Many people have asked me to share some details on my experience with insuring Lucy. This is all what I have personally learned, and I am not an insurance professional. Feel free to read through this and take into consideration what I suggest, but always talk to an insurance professional/agent before purchasing a policy.
If you are thinking of buying insurance, or trying to decide if you need it, let me ask you two simple questions:
1. If your horse required colic surgery to survive, could you afford $10,000 out of pocket to provide that for the horse?
2. If you could not, would you be ok putting that horse down and not receiving any financial reimbursement to help replace the horse?
If your answer to either of these questions is "no", I highly recommend looking into insurance. As horse owners, we never WANT our animals to be hurt, but I can tell you I sleep very well at night knowing that if Lucy needed some crazy expensive surgery tomorrow, I would never have to think twice before shipping her up to Tuft's and letting them save her. It was also really awesome when the vet was out for the third time recently, trying to pinpoint her mystery lameness, and he turned to me and said "is she insured?" and I said "yes", and he said, "well what are we waiting for? let's get her a bone scan". Less than a week later, we had a solid diagnosis and a great prognosis.
Most insurance companies offer a few different types of policies, and I will do my best to explain them in layman's terms, and hopefully this will help those of you who are considering insurance for your horse.
The two main policies are Mortality (M) and Major Medical (MM). If you want to purchase a MM policy, you are going to need to purchase a M policy also. However, if you only want to purchase a Mortality policy, you do not need to purchase Major Medical. Keep in mind that if you only have Mortality coverage and your horse colics, some companies require that colic surgery be attempted on the animal to try and save them. If you do not attempt to save the animal with surgery, the company will not pay out on the Mortality claim. This prevents people from opting to put the horse down prematurely in order to get the insurance pay out.
MM will cover costs associated with veterinary care, including diagnostics, exams, hospital stays, and medications. They will not pay for a vet's farm call fee, and there are some treatments like stem cell injections, IRAP, etc that most companies will not pay for.
M policies help you recover from the loss of a horse in that you will be given a cheque for the monetary worth of an animal after it has passed away. If Mortality is a huge issue for you, check the fine print of your policy - is it an "agreed value" policy or not? Agreed value means that if you insure the horse for $5000, you will get $5000 if the horse dies. If it is not an agreed value policy, the insurance may question the true value of the horse and require you to provide proof of training/competition results to justify the value. Mortality premium costs are calculated according to what the horse is insured for.
There are also colic rider policies you can purchase that will provide a bit of extra coverage for instances of colic.
When I first bought Lucy four years ago, I paid less than $1000 for her. I had her insured within a week for $5000, because that is the lowest policy I could purchase. I personally don't care about Mortality payouts; my major concern was and still is being able to provide the best veterinary care for Lucy. My insurance company at the time, Great American, calculated the premium for the insurance policy based on the value of the horse being insured. I chose to purchase insurance from Great American because they allowed $10,000 of Major Medical coverage for my horse even though she was only insured for $5000. Be careful when shopping for "cheap" policies. Generally the cheaper policies only provide as much MM coverage as Mortality, so with Lucy valued at $5000, some insurance companies would have only provided $5000 of MM. This would have only paid for about half of a colic surgery if she had needed one - NOT GOOD!
I used Great American for three years, until this past year, when they decided they would no longer provide Major Medical policies on horses valued under $15000. I decided to shop around for a different company, and chose American Equine Insurance. I chose them because they would give me $10,000 of MM coverage even if my horse was insured for only $5000 under her Mortality policy. I could have even bought a $15000 MM policy if I had wanted to. They also have NO co-pay for diagnostics, which is HUGE for me. This entire saga with the mystery lameness came out to about $4000, give or take a few dollars. I should be getting all of it, minus the farm call fees and my $300 deductible, back from the insurance company (if my vet ever completes his report and sends it to them!!!).
On that note, one very important thing to realize is that the vet hospital doesn't care if you have your horse insured or not. Unlike human insurance, the hospital will require that you pay the entire bill before you get your horse back. I had to do that with Tuft's and yeah, it sucked to write a cheque for 75% of the projected bill when I dropped her off (just shy of $2500), and then write another $800 cheque when I picked her up. Um, ouch! But they don't want to wait for you to process paperwork with your insurance company so unless you work out other arrangements like care credit or scheduled payments, expect to be writing a fat cheque to the hospital or vet, regardless if you intend to claim it against the insurance policy.
As for companies, the ones I see most frequently recommended are Great American (for horses valued at $15k or over only), Hallmark, Markel, and American Equine. When shopping, here are the things you should be most concerned about:
-is this policy an Agreed Value policy?
