Best Pet Insurance in California
18 July, 2018
By: Lisa Fimberg
When you are looking for a new pet insurance policy in California, there are many different pet insurance companies to choose from that it can be difficult to know where to start. There are many top companies that offer well-rounded comprehensive insurance which is the best overall coverage. The best pet insurance in California will have at least that option and more.
According to the AVMA the number of pet households is roughly .56 of the total population of any city or state. And with California estimated at a population of 39.78 million households that makes the number of pet owners to be approximately 26 million pets!
With California’s temperate year round weather, dogs are outside more which increases the odds of getting in an accident, injured or hurt. Therefore, having a dog in California or even cat is even more important to consider pet insurance.
Why should you purchase pet insurance in California?
Pet insurance in general is to be protected for the unexpected accident or illness. Pet insurance is really the assurance that if your dog or cat gets in an accident or ill, you will have the majority of your medial bill paid for by the insurance company. And, with medical and veterinary costs increasing especially in states like California, the last thing you want is to be stuck with a $15,000 vet bill that you just can’t afford to pay.
I. How to find the best coverage in your pet insurance policy:
The type of coverage that you choose when purchasing a new pet insurance policy is the most important thing to consider. The reason you purchase pet insurance it to be reimbursed for your medical bill or veterinary care when you dog or cat gets sick or injured.
Make sure that any new pet insurance policy includes a minimum of the following, according to Consumers Advocate.org
- Accidents & Illnesses
- Hereditary, Congenital, & Chronic Conditions
- Diagnostic Tests
- Emergency Care
- Specialist Care
- Prescription Medication
When considering pet insurance for your dog or cat there are three variations of coverage to choose from:
Comprehensive Medical Coverage – These are by far the most popular plans. They account for over 90% of all purchases. These plans cover everything but routine care and similar to all pet insurance coverage, does not cover pre-existing conditions.
Comprehensive medical coverage allows you to be prepared for a range of expensive medical issues that could happen over the course of your dog or cat’s life. For example, if your dog has diabetes and is being treated for the condition, you want to make sure that your dog will continue to be treated for the cancer when the policy rolls over into the next year. Without the continual care, your coverage could go away at the end of the policy year.
Wellness Coverage: You can add a routine care or wellness plan to a regular pet insurance policy. These plans cover annual visits, spay/neuter, vaccinations, etc. We do not recommend these plans because there isn’t much benefit as it will only drive up your monthly premium for expenses that tend to be relatively inexpensive to pay out of pocket.
Accident Only Coverage– These plans are cheaper but only cover vet bills related to accidents. We don’t recommend these plans because illnesses are more likely and more expensive to treat. And, a solid pet insurance company should cover accidents and illness in their policy which is why this is our least favorite. They could be favorable if you have an older pet that needs to be insured.
II. What to look for in the best pet insurance policies in California:
Each plan has different terms and conditions that you should know about:
Exclusions – Most policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions which is any injury, illness, or irregularity that exits before your pet insurance policy begins. This also applies to any illness or condition that pre-dates the policy or a pre-existing medical condition if you change providers. And most will not cover typical veterinary expenses that are mostly routine or can be paid out of pocket, like spaying and neutering.
Benefit Limits – The whole point of getting pet insurance it to be covered for the unexpected, big medical bill that your dog or cat might incur. There are 4 different benefit or pay-out limits and they are broken down into 4 different types in our order of preference:
1. Unlimited Lifetime: After you pay your deductible, there will be no upper limit the pet insurance policy will pay to cover your pet’s medical bills.
2. Annual Maximum: Some companies will cap payouts on an annual basis (e.g. $15,000/year). Once you reach that limit, you will no longer be reimbursed for treatments that year which can be expensive if your pet gets in a serious accident.
3. Annual per Incident: This is the maximum dollar amount the company will pay for a particular illness, condition, or procedure in a given year. If your dog or cat has to see the vet several times for a certain condition – even something as simple as asthma, you can reach the limit quickly,
4. Lifetime Maximum: This is the maximum amount the company will pay out either in total or per condition for the lifetime of the pet. If your pet has a chronic condition, you can quickly hit the benefit limit.
