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Customizable pet insurance lets you pick your plan

Reviewers like our Best Reviewed pet insurance, Healthy Paws (Est. $25-$40 per month) , for its comprehensive, customizable coverage and refusal to place an annual or lifetime cap on benefits. That's a potentially big savings on vet bills for a very sick pet. The plan also covers hereditary and congenital conditions including hip dysplasia, but pets must be enrolled before age 6 and are subject to a 12-month waiting period for coverage. Prescriptions are included, but routine care is not. There's a choice of three deductibles and three reimbursement levels, and several discounts are available. Owners praise customer service, with some saying they even receive sympathy cards after losing a pet. However, a few complain that legitimate claims are denied on the basis of pre-existing conditions rules.

Embrace ($7-$86 per month) offers a customizable plan that covers genetic and breed-specific conditions including hip dysplasia as well as certain curable pre-existing conditions. Pet owners can choose from three annual maximums, five annual deductibles and three reimbursement levels, and Embrace will reduce customers' deductibles by $50 after each claim-free year. Reviewers report good experiences with customer service, but Embrace's age limits are stricter than those of other providers, and both prescriptions and routine care are covered only under add-on plans that cost more. As with Healthy Paws, some owners say claims are wrongly denied because of pre-existing conditions rules.

Standard accident and illness coverage, as well as beefed-up "lifetime" plans, are available from Pet First (Est. $15-$115 per month) with customizable plan limits, deductibles and reimbursement levels. Pets of all ages are eligible for the most basic plans, but higher-level plans that cover more require pets to be younger than 9 at enrollment. Hereditary, chronic and congenital conditions are eligible for coverage, but only under the lifetime plans or at an extra cost to standard plans. Reviewers report good experiences with customer service and smooth claims. However, experts say the per-incident maximums and deductibles might not be sufficient for pets that run into serious health problems, and some owners complain that claims are unfairly denied.

Pet Assure is the best pet-health discount plan

Although it's often lumped in with pet insurance companies, Pet Assure (Est. $10-$15 per month) is actually a discount plan. Customers are eligible for a 25 percent discount on all veterinary care as long as their provider is a member of Pet Assure's network. Reviewers like the simplicity -- there are no claims to fuss with because the discount is automatic -- and the company isn't picky about eligibility. Owners can enroll any type of pet at any age, regardless of previous health problems. Still, reviewers are dubious about savings compared to pet insurance: Upfront costs may be lower, but you aren't likely to save as much in the event of a costly incident. Others say it can be tricky to find a provider, and those who are in-network may not provide satisfactory care.

Relative newcomer Animal Health Alliance (Est. $100 a year) offers a similar plan: Members can immediately receive a 25 percent discount at in-network veterinarians after signup. There are no exclusions or age limits, and pet owners don't need to worry about filing claims. However, the company doesn't appear to have as comprehensive a network as Pet Assure and customer reviews are hard to find.

Pet Insurance Runners Up:

Embrace $7-$86 per month

3 picks including: Amazon.com, PetInsuranceReview.com…

Pets Best $7-$38 per month

2 picks including: Yelp.com, PetInsuranceReview.com…

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