As the country’s largest private-sector employer and the biggest company in the world by revenue, it’s hard to miss Walmart.
The retail corporation has made serious inroads into several industries beyond its original mission as a retail and wholesale business. Now, Walmart has jumped into the pet insurance marketplace.
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On November 12th, 2020, Walmart announced in a press release that it will offer customers affordable pet insurance for cats and dogs. The product is being released alongside an expansion of the company’s other pet offerings, which include dog walking and pet sitting services through Rover as well as in-store and online pet pharmacy services through Walmart PetRx.
According to the press release, Walmart’s goal is to offer “an accessible insurance solution in the same place customers buy their pet food and fill their pet’s prescriptions.”
Walmart has partnered with Fetch by The Dodo to provide customers with accident and illness pet insurance, and Fetch will manage the policies. At the time of this writing, Walmart is offering 10% off monthly premiums for those who sign up for their plans.
Walmart’s pet insurance offering arrives at an interesting time for the pet industry. The pet insurance market is still relatively new, but it’s starting to heat up. Experts expect it to grow to $11.25 billion by 2026, and several new pet insurance providers have entered the marketplace with innovative approaches to the traditional pet insurance model.
Not too long ago, most pet insurance brands began offering holistic accident and illness coverage as a standard. Although pet insurance is still different from human health insurance, these holistic plans allow pet parents to get coverage for almost every type of unexpected pet illness or injury.
Pet ownership was at an all-time high just before Walmart released its plan, in part because of a surge in pet adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research firm Packaged Facts, 68 million U.S. households owned at least one