Dog owner says he paid over $6,000 in pet insurance but only reimbursed $15.60

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Pet health insurance nightmare' Consumer Matters: Pet health insurance nightmare
WATCH: Consumer Matters: Pet health insurance nightmare – Feb 24, 2020

When it comes to pet insurance, Cam John says he’s learned his lesson and has dropped his insurance provider.

“I wish from day one, I put money aside in a private bank account for myself,” John said.

The B.C. resident first purchased pet insurance when he adopted his dog Marley more than eight years ago, thinking pet insurance would give his four-legged companion the best care.

READ MORE: B.C. lawyer says pet insurance not worth the cost

John says he started out paying roughly $50 a month in pet insurance, but year after year his monthly premium climbed.

What’s worse, he says, the claims he’s made for Marley were mostly denied.

“Every time I would make a claim, I would get a statement back saying either my claim wasn’t covered or it didn’t surpass my deductible limit,“ John said.

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In fact, John says over eight-and-a-half years, pet insurance has cost him $6,357.96. Of that amount he says he’s only been reimbursed $15.60.

“It made me feel they had no intention to help me,” said John.

Victoria Shroff, a Vancouver-based animal lawyer and an adjunct law professor at the University of British Columbia, says John’s story is all too common.

She says the biggest reason claims are denied is because of pre-existing conditions.

READ MORE: Caring for your animal: Is pet insurance worth the cost?

“Insurance companies are not charities. They are conducting a business. So, how do they make money? By not paying out,” said Shroff.

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Shroff says in her experience, pet insurance benefits a small minority of owners.

“I think what happens is most people don’t go beyond the glossy brochure. They don’t do their due diligence,” said Shroff.

Instead of purchasing pet insurance, she recommends people self-insure.

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“That money is going to be there when you need it. Put $50 to $80 aside per pet into a savings account and remember to actually do it every month and you will be able to insure yourself,” said Shroff.

Veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton from Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge, B.C. agrees.

“Ideally, you should be setting aside 50 bucks a month, a hundred bucks a month and putting it in a savings account for your pet. That is something I have been telling my clients for 20 years and very few people actually do it,” said Walton.

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READ MORE: Persistence paid off for Calgary couple who fought pet insurance claim rejection

Walton says while he’s seen some clients have success with pet insurance, he says it’s important for pet owners to read the fine print of the actual insurance policy, which tends to be several pages long, and ask questions.

“It’s really important to understand what a pre-existing condition is and maybe go through your medical records with your vet ahead of time, “ Walton said.

When choosing a policy, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association recommends pet owners ask the following questions:

  • Does the policy cover genetic conditions?
  • What percentage of fees will be reimbursed?
  • Does the policy cover vaccines?
  • What is the deductible?
  • Do premiums change as pet ages?

It’s also important to remember that policies are diverse, and that monthly premiums and deductibles can vary.

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