UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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PetFirst was founded in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 2004. The co-founders got together after the passing of a beloved dog to come up with a solution for the financial burden of veterinary care. The company grew quickly, and by their tenth anniversary had expanded and moved into a larger headquarters.
The company supports a range of charitable operations, including hosting adoption events and donating to pet rescues and shelters across the country.
PetFirst plans are mainly for accident and injury, but they also offer a routing care rider that can be added on, along with other optional riders. Their policies are sold online and over the phone.
PetFirst offers plans for cats and dogs of all ages, with a range of coverage levels to choose from.
What is Covered
PetFirst covers all of the standard items available on the majority of accident and illness plans, including:
- Diagnostic testing
- Prescription medications and supplements
- Exam fees
- Alternative therapy
- Emergency care
- Hereditary conditions
The company does cover cruciate ligaments, but with a 12-month waiting period. Unlike other plans, we did not see an option to have this waiting period waived with a vet exam. Intervertebral Disc Disease also has a 12-month waiting period.
PetFirst does not cover pre-existing conditions, which is common to all such plans. They also exclude routine care unless the rider is added to the policy. There are several other exclusions, most of which are common, such as:
- Elective procedures
- Parasite prevention (except with routine care rider)
- Pet food or special diets
- Behavioral training
Those last two we have seen covered by other pet insurance plans, but many companies do exclude them.
There are three plan levels to choose from, each with an increasing annual benefit maximum. The base plan starts at an annual coverage of $2,000, with $5,000 and $10,000 limits available at the next two levels.
Deductible options range from $50-$500, and the reimbursement level can be 70, 80, or 90% on any of the plans.
This gives plenty of wiggle room for a budget, but PetFirst’s high-end limit of $10,000 is one of the lowest for a top-level plan we have seen anywhere. There is not an unlimited option like many other companies offer.
Although the website states that PetFirst has shorter waiting periods, their 14-day waiting period for illness is fairly common. PetFirst’s accident waiting period depends on when the policy is issued – coverage stars at midnight Eastern time on the day after purchase. This can be shorter – or right in line with some other company’s 24-hour waiting period on accidents.
The Routine Care rider can be added to any plan level in order to provide reimbursement for annual wellness and preventative care.
There are three levels of routine care, each with an increasing annual maximum. The levels are $125, $250, and $400. Under this rider, common routine care services are covered up to a scheduled maximum.
There is a mention of other riders on the site, but there is no detail.
Our usual sample of a one-year-old, mixed breed, medium-sized dog in California returned a recommended plan with a $5,000 annual limit, a $250 deductible, and an 80% reimbursement level. The recommendation also included the routine care rider at $125 maximum a year. This plan was priced at $38.95 a month, with a $10 discount offered for the first month.
We removed the routine care rider and saw what we suspected – it costs $10 a month. At $125 a year maximum coverage, that means this rider is less insurance and more of a method of spreading out the annual costs over a monthly payment, like a health savings account. Most pet owners would do just as well to put that money in a savings account to earn interest.
We then kicked up the coverage to the maximum level – $10,000 annual limit, 90% reimbursement, and a $50 deductible. Without the routine care rider, this plan came out to $82.95 a month. With the maximum for routine care added, the total came to $108.95 a month.
On the opposite side of that coin, we quoted at the lowest coverage level. That included a $2,000 annual maximum, 70% reimbursement, and a $500 deductible – and no routine care. The monthly rate for this plan was $16.95.
We then ran a quote for our sample cat – again a one-year-old mixed breed. For the same recommended level of coverage as our dog, we got a rate of $27.95 a month. Removing routine care dropped that rate by $9 a month.
At the high end of the spectrum, our sample cat got a rate of $50.95 a month – that went up to $76.95 a month when we added the maximum for routine care.
Our low-end quote came to $11.95 a month.
These rates are pretty high given that even the top-level plan has an annual cap of $10,000. We have seen unlimited coverage with a lower deductible for less money. Furthermore, PetFirst uses a per-incident deductible rather than an annual one, meaning more than one claim in a year will provide less in benefits than under an annual system. As previously noted, the routine care rider adds little in the way of value.
PetFirst does offer a variety of discounts, including the $10 off the first payment for enrolling online, multi-pet, and military discounts.
Online claims filing is available for policyholders after logging into the customer account section of the website. Claims can also be filed by downloading the claim form and submitting it either by email, fax, or regular mail.
Pet owners will be required to submit 12 months of medical records for the pet along with the first claim; or, if adopted recently, they will be required to submit medical records and adoption records.
Like most plans, claims are handled on a reimbursement basis; the pet owner will pay the vet up front, and then submit the claim to get the covered portion back. PetFirst promises to process claims quickly, averaging about two weeks. Reimbursement checks are sent in the mail.
Cats and dogs can be enrolled at 8 weeks of age, and unlike many other companies, there is not a maximum age for enrollment.
A medical exam is not required at the time of enrollment, but 12 months of records will – as mentioned above – be requested at the time of the first claim. This is to determine if the condition was pre-existing.
The plan offers a 30-day money back guarantee as long as no claims have been filed in that time.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
PetFirst Pet Insurance is a Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited business with an A+ rating. They have a total of 21 complaints on file in the past three years, eight of which were closed in the past 12 months.
There are 46 reviews of PetFirst on Yelp, for an overall 1.5-star rating. The vast majority of these reviews are negative, with a few positive comments scattered in. The complaints are repetitive – claims denied as pre-existing conditions in spite of the owner’s statement that there was no evidence. This type of complaint is common to all pet insurance companies; in fact, it’s the most common complaint we see for this type of insurance.
PetFirst’s complaint volume is relatively low overall. As with all pet insurance companies, it is very important to read the details on how pre-existing conditions are determined. PetFirst’s website offers a lot of detail on the topic.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for the most comprehensive coverage at the best price, PetFirst is likely going to be a bit more of an expensive option. From our research, there are other companies who offer more bang for your insurance buck, including higher or unlimited coverage caps. PetFirst does appear to have a good reputation for the most part, but again, does not seem to be the best value we have seen in pet insurance.