When choosing a pet insurance policy, make sure to look for one that pays the actual cost of the bill. Look for a policy where you are reimbursed on your total vet bill, rather than on a benefit schedule or what some policies refer to as customary or routine charges
III. Adjusting the price of your pet insurance policy in California
The cost of pet insurance depends not only on the coverage you choose, but also where you live in California, i.e. Los Angeles is more expensive than Sacramento and the breed of your dog or cat.
Every pet insurance plan allows you to adjust the price of your plan by choosing a custom deductible and custom reimbursement percentage.
Deductible – If you choose a higher deductible you will pay less for pet insurance. Conversely, if you choose a lower deductible you will get more back when you file a claim, but your monthly rates will be higher. Deductibles range from $100 to $1,000 (we recommend $200 to $500 to maximize value).
There are 3 different types of deductibles that are offered:
1. Annual Deductible – The annual deductible is the amount you pay (standard is around $250) before your pet insurance policy starts to pay. Once you’ve met your deductible, your pet insurance plan kicks in to reimburse you for 80 – 90% of all medical bills (depending on your choice or reimbursement level. When the year is over, the annual deductible resets. A deductible is not a co-payment.
A co-payment (or co-pay), is the percentage of the total medical expenses you pay once your deductible limit has been reached. For example, if your veterinary bill is $2,000 and you have a deductible of $200 and a co-pay of 20%, you would pay your $200 deductible and a co-pay of $360 (20 % off the $1,800 balance). Your insurer will then reimburse you $1,440 to cover the rest of the cost of treatment.
2. Per Condition Lifetime– The per-condition lifetime separates varying deductibles by condition. Once that deductible is met the company pays out for that condition according to the given reimbursement model for the rest of the pets life. Again, this can be limiting if your dog needs on-going treatment for a specific illness or injury.
3. Per Condition Annual – Per condition annual again separates coverage according to condition. The deductible resets each calendar year.
Reimbursement – If you choose a lower reimbursement rate you will pay less each month for a policy because the plan will pay less when you claim. And, conversely, if you choose a higher reimbursement rate you’ll pay more each month. Reimbursement rates range from 60-100% of your actual vet bills (we recommend 80% to 90% reimbursement rates to maximize value).
Companies typically offer three different reimbursement options:
1. Actual cost means that, once you have satisfied your deductible, you will be paid a percentage (i.e. 80 to 90%) of your actual veterinarian bill. Most plans that use this model allow you to choose the percentage.
2.Benefit schedules are usually not the preferred choice as they set a maximum limit that your pet can receive. So if your dog, for example, has two accidents in one year, you might end up paying the difference out of pocket.
3. Usual and customary reimbursement is only a little better but it also has a limit on payments. And this reimbursement lets the insurance company specify what cost it the usual and you don’t want this, particularly in California where rates tend to be higher:
IV. Customer service
After considering coverage and cost, it’s time to evaluate customer service which is important when considering plans. You obviously want to have excellent coverage at a fair price, but if the plan doesn’t provide excellent customer service and an easy way to pay for your medical bill, it will be more of a headache than benefit.
The top pet insurance plans offer 24/7 customer service while others leave you with a mere “contact us” page. Some plans have mobile claims apps that are super easy to use and other organizations require you to fax in your vet records when making claims. This is exactly what you need when you are waiting reimbursement for a large medical bills.
Based on all the information we provided, below are our 5 best pet insurance companies in California:
1. Healthy Paws
Healthy Paws has an excellent customer satisfaction rate (an A+) and are the best rated in terms of reviews. They are underwritten by Chubb Group, a consistently highly-rated insurer.
Healthy Paws has no limit to how much its plan will pay out each year, and it typically has a 15-day waiting period for injury and illness coverage. It has comprehensive illness and accident coverage which is our favorite and unlimited benefits with no caps on the claims. And all of this is included in their standard plan.
Healthy Paws also offers an annual deductible range of $100, $250, $500 or $750. You can choose the level of deductible, which can help you control your premium costs. Healthy Paws is known for its fast claims service which is important when you pay for a big medical bill. Claims can be filed online or through its mobile app and are usually processed within three to five days.
