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Is your pet paying the price of insurers’ exit?

Cat lying next to lots of money

Last year Lloyds and Halifax unexpectedly pulled out of the pet insurance market, leaving some pet owners who had bought ‘Lifetime’ cover policies without any chance of decent cover for vital vet bills.

Pet insurance, like most types of insurance, is designed to cover unexpected costs and give you peace of mind.

Unfortunately hundreds of pet owners risked being left without cover late last year when several big pet insurers unexpectedly pulled out of the market.

That’s not a huge problem if your pet is healthy and hasn’t had any major illnesses in the past – you simply switch to a new insurer. But the move has made it impossible for some pet owners to get like-for-like cover in the future. And worse still, there is nothing they can do about it.

The pre-existing condition conundrum

Like other types of insurance, such as private medical insurance and income protection, when you take out a new insurance policy most insurers won’t cover pre-existing conditions.

So if your pet has a chronic condition like diabetes or arthritis, switching insurer usually means that these conditions will no longer be covered. By contrast, for existing customers the best pet insurance policies will continue to cover existing conditions for as long as you pay the premiums.

And that’s the heart of the current problem. If your insurer backs out of the market, like Lloyds and Halifax have done, you’ll have no choice but to switch, and thereby lose cover. Customers who have been paying extra in premiums for years for ‘lifetime’ cover policies could be hit worst of all.

Who should be responsible?

These insurers’ exit from the market reveals a flaw in the insurance system. Insurers are not held accountable when they leave their customers without cover, even where policyholders have been paying a high premium for the extra peace of mind.

In the worst case scenario some people may not be able to afford the right treatment for their pet, while some may even have to have the pet put down if the cost of treatment is too high. To me, this is both unfair and unacceptable.

Has your insurer left you in the lurch? Do you think an insurer should be responsible for organising alternative cover or paying compensation when it decides to leave a market?

Comments
Profile photo of richard
Member

Ah my favourite subject!! It is long but worth a read!
Many years ago in 1970 I adopted a 3 yo GSD as a watch dog/companion – when he was 10 he became very listless and I thought he was about to die – so I adopted a 8 week old Lurcher puppy – The old dog immediately perked up like a puppy himself – But I decided I should then insure them both with the so called top pet insurance company.- No problem with puppy but they refused to insure the old GSD though he had never been injured or ill as he was over 8 .

Then 8 years later the pet insurance co wanted FOUR times the premium because the pup was EIGHT. In the previous 8 years the pup had cut her paw once – total cost of injury was £80 including two NON refundable vet visits of £20 each so refund was just £40 but insurance was £80 a year. so had spent £640 for a return of £40 – not good – Now they wanted £320 A YEAR for a proven 8 yo healthy dog – So I decided instead to put aside the amount I would have spent on premiums into a ring-fenced savings account. Two dogs two ammounts.

BTW the ‘old’ GSD was still very much alive!! He died at 20 years old – total cost £200 including bi-annual vet examinations and £100 home euthanasia fee. Five years later the ‘pup’ died of old age at 13 with no illnesses or injuries so cost was £200 as before – annual vet visits and home euthanasia..Incidentally pet insurance does not cover dental treatment that some dogs need as they grow older. In 41 years of dog ownership have had two incidences of tooth abscess cost around £40 to remove them – My dogs do not have plaque or decay as they have good oral hygiene. .

10 years later when the GSD died at 20 – I adopted a 2.5 yo retired racing greyhound as companion for the ‘pup’. (I help to run an retired racing greyhound adoption kennels) I already had a pet fund of about £3000 – The interest on which paid for annual vet visits saving £20 per dog . Now racing greyhounds retire between 2.5 and 5 due to injury or useless racers – or just over 5 when too old to race. Injuries are often broken legs (which are repaired at the owner’s expense before adoption) so they cannot be insured – as if you are honest the broken leg will not be covered as it is a pre-existing injury – Over the years we have found some insurance companies will not cover arthritis either as they say it is caused by the stress of racing. Greyhounds are a robust long lived breed living up to 16 years. I increased my pets at home to three – and my pet fund accordingly.

