Pet Owners Face Dilemma After Nationwide Drops 100,000 Insurance Policies

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Christie Keith has been paying $600 a month in pet insurance premiums to insure her dogs for years and bumped that up to more than $700 recently to add coverage for her 4-year-old Silkan Windhound, Pip.

But a few weeks ago, the protection plan for her pets came unraveled when Nationwide Insurance announced it would cancel coverage for about 100,000 pets across the country, blaming the rising costs of veterinary care and other factors that are cutting into the profits of its pet insurance business, the company said in a statement on June 14.

The move is leaving tens of thousands of pet owners in a predicament, because – even though Nationwide says age and prior claims history aren’t a factor – many of those policies are for older pets with pre-existing conditions that may not be insurable elsewhere.

For Keith, a 65-year-old freelance writer who lives in Davisburg, Michigan, the dilemma is especially troubling because her older dogs have both needed medical treatment recently. Ros, a 10-year-old Silken Windhound, has been hospitalized twice and continues to suffer from an undiagnosed illness, while Harper, an 8-year-old Scottish Deerhound, has been treated for a back injury.

 

She began paying Nationwide for coverage for Harper in November 2017 and Ros in April 2021. Keith insured Pip, a 4-year-old Silken Windhound, in December 2023. Nationwide told Keith the policies for her dogs would expire as the renewal dates hit and that she couldn’t get lesser policies from them for her dogs.

 

“I was willing to pay this very large amount to get this coverage because I love my dogs. They’re my family. They are not like a car, or even a house, or a thing that can be replaced or rebuilt, they are important to me,” Keith told USA TODAY. “No one else is going to take on old dogs with pre-existing conditions and even if they do they will exclude all of the pre-existing conditions. … I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

What is pet insurance?
About 24% of Americans who own a cat or dog have pet insurance. Depending on the policy, pet insurance may cover routine medical care such as heartworm treatments and teeth cleanings, as well as treatment for accidents and illnesses.

Some plans will also pay for behavioral issues such as aggression and have wellness coverage for services such as grooming. Also possibly covered: medically necessary euthanasia. “If this is something that you want to be sure to have, then check before taking out the policy. Some plans offer burial or cremation as optional add-ons,” NerdWallet personal finance expert Kimberly Palmer told USA TODAY.

Many policyholders get pet insurance because they may not be able to fully cover the cost of a high emergency medical bill for their pet. More than half of pet owners surveyed for the NerdWallet report (57%) said they have pet insurance for “peace of mind.”

“When it is available, pet insurance can give pet owners much-needed peace of mind when it comes to protecting their finances from unexpected medical costs related to pets,” Palmer said.

The average cost for pet insurance is about $53 a month for dogs and $32 a month for cats, with those costs rising as pets age.

Pet insurance, like coverage for humans, usually has deductibles and coverage limits. So if you had a $500 annual deductible, you have to pay the first $500 in bills that year before your policy starts paying. And, depending on the plan, it could only pay a portion.

Why is Nationwide Insurance cancelling some pet insurance policies?
Nationwide claims to be the first and largest provider of pets in the U.S. with more than 1.2 million dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets insured for medical coverage, accidents and injuries. But the company said it must take action “to maintain long-term viability and profitability,” Nationwide said in that statement issued on June 14.

“Inflation in the cost of veterinary care and other factors have led to recent underwriting changes and the withdrawal of some products in some states – difficult actions that are necessary to ensure a financially sustainable future for our pet insurance line of business,” said Nationwide, which added it has paid for claims amounting to “billions of dollars over the past four decades.”

Insurance costs are rising. In some cases, homeowners are foregoing coverage because the price has gotten so high. Similarly, auto insurance has risen 26% in 2024.

“We certainly empathize with the disappointment many of our pet families feel and will fully stand by the protections for which they have paid through the end of their current term,” Nationwide’s statement said. “Our rates will continue to be fair and appropriately priced for the plan, pet, and breed. ”

What accounts might be affected?
The company has said decisions of non-renewal were “not associated with the pet’s age, breed or prior claims history.”

Nationwide did not respond from USA TODAY to a request for additional information about the characteristics of pet insurance policies that will not be renewed.

Apparently, where pet owners live plays a part, based on the letter Nationwide sent to Robin Tobias of Aventura, Florida in April. In the letter, Nationwide said coverage for her dog, Ginger, won’t be renewed.

“After careful review of our products, we’ve elected to discontinue certain plans, including Whole Pet, which will no longer be offered in your state,” said the letter, which Tobias shared with The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA TODAY Network. “The same economic pressures from inflation, higher interest rates and rising that have caused unprecedented losses for the American insurance industry are affecting the pet industry as well, leading to difficult decisions such as this.”

Many of the pet owners and policyholders who have joined a Facebook group called “Dropped By Nationwide Pet Insurance Whole Wellness,” do have older pets with pre-existing conditions. The group, which has more than 300 members, is considering what legal action it may be able to take against Nationwide.

“Pet owners are contemplating euthanizing sick pets because they are uninsured, and all they can say is they need to make more money, so too bad,” Tobias said.

Most pet insurance policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions.

“So if your pet has pre-existing conditions, you might be better off considering other options, such as saving up in advance for potential medical needs down the road,” she said. “You can put what you would have paid in premiums into a high-yield savings account for your pet’s care. Another option is to find a vet who will work with you on a payment plan.”

 

When will Nationwide drop some pet insurance policies?
Affected policyholders are being informed in writing about Nationwide’s plans. The company began sending letters to policyholders this spring and will continue into the summer of 2025.

As in the case of Keith and her three dogs, most policyholders commenting online about the situation say their coverage ends at the end of the current policy.

For Tobias, coverage for Ginger, a 7-year-old dog with a heart murmur, ends July 23. Tobias pays about $160 a month for insurance; she bought the coverage when her dog was a puppy.

She has found another company that she believes will cover Ginger, but she worries that others won’t be as fortunate. Tobias is particularly concerned about older pets with health problems that may be abandoned by their owners because they can’t afford to pay to care for their pets and can’t get coverage from another insurer.

“That’s the reason why you take insurance,” she said. “Down the road, you’re doing to need it. It’s horrifying really.”

“For us, dogs have been our children. Everything we do is to protect our children.”

 


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