions and Rating
If there is a more recognized name in the pet world than the ASPCA, I’ve yet to hear it – and I’m not even an American! Even though the actual coverage has nothing to do with the organization, knowing they endorse it suggests it is a high-quality product.
Now, a more cynical person than I may find it suspect and misleading that ASPCA is written all over the site, and yet it’s not actually them you’ll be dealing with. It is a little confusing, but I can overlook this and accept it as the endorsement it really is.
The degree to which coverage can be customized is excellent; there is no reason anyone should walk away feeling they didn’t get enough for their money. Unless, that is, you own a working dog and can’t get coverage for your dog-on-the-job.
I like the option to add preventative care, and the accident-only coverage may be appealing to some, especially anyone with an older dog who cannot afford the premiums for their senior pooch.
The website offers some good resources on pet care, there’s a special Member Center for tracking claims and managing an account, and customers receive a monthly newsletter.
Evidently, payments used to be based on “usual and customary” fees that may or may not be the same as what you actually paid. The good news is they’ve listened to their customers and updated their reimbursement policies.
I can’t find any solid reason not to recommend this product to any dog owner, except working dog owners. The coverage is comprehensive and customizable, and premiums are reasonable. Highly and unreservedly recommended!
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