By the time my first greyhound developed a problem at 12 – I had accumulated around £10,000. which easily covered the total cost of unsuccessful treatment – (this was £3000 for two identical diagnosis in two different vet hospitals – one was superfluous as the dog should have been refereed FIRST according to the professor at the second premier vet hospital/college.- I immediately changed the first vet hospital.

Since then three greyhounds had problems and died – total cost was £300 for one – £600 for another – and £900 for the third – the first two died at over 13 – the third sadly at only 11. But the “pet fund” has easily covered the cost of the treatments – the euthanasias – the annual vet visits. The fund is still growing.but the interest rates no longer covers the annual vet visits – they now have to be taken out of the
capital fund.

We recommend that all of our adopters with more than one dog do the same – as the probability of problems occurring is reduced as dogs are usually robust. Please note this experience was accumulated over 40 years of greyhound adoption. BUT the pet fund MUST be RING FENCED and maintained otherwise it won’t be there when required.

But think of it – instead of giving the money to a Pet Insurance Company that may go broke or refuse to pay for a particular treatment and is lost – any unused money in your pet fund automatically accumulates – and all treatments such as teeth problems that are not covered by insurance can be afforded.

Only know one incidence where it didn’t work – was when someone with a single GH that broke a leg in the first two months of adoption – but in that case a GH specialist vet treated the dog for £300 rather than the £1000 plus fees charged by high street vets – but that is another story!!

Member
Judith Broug says:
21 March 2012

Last week saw the first meeting of PAWs aka Pet Alliance Watchdogs, with a stated aim to ensure that pet owners are treated fairly in their dealings with the insurance companies (initially focussing Halifax, Lloyds and JLT)

PAWs was joined by two legal advisors from Surrey based law firm Sheridan Law who have agreed to look into the cases so far put in front of them with a view to advising on a course of legal group action should that be appropriate.

PAWs members, apart from some volunteers, consists of pet owners affected by the insurance pull out by Lloyds, Halifax & Pet Guard.

If anyone is affected by this and wants to be part of this action group which is lobbying the government but is also wanting to hold Lloyds, Halifax and Petguard accountable for the policies sold should contact us petalliancewatchdogs@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

Member
Kelly Mark says:
23 May 2013

It is very important to ensure yourself about the terms and policies of the insurance cover. As pet insurance not only provide cover against vet bills, surgeries and hospitalization. It also provides cover for accessory items such as wheelchairs.

Member
richard says:
24 May 2013

Sorry – you should say MAY cover cost of wheel chairs – and quite frankly the numbers of dogs actually needing wheelchairs is minuscule. (In the 14,000 dogs we’ve adopted not a single one has ever needed a wheelchair) My £10,000 covers everything – Unless the Bank goes broke – much more likely insurance company goes broke. – Insurance is all about probability – my problem was – and is – that many insurance companies triple the cost of cover when the dog reaches eight.
Interestingly – I lost two of my dogs through illness/old age since I wrote the first post. Total cost £700 – As I already had £10,000 in my pet fund – the fund covered it easily – Just as it had covered the cost since I started the scheme. I simply started to save the “premiums” again until the capital reached £10,000 again. Many routine costs are not covered by most insurances like teeth cleaning and examinations – Whereas the interest paid on the £10,000 I saved now pays for annual inspections inoculations for three dogs.again – So I will continue to use a ring fenced saving scheme as the cheapest method of insuring a pet – particularly for multiple pets – Many of our adopters agree – several actually use a group saving scheme which has proved cheaper too – though you need to be good friends.

Member
Kelly Mark says:
23 May 2013

This is a very nice post. I agree that if the insurance will not cover all the necessity of customer, it is of no use. This can be a good topic of discussion that who is responsible for the pre existing health issue expenses of pets.