-does the policy require you to do "reasonable treatments" for your horse in order to get reimbursed if the horse dies? for instance, if the horse is colicking and you decide to euthanize, will the insurance pay out even if you don't attempt to save the horse with colic surgery?
-does this policy's value only go as high as the Mortality policy, or is it good for $10k? $15k?
-what is the deductible that you have to pay before the insurance starts covering things?
-is there a co-pay for diagnostics? some companies require a 20 or 30% co-pay for diagnostics. when you're talking about a $60 x-ray, that's not a big deal, but when you're talking about a $2500 bone scan, that's a lot of money!
-if the horse is diagnosed with some kind of a long-term issue, such as Cushings, that requires medication for the rest of its life, what type of coverage will your MM provide?
-if you make a claim on your policy, will the company then exclude that going forward? for instance, if your horse has a RF lameness and the vet determines that the horse has a small bone chip, and then the insurance company pays for the chip removal surgery and the horse recovers fully, is that RF then an exclusion on your policy? if yes, for how long? just a year, two years, or for the rest of your horse's life?
I absolutely 100% recommend going through an AGENT, not directly through the COMPANY. An Agent will act as your guide through the insurance process. A lot of times, they can get you a better rate than going directly through the company. They will help you decide which type of insurance to get, how much insurance you need, and which company to choose. Someone with a $100k show hunter may benefit from using a different company than someone with a $20k Novice level eventer. When shopping, ask questions -- lots of them!! Most agents work with a few different companies so when you're ready to call for info, make out a spreadsheet that you can fill in with values as the agent tells you about various options. A good spreadsheet might look like this:
Agent's contact info:
Company 1 Company 2 Company 3
Mortality: Agreed Value?
So that is Major Medical and Mortality. Other types of policies are loss of use, which would reimburse you if your level 4 jumper were to pull a suspensory and never be able to jump again. That type of policy is VERY expensive because horses are stupid and they hurt themselves all the time. Beyond that, there are liability policies, farm policies, etc.
Hopefully this was helpful. Insurance can be scary, but if you are smart about the purchasing process, you will save yourself a lot of stress and money if your horse needs medical attention that you couldn't otherwise afford.
I'm in the process of insuring my baby with Broadstone, the current USEA sponsored insurance. They're incredibly nice and I highly recommend them! They operate along the same lines as what you have mentioned above, so I'm glad to see that there is some consistency.ReplyDelete
Very informative post - thanks!
Very helpful! I need to get insurance for my boy, and have been waffling about how much and what kind.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the post! I too am planning on getting my horse insured, I just need to start the process.ReplyDelete
I would seriously consider getting insurance, but everything I've read suggests that the age-cutoff is generally around 16. Confetti will be 17 this year. My impression is that the premiums go up dramatically at that point, so those of us with middle-aged horses may be totally out of luck. I would love to be wrong, though!ReplyDelete
Unfortunately you are right...the age cutoff for Major Medical is 16. You can still get Mortality insurance but the premiums start to get pretty pricey.Delete
As Leigh said, once your horse is in their late teens, your options for insurance are either limited, or very expensive.Delete
Thanks, while horse shopping, I've realized this is a reasonable expense for me to add to the list. I will have to bookmark this post for future reference :)ReplyDelete
I agree. I budget for this each year, same as annual vaccinations, farrier visits, etc.Delete
In what kind of ballpark is your month to month insurance cost? I understand if you don't want to tell me the exact amount but any range will do. I get mortality insurance through my provincial equine association, but it doesn't cover major medical. I'm also Canadian so I would obviously have to explore other options, but my horse recently got sick (nothing as serious as colic surgery) and I was thinking about insurance for the future.ReplyDelete
I am interested in the answer to this question also.Delete
But more importantly I had no idea that MM would cover something like lameness... I thought it was more for colic and.... well uncommon catastrophe. Very informative!!