It is one of the only insurers that includes coverage for alternative treatments such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, and chiropractic services. In California, there seems to be a bigger demand for alternative therapies as pet owners are more open to trying different treatments.
The starting monthly premiums for dogs in California is $35.00 and for cats is $18.00
If you want to know more about Healthy Paws, read our full review.
Embrace policies are underwritten by American Modern Insurance Group and it is rated A+ by the BBB. They offer a standard plan that will cover most illness and accidents.
Embrace also covers alternative treatments, behavioral therapy, and prosthetic limbs. Coverage for wellness plans and prescription drugs are available at an additional cost. It also includes spaying and neutering in the costs. And a dental cleaning allowance of up to $650.
There is a benefit limit of up to $15,000 and not unlimited like other plans such as Healthy Paws which can be limiting if your pet has as serious accident.
However, a big plus is that Embrace offers a range of annual deductible options as specific as $100, $200 up to $1,000 which gives you more flexibility in designing a policy that fits your specific budget. You can also save with Embrace’s Healthy Pet Deductible program, which decreases their deductible by $50 every year that you don’t make a claim which is unique and helpful.
The starting monthly premiums for dogs in California is $35.00 and for cats is $20.00
If you want to learn more about Embrace’s policies, read our full review.
Petplan Pet Insurance is underwritten by AGCS Marine Insurance Co. and is rated A+ by BBB. What’s unique about their comprehensive coverage plan is that it includes the vet exam fee. The annual reimbursement is flexible and can go as high as unlimited with the more expensive plans.
We recommend the flexible deductible schedule, which allows you to choose between $100 and $1,000 and not per condition. Petplan also has a very high customer service rating that is available 24/7.
Petplan’s reimbursement time frame is typically within 30 days. Processing can be faster by using its Petplan app to submit a claim. And you can get a 10 % discount when applying online.
The starting monthly premiums for the most basic plan for dogs is $29.16 and for cats is $18.19
If you want to learn more about Petplan’s policies, read our full review.
4. Pets Best
Pets Best Pet Insurance has been offering pet insurance for cats and dogs since 2005. It is underwritten by American Pet Insurance Company and it has an A+ rating from the BBB.
Pets Best offers two tiers of wellness packages that cover routine care and treatments. Its two tier plans, Elite and Plus, include coverage for exam fees, chiropractic treatment, rehab therapies, and acupuncture. There is also no hereditary or congenital condition limitations.
It only offers unlimited benefits on its top tier Elite plan. The other two plans have an annual benefit limit of just $5,000.
They have no lifetime limits and won’t increase your premium based on the number or types of claims you make during the year. They usually reimburse you within a week and expenses are paid on the actual invoice amount.
The starting monthly premiums for dogs in California is $30.02 and for cats is $20.52.
If you want to learn more about Pets Best’ policies, read our full review.
Figo Pet Insurance is underwritten by the Markel American Insurance Company and it has an A+ rating from the BBB. Figo is one of the newer pet insurance companies therefore it doesn’t have the years behind of experience as do our other choices.
Figo is a great choice for its extremely comprehensive coverage. Even its lowest tier plan has standard coverage, but also includes coverage for exams fees, alternative treatments, behavioral problems, prescriptions, and even hip dysplasia. There are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions and hereditary or congenital conditions if they have been cured for at least 12 months.
If your pet needs lifesaving care, Figo waives the co-pay and deductible which is a unique option.
Figo offers a 100% reimbursement at a higher premium. If you want to save on premium costs, you can choose between 70%, 80%, and 90% reimbursement. Figo reimburses based on the actual vet bill.
Figo is for the more tech-savvy consumer as it has an innovative cloud-based platform to manage your pet’s lifestyle, conditions, etc.
The starting monthly premiums for dogs in California is $52.85 and for cats is $28.99 which is more expensive than the other plans but does have the 100 % reimbursement option.
If you want to learn more about Figo’s policies, read our full review
When choosing a new pet insurance policy in California, make sure to get at least a few quotes and see for yourself the best price, coverage and customer service for your particular dog or cat.. If you want to learn more about some other pet insurance companies and the coverage they offer, take a look at our top 7 pet insurance companies of 2018, all of which offer coverage in California.