UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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Originally called Vetinsurance, the company that became Trupanion was founded in 2000 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Within four years it became the first North American pet insurance company to be profitable. In 2007, Trupanion acquired American Pet Insurance Company, which then became the underwriter for all of their policies.
Trupanion expanded into the U.S. in 2008, and by 2013 had become licensed in all 50 states. The company went public the following year.
The company’s philanthropic side, Trugiving, raises money for animal welfare non-profits. They also run their Shelter Support Program, which provides newly adopted animals with a certificate for 30 days of free coverage, along with animal health training materials for new pet owners.
Trupanion’s U.S. headquarters is located in Seattle, WA and policies are sold directly online and over the phone across the country.
Policies are available for both cats and dogs, and they offer what they call “one simple plan”, which takes the guesswork out of choosing coverage levels, but also limits wiggle room for varying budgets and needs.
What is Covered
Trupanion covers a variety of medical needs for illness and injury, including hereditary and chronic conditions. Some of the covered services are:
- Diagnostic tests and lab work
- Prescription medications
- Prosthetics and medically necessary devices
- Veterinary supplements
- New dental illness or injury
Hip dysplasia is covered without a waiting period, which is not available from all pet insurance companies. There is, however, a general waiting period of 5 days for injury and 30 days for illness for new policies before coverage is available (waived on certificates provided by shelters or other sources).
There are some common exclusions on Trupanion policies:
- Preventative care and wellness checks
- Exam fees
- Pre-existing conditions
All of the policies cover 90% of the vet’s billed amount for covered services, with no limits or caps.
Trupanion uses a lifetime per-condition deductible, with choices ranging from $0 to $1,000. The deductible applies only once to each new diagnosis so that once the deductible is met for that condition, coverage at 90% will continue for as long as the pet is insured. There is not an annual deductible.
This deductible system could be very beneficial in the event of a lifelong chronic illness, but it could turn out to be expensive in the event that a pet has multiple different claims in the same year versus an annual deductible. The value of one deductible system over the other really depends on how the coverage is used, something that is a roll of the dice.
There are a couple of add-ons available for the standard policy. First is the Recovery and Complementary Care package, which covers rehab, physical therapy, chiropractic care, naturopathy, and more.
Second is the Pet Owner Assistance package. This package has an assortment of benefits including advertising and reward assistance for lost pets, cremation and burial after an accidental death, liability for third party damage, and even boarding costs if the pet’s owner is hospitalized.
We ran a quote for a one-year-old, medium-sized, mixed breed dog in California.
The recommended choice returned a $200 deductible at a rate of $58.15 per month. At the highest available deductible, $1,000, the rate came out to $26.30 a month. The $0 deductible quote came in at $96.70 a month.
With the recommended deductible of $200, we were offered the Recovery and Complementary Care package at an additional $7.01 a month, and the Pet Owner Assistance at $4.95 a month.
We then ran a quote for a cat of the same age, mixed breed. Again, the $200 deductible was the recommended option, at a rate of $31.52 a month. With a $1,000 deductible, the rate came back at $16.24 a month. Our $0 deductible quote was the most expensive again, at $50.01 a month.
The Recovery and Complementary Care package with the $200 deductible was offered at $3.36 a month, and the Pet Owner Assistance at $4.95 a month.
Trupanion offers broad, comprehensive coverage for these rates, with no limits and only the lifetime per-condition deductible; we expected to see rates on the higher side as a result, and the quotes bear that out.
In spite of promising “one simple plan”, Trupanion does up the cost with the option of two add-on packages.
Trupanion offers Direct Pay service to veterinarians that are within their network, which allows the policyholder to pay only their portion of the bill up front, while the insurance company pays the covered portion directly to the vet. This system is convenient in the event of a large vet bill that the insured may not be able to pay out of pocket.
Policyholders can use any vet of their choosing, but outside the network, claims work on a reimbursement basis. This means the policyholder will pay up front and be reimbursed for the covered portion. Some vets may allow the bill to remain unpaid pending the claim, in which case Trupanion can still pay directly, but that is up to the vet’s office.
There is also a toll-free line available for claims assistance.
The enrollment process for Trupanion can be completed online or over the phone. Dogs and cats are eligible up until they turn 14 years old.
The enrollment process requires a little background information about the pet and may require a vet’s estimate of age in the event that the pet is adopted and the actual age is unknown. We were unable to determine how much of the pet’s medical history is required for enrollment.
Like many others, Trupanion offers a 30-day money back guarantee as long as no claims have been filed in that time period.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
Trupanion has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has 73 complaints on file in the past three years, 23 of which were closed in the past 12 months. The complaint ratio, while a bit higher than comparable companies, is not the reason for the lowered grade rating.
In 2016, Trupanion was fined by the State of Washington Insurance Commissioner for hiring customer care representatives to sell insurance over the phone without an insurance license. The company paid $150,000 and agreed to bring their operation into compliance with the laws requiring anyone selling or soliciting insurance sales to be licensed in the state of operation.
While this fine did affect the BBB rating, it does not appear related to the customer experience with the company.
There are 37 ratings on Consumer Affairs, the majority of which are negative. The content of these is common to all pet insurance companies – increasing premiums and denial of claims. A few positive reviews are scattered throughout the site.
On Yelp the company has 418 reviews with an overall 2.5-star rating. The majority of the reviews are negative and cite over and over denial of claims. In particular, we saw a lot of cases where the company determined a condition was pre-existing in contrast to what the owner and in some cases even the vet determined. Yelp does have a good number of positive reviews as well, but they do not quite balance the negatives.
The Bottom Line
Trupanion promises simple insurance, but their rates are high and the per condition deductible could wind up being costly in some situations. There are a few too many negative reviews for comfort, especially given the high cost of the policy. Pet owners should be sure to shop around and compare their options to ensure they are getting the best value for their budget.