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Old 05-16-2006, 08:35 PM
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Default Pet Insurance May Not Cover Fido's Needs

Pet Insurance Could Give False Sense Of Protection

UPDATED: 9:13 am CDT May 23, 2005

SAN DIEGO -- Pet owners can walk into any veterinarian's office and find brochures pitching pet insurance, a product some say could give pet owners a false sense of protection, San Diego television station KGTV reported.

Stacy Devlin owns a playful pup named Max. She says that she does what she can to keep him safe and healthy, including buying Max health insurance.

"When we started it was $34.99 for the premium gold policy," Devlin said.

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However, when Max was stung by a bee on his leg and given a pain shot, Devlin said the insurance company refused to pay.

"Then they sent a letter saying he couldn't have a leg injury in the future because of this injury," Devlin said.

And it didn't stop there. Later, Max had an allergic reaction to a rabies shot.

"So when we submitted the claim, their reaction was the bee sting can't be submitted either," Devlin said.

The insurance company, PetCare, also hiked her premium for filing claims, which Devlin said they didn't pay.

"I canceled the policy the next day," Devlin said.

According to the president and CEO of Pet Health, PetCare's holding company, they did pay one of Devlin's claims. He claims the reason her premium went up wasn't because she filed claims, it was because the company was given permission to increase its premiums for the first time in several years.

Warren also said he has letters proving the company met all it's obligations to Devlin, but didn't provide the station with copies, citing confidentiality requirements.

"The policy may list an unlimited number of accidents, but they start excluding parts of the dog's body each time you put in a claim," said Harvey Levine, an attorney.

Levine said the policy has holes in it, and the math doesn't add up.

"The insurance company promises to pay for expensive procedures, but if they're going to pay for a $10,000 heart surgery, they can't charge a monthly premium of $30 to $40," Levine said.

Veterinarian Dr. Avi Shaprut also has concerns.

"It's not for everybody, it's not something every pet owner should have," Shaprut said.

Before signing up, Shaprut recommends pet owners:

Read the fine print -- look for exemptions
Talk to the insurance company -- ask flat out, what do they cover?
Talk to other pet owners with insurance
Decide if you could afford a vet bill for thousands of dollars

"Each pet owner must decide if this is a wise investment," Shaprut said.

Devlin also wants regulators to step in.

"Maybe some investigation of the main companies that promise coverage and have obligations they're not living up to," Devlin said.

The president of PetCare Insurance, the company where Devlin bought her policy, said customers are entitled to arbitration through a board of veterinarians in Canada, where his company is based.

He told the station he would personally review Devlin's file.
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