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Healthy Paws: Pet Insurance by Pet Lovers

The company makes filing claims quick and easy, so you can focus on caring for your pet.

Photography via Healthy Paws

“Innovation” and “insurance” may seem like a surprising pairing, but Healthy Paws Pet Insurance is out to change that perception. The Bellevue, WA-based pet insurance company launched the pet insurance industry's first app, which streamlined customer experience and subsequently influenced many competitors to follow suit. Software solutions aren’t the company’s only focus: through the Healthy Paws Foundation, it supports pet welfare organizations, adoption facilities, veterinary students, and more. We spoke with the company’s founder and CEO Rob Jackson about the Golden Rule, what to home in on when choosing a policy, and how pets have become part of the family.

You launched Healthy Paws in 2009. What was your founding impetus?
I adopted my dog from a local no-kill animal shelter and ended up coming back to the shelter multiple times to foster other dogs. I got to know some of the folks there, and saw a great need to help pet parents deal with the financial impact of giving their pets quality veterinary treatments. Also, I wanted to help animal rescue organizations care for the many sick pets in their care. My professional background is insurance, so creating a pet insurance company seemed like a natural solution.

Can you describe your company's culture and core principles?
We are a compassionate, smart team that really strives to help pets and pet parents, and most of us are pet parents! We focus on wowing our customers by giving them the best customer service possible as well as the best pet insurance policy out there. Our core principles are: do the right thing, remember the Golden Rule (Do to others as you would have them do to you), and let the kid out and hug the nearest pet while you’re at it (but only if they like hugs!)

You launched the first pet insurance app. What is your approach to innovating new solutions?
We want to make everything as easy as possible for pet parents. We have one great plan so you don’t have to worry about choosing the wrong coverage. With our app, you can simply take a picture of your invoice, submit it, and you are done. We’ve made it quick and easy to check on the status of a claim, review your policy details, update billing information and more. Ninety-nine percent of claims are processed in two days. We want pet parents to be able to focus on getting their furry friend the care they need, not worrying about the vet bill or an insurance claim.

Can you describe some of your philanthropic initiatives?
We wanted to address the fundamental need of medical care for homeless pets by creating the Every Quote Gives Hope™ program. The simple act of getting a free pet insurance quote from Healthy Paws results in a donation towards a homeless pet's medical care. We deliver that care by making cash grants to pet adoption organizations specifically for life-saving vaccines, spay/neuter surgeries and advanced medical treatments. Last year alone, we donated about $250,000 to organizations, either by donating to nonprofits directly or through our Rescue Race program, which runs every few months and awards grants to six organizations.

We also have other initiatives that support pet wellness, including annual scholarships for veterinary and animal advocacy students and our Refer-A-Friend program, which provides $25 to help animals in need every time someone refers a friend to Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.

Everything we do is driven from our love of animals and our commitment to pet health.

How are you different from other pet insurers?
Our family is made up of pet-lovers so for us, insurance isn’t just a business venture. It's a commitment to the cause that's closest to our hearts. Everything we do is driven from our love of animals and our commitment to pet health.

Additionally, our plans are easy to understand, we reimburse quickly, and pet parents can count on us to help as much as we possibly can, especially when it comes to reducing the stress of caring for a sick pet. And it does not end there: through our charitable work, we are also committed to the animal welfare community.

Since you founded Healthy Paws, how has the industry evolved?
The American Pet Parents Association reports that in 2017, we spent more than $17.1 billion at the vet, and it’s estimated to grow to $18.3 billion for 2018. This is a result of better, more technologically advanced health care, the rising costs of running a vet clinic and our pet-human relationship continuing to evolve. Many people remember a time when the dog lived outside and cats roamed the neighborhoods as they pleased. This is not the case now—families truly consider pets to be a part of the family, and they’ll do anything to keep them safe and healthy.

What should people look out for when choosing a pet insurance plan?
When shopping for a policy, carefully review what’s covered and what’s not. The insurer should clearly spell out the details, including any limitations or exclusions. Consider the following:

  • Coverage - Look closely at coverage and exclusions. Congenital and hereditary conditions, which can be very expensive to treat, are often excluded from coverage.

  • Deductibles - Annual deductibles typically reimburse you more during a policy year than per-incident deductibles. You just have to meet one annual deductible, not a deductible for every incident.

  • Reimbursement method - Not all pet insurance companies pay on the actual veterinary bill. Beware of benefit schedules or "usual and customary" policy language, as it may lower your reimbursement amounts.

  • Caps on payouts - Are there caps on payouts per incident, per year, or over the pet's lifetime? Healthy Paws has no caps on payouts: no per incident caps, no annual caps and no lifetime caps.

  • Customer Service - It’s all about service once the policy is purchased. What are pet parents saying about their experience with a company?

What's next in the pet insurance space?
Most experts expect the number of insured pets to grow substantially in the next few years. In places like Sweden (where pet insurance first started), most of the pets are insured. In the US, less than two percent are currently insured. As more and more millennials delay having children and adopt pets as their “starter children,” and more empty nesters fill the void from their children with pets, the number of pets with pet insurance will continue to grow. Many people in the US are not aware of the advances in vet care, the associated costs, and that pet insurance is an option. That is changing.

What's next for Healthy Paws?
We will continue our mission to help pet parents afford the best possible care for their beloved four-legged family members.

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