Financial Literacy

Ontario woman shocked after pet insurer unexpectedly lowers coverage by 30%

By: Lisa Coxon on December 20, 2019

A Vaughan, Ont. woman will be on the hook for more than double her current share of pet insurance claims after finding out that her insurer dropped her coverage by 30%. 

Rebecca Shuster signed up with Winnipeg-based pet insurer Petsecure more than 10 years ago, and has paid more than $30,000 in premiums for coverage on her two dogs, Hope and Zoe.

Shuster was shocked to find out in a letter from Petsecure that effective Jan 1. 2020, the insurer will be lowering the amount it covers on vet bills, from 80% to 50% — but she’ll still be required to pay the same $155 monthly premium and $500 annual deductible for the policy.

“I thought I was buying the best safety net,” Shuster told CBC Toronto. “We wanted insurance so that money wouldn't be a deciding factor in the health care that we provide.”

Hope, a 13-year-old Shih-poo, suffers from diabetes as well as a partially blocked gallbladder. She requires daily medication to manage the diabetes, and if her gallbladder were to rupture, she’d require emergency surgery. 

In January, Shuster brought Hope into the Toronto Veterinary Emergency Hospital for treatment related to the gallbladder, and she suspects that that’s why Petsecure decided to lower her coverage.

In a statement from Petline Insurance, which owns Petsecure, it told CBC Toronto: “we do not change our policies based on the age or health diagnoses of pets.”

There is wording in Shuster’s pet insurance policy that coverage levels can be changed, though she said she wishes it was more clearly pointed out to her. 

“I think that the government should step in and have these insurance companies tell people exactly what's in the wording, and what they'll cover, and what they're allowed to do,” she told CBC Toronto.

“If we had known that this was going to happen down the line we probably wouldn't have gotten insurance and would have tried to just put money aside.”

Not all pet insurance companies change claim coverage levels. Jacqueline Armour, a Winnipeg dog owner, was also once a Petsecure customer, and the company also lowered her co-pay amount from 80% to 50%. She continued to pay for her dog’s treatment, even with the lowered coverage levels, until he passed in 2018.

She’s now with a different company, whose policy doesn’t include changes to coverage levels.

“I specifically was smart enough this time to ask my potential insurers if they have such a policy and the company I'm with now does not,” Armour told CBC Toronto.