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The most standard types of pet insurance give you accident and illness coverage. Finding a provider with comprehensive wellness benefits can be a challenge. VPI, now sold under the Nationwide brand name, is one of the top providers for preventive care coverage. Not only did VPI create the first pet wellness plan, the company was also the first to write any type of pet insurance policy in the United States. Today, VPI policies can protect just about any type of animal in your home, from geckos to goats.
Veterinary Pet Insurance, or VPI, was founded in 1980 by a group of veterinarians from across the United States. The company claims to be the first in the country to ever offer dedicated pet insurance products, writing its first policy for TV’s infamous dog Lassie in 1982. VPI grew rapidly over the following decades, setting more industry records along the way. The company became the first to introduce pet wellness and preventive care plans to the market in 1998, followed shortly by the first policies for small and exotic household pets in 2000.
In 2008, VPI was purchased by Nationwide, which didn’t offer pet insurance policies at the time. VPI operated as a subsidiary of Nationwide for several years under its former name. However, a 2015 company-wide restructuring saw the VPI brand officially retired. Nationwide now advertises pet insurance under its own name, although Veterinary Pet Insurance Company remains the underwriter for most policies. The VPI brand will not soon be forgotten; plans are still sold online through the original VPI web domain and the company’s rich history is featured prominently.
Broad range of coverage and prices
Use any licensed veterinarian
Covers most household pets
Discounts for multi-pet households
More expensive than competitors
Single deductible option
- Broad range of coverage and prices: From basic coverage for major accidents and illnesses to comprehensive wellness benefits, VPI has a long history of offering policies at a wide range of price points.
- Use any licensed veterinarian: With these policies, there are no networks to worry about. Visit any licensed veterinarian in the world and you’ll get reimbursed (although you must reside in the U.S. to be eligible for coverage).
- Covers most household pets: Dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, goats—they’re all covered by VPI.
- Discounts for multi-pet households: If your home includes more than one furry family member, you’ll get a 5% discount when you enroll them together.
- More expensive than competitors: While some VPI policies are significantly more affordable than others, they’re still a bit pricier than similar policies from competitors.
- Per-procedure limits: Most plans set individual limits for each covered treatment instead of one single limit for the whole year. This might be confusing if you’re not well-versed in deciphering the fine print on insurance policies.
- Single deductible option: All advertised VPI policies have an annual deductible of $250. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust this number.
For common household pets like cats and dogs, VPI offers three plans with varying levels of benefits. Major Medical is the most basic policy, providing accident and illness coverage designed to protect your finances in the event that your pet has a medical emergency. The mid-tier plan, Major Medical with Wellness, adds some preventive care options such as vaccinations and behavioral treatment. Finally, Whole Pet With Wellness is VPI’s premier pet insurance policy with coverage for almost all veterinary services and no annual limit.
Expert Tip: Reptiles, birds, small mammals, and even some backyard farm animals like potbellied pigs and goats are eligible for VPI coverage. However, policy offerings may differ from what is listed below depending on the species. You’ll need to call VPI/Nationwide directly to get specific coverage and pricing information for any pets that aren’t dogs or cats.
VPI pet insurance plans are more expensive overall than most competitors. While we can’t deny that the coverage offered is also more substantial, VPI falls short in its failure to offer ways to lower monthly premiums by adjusting coverage levels. Most pet insurers let owners set a custom deductible and annual limit to better fit their budget, but this isn’t an option with VPI.
Expert Tip: VPI makes a few discounts available to help foot the bill. Families with multiple pets will save 5% by enrolling them together, and you’ll get a $20 discount if you pay for the year in advance.
There is a 14-day waiting period for all accident and illness benefits included with VPI policies. This is about the industry norm for illness coverage, but a bit longer than what is typical for accident benefits. Although the chances of your pet getting injured in an accident in the first two weeks of coverage are slim, it’s still important to know that the policy won’t pay for any unexpected vet bills during this time period.
Many pet insurers, including VPI, extend waiting periods for a small number of orthopedic conditions. If your pet suffers a major knee injury within the first 12 months of enrollment, it won’t be eligible for coverage.
Expert Tip: If you choose a policy with wellness benefits, these will become available the day after you begin coverage. You’re free to schedule an appointment as soon as you like to start taking advantage of preventive services.
VPI is not alone in excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions, but company policy regarding these exclusions is much friendlier than any competitor we could find. If your pet suffered from an illness or injury in the past but was cured of the condition for at least six months, it will more than likely be covered if it returns. Most other pet insurers would use this as a reason to deny coverage, leaving you on the hook for any related vet bills.
Our biggest concern with VPI is the fact that coverage limits aren’t universal for most policies. Only the most expensive policy, Whole Pet With Wellness, offers a flat unlimited annual limit and a 90% reimbursement rate. All other plans are subject to different limits on each separate procedure. Not only is this difficult to keep track of, it could also mean that your out-of-pocket costs skyrocket if your pet develops a chronic condition that requires treatment significantly over the corresponding limit. To get an idea of what’s included, see the list of benefits for major medical coverage.
Coverage exclusions depend on which policy you purchase. Basic plans exclude all types of wellness benefits and some specific types of care, such as holistic treatments. If you opt for the pricier Whole Pet With Wellness plan, you’ll find sparingly few exclusions aside from pre-existing conditions and non-medical services.
Since VPI now operates under the Nationwide name, pet insurance claims are filed directly through Nationwide. This can be done digitally through the VPI/Nationwide website by logging into the account management tool. A PDF claims form is also available for download and can be submitted by email, fax, or mail. Unfortunately, direct billing isn’t currently available with veterinary practices.
Despite having access to the resources of a major national insurer, VPI’s customer service options are unfortunately restricted to just phone and email. If you have an issue outside of business hours or on a Sunday, you’ll have to wait until the next day to speak with someone. In recent years, many competitors have adopted 24/7 service via live chat, but VPI has yet to get on board with this trend.
Although 24/7 customer service isn’t available from VPI, the service you do get is highly rated. J.D. Power awarded VPI’s parent company Nationwide second place in its 2020 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study, which pays particular attention to customer experience during the buying process. VPI gets an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, and Veterinary Pet Insurance Company is listed with an A+ (Superior) financial strength rating from AM Best.
Competition: VPI vs. Healthy Paws
When we first compared VPI to competitor Healthy Paws, we were curious as to why VPI charged nearly twice the monthly premium for an identical reimbursement rate, limit, and deductible. However, looking at the policy coverage, the difference in cost soon became clear. VPI’s policy covers wellness benefits such as vaccines and dental care, which isn’t available at all through Healthy Paws. In fact, Healthy Paws doesn’t even reimburse for exam fees, which are charged every time you visit the vet. As long as the monthly premiums aren’t out of your price range, we’d recommend VPI in a heartbeat in this case.
VPI policies offered through Nationwide provide some of the most robust coverage options on the market, coupled with decades of industry experience from the oldest pet insurer in the country. However, high premiums may rule out these plans for pet owners on a budget. The lack of transparency in annual benefits is also somewhat concerning and could make it difficult to gauge how much value you’re getting from a VPI policy compared to other providers. If cost isn’t an issue, though, you’ll find that VPI offers all the coverage you need to keep your pet healthy.
How We Review Pet Insurance Carriers
Times have changed since VPI became the first established pet insurer in the United States. Nowadays, hundreds of policies are available from dozens of different providers. To help you choose the best ones, we review pet insurance companies based on a set of standard factors, such as price, coverage options, and exclusions. We also incorporate third-party customer service and financial stability ratings so that you don’t have to just take our word for it.