I just recently purchased insurance for my mare through Broadstone (great company...very friendly, answered all my million questions). I took out a Mortality policy with a Major Medical add on because my worry was less with getting paid if something happened to her and more with being able to pay for any medical costs. My policy DOES cover things like stem cell. Most insurance companies have a yearly premium, but doing the math its costing me about $35 a month...It's really not as bad as some people think!Delete
Check out the HEP website Natalie. You can input figures (how much you want Walker insured for, etc) and it will give you a yearly premium. Last I fiddled with it, it would cost between $300 & $600 a year to get Mex insured for 10k+ mortality and varying degrees of major medical.Delete
Thanks everyone, and Julie, I just checked it out. Unfortunately I have no money these days, but maybe in a few years.Delete
Hi Natalie, my premium is around $600 for $5k of M and $10k of MM. If I had stayed with Great American and insured her for $15k (which my agent would have LOVED, of course), I would have been paying about $950. That would have been a waste of money because there's no way I would have ever been able to justify her value at $15k if she died.Delete
Thanks Kate. I was just curious :)Delete
I will definitely be insuring my welsh cob when I get him! Thanks for the insights and what a good decision it has been for you.ReplyDelete
This is great! Thanks! When I bought Lex (for $150) I called Markel to ask about insuring her, and they were like, "Technically, until you put a show record on her, she's worthless, so call us back after she starts winning." Maybe I'll try another company, or maybe I will wait until she has a show record. We'll see. This is a really helpful post!ReplyDelete
I was very honest about Lucy's value when I first bought her and got her insured through Great American. My agent was great. He said that if my main concern was a catastrophic injury requiring expensive vet care, then I shouldn't worry about whatever she's valued at. Most companies won't require you to get a horse appraised if you're valuing the horse below $10-15k, anyway. So just call them back, say your horse is valued at $4k or $5k, and purchase the lowest mortality policy you can. Realise that you may not get that amount back if Lex were to pass away (hopefully this won't be an issue!) but you will have that major medical coverage.Delete
That's great advice! Thanks!!Delete
I am looking into Markel for Charlie and the woman I spoke too was really nice. I told her flat out from the beginning that he has no true "value" right now but she said what they usually do in that case is ensure them for a few thousand (M) and then once they start showing and have a higher demonstrated value they will up your coverage. With that they will still offer $5000-7500 MM. Honestly, I am not concerned with Charlie's mortality/replacement value; I just wanted to make sure I could get MM for him. They are one of the few companies I found that would ensure a horse of "no value". Obviously the plans and coverage may not be as good as some of the higher M plans with other companies but in my opinion it is much better than having nothing at all.Delete
Thanks for laying this all down for us! I REALLY need to insure my guy but the whole process seems really difficult and annoying so I have put it off for a super long time. Plus even trying to get ball park quotes online is impossible. I too am interested in your monthly payment (or what it would work out to) for what you have her insured for.ReplyDelete
It is daunting but really, these agents are there to help you through the process. I'd recommend asking people in your area who a good agent is and giving them a call, instead of doing the online quotes. My yearly premium is about $600, which I paid in full at the start of my policy, but it would work out to be $50/month. Good luck!Delete
Great post, Kate, thank you! After shopping around, I found that Blue Bridle gave me the best quotes/options for my boys. I'm definitely sleeping easier ;)ReplyDelete
Wow, I could have used this post a few weeks ago. I got Riley insured almost immediately because I am a paranoid maniac, but I went through Equine Insurance Specialists who represent 4 different companies. I called another 4-5 companies outside of them and made comparisons. The nice things is that if I decide to switch to a more comprehensive plan next year it's easy to do so through an agent with EIS. After forking over money to buy him and pay for the PPE I went with a moderate plan that I could pay off right away. Generally, most insurance companies will only offer a payment plan if the total is over $500. This is such a great post!ReplyDelete
Good post and informative. I had my horse insured up until last year, when she became 16. At that point my coverage dramatically dropped, I would no longer be with a preferred/standard carrier but I would be paying the same amount. So I figured I would just take my chances. However, now that I'm planning to breed I'm rethinking at least getting mortality on her.ReplyDelete
One other thing to keep in mind for horse insurance is it does not work like other insurance when it comes to what they're covering. Most of the companies, once you submit a claim for something, will then exclude coverage for that particular injury/body part on your renewal. Just FYI bc it happened to one of my friends and she was pretty surprised by it. Looking back it was something pretty minor that she wishes she had never submitted!
Interesting!! I need to ask my dad what kind of insurance we have on all our ponies... Something good to know!ReplyDelete
Thanks for the info Kate!
You know I love this post! I'll be shopping around myself when the Tall Bay's policy is up in July if I still have her by then.ReplyDelete
I am looking at a horse to purchase over Memorial Day weekend, and he is 12. Would it be worth it to insure him for the 4 years? Does the coverage just go up once he would turn 16, or with each passing year? Maybe I should check out some younger horses... haha!ReplyDelete
My problem would be that I don't have the money to pay for surgery and then wait to get reimbursed.... how does it work if you don't have the money at all?ReplyDelete
My colleagues required MI RD-108 last month and were informed of an online service with 6,000,000 forms . If people are interested in MI RD-108 too , here's https://goo.gl/IMXLhu.ReplyDelete