Nationwide/VPI was and remains the largest and most popular pet health insurer in the U.S. market, with 36.33% of the market share, according to NAPHIA. While it may be the oldest and the most dominant, the product is not without its pitfalls.
- The company gets points on TCR’s new “Transparency” rating scale for providing TCR with the number of current enrollees in November 2020.
- There appears to be a directive in place instructing customer service agents not to provide sample policies to prospective customers. In other words, prospective customers are told to buy first, read it after.
- Another pitfall is a clause in Nationwide’s mid-level plan that reads more like an emergency “EJECT” button to provide the insurance company with a way to get out. The insurance company may cancel when, as stated in the policy, “there has been a substantial change in the risk covered by the policy.”
VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) was bought by Nationwide in 2009. Founded in 1980, VPI was also the first company to sell pet insurance in the United States, issuing its first pet insurance policy on April 8, 1982, to Lassie, according to Nationwide.
Asked to explain the meaning of “there has been a substantial change in the risk covered by the policy,” a spokeswoman for Nationwide, Karen Davis, explained that “the circumstances that may trigger a cancellation are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For example, it could be a case where a policy that may have been written for a dog should have been written for a cat and that would need to be canceled and rewritten as a feline policy.” Davis says that Nationwide’s “Whole Pet” policy is the group’s “most popular and comprehensive policy,” and it appears to be the one cited and referred to in Nationwide’s marketing materials. Rates vary by state and breed, but the Whole Pet Contract’s cost in Florida is nearly double the cost of the cheaper policy. It also offers a higher degree of coverage. Davis, unlike the customer service representatives, did provide TCR with a copy of Nationwide’s Whole Pet Contract without requiring credit card information.
The Whole Pet Contract also does not contain the escape cancellation clause that is included in the less expensive, “Major Medical” policy. Also, interestingly, the online “Major Medical” policy Davis’s link pointed us to was also missing the escape cancellation clause which gives the company broad cancellation discretion. We have not been able to confirm the status of that clause and encourage prospective customers to ask.
- A 12-month waiting period for coverage of common orthopedic injuries to kick in
- Nationwide pet insurance plans, when purchased through employers, are capped at an annual reimbursement rate of $7500. Often, the enrollee is not aware of the cap until a claim is denied. In other words, the annual reimbursement maximum is not prominently disclosed to consumers and if they were basing their understanding of their coverage on Nationwide’s website, which does not disclose the $7500 max, they would think that their coverage was unlimited.
Read the fine print — if you can access it.
Our reporting in 2020 found that, according to at least a half dozen customer service agents, a directive was in place that company representatives should not provide sample insurance policies to prospective customers.
Nationwide senior spokesman Adam Fell and spokeswoman Karen Davis declined requests for comment when asked why sample policies are not made available to consumers when they call and request the documents from agents. [Although we did eventually identify ourselves as reporters when we reached out to Nationwide’s representatives, we did not identify ourselves when we spoke with customer call center representatives because we would have no other way of gathering information about how Nationwide interact with customers or prospective customers.]
Karen Davis did point us to a link to sample policies, but it would be virtually impossible for most consumers including two business reporters to find because labeled to get to the page with that link, one must click on “Claims Forms” and not on “Our Sample Policies.”
Private. According to company SEC filings, National Casualty Company (“NCC”) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (“Nationwide”). VPI offers its policies outside of California through NCC.
- Formerly Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI)
- Acquired by Nationwide in 2008
- VPI was the first pet health insurance provider in the U.S. (1980, sold first policy in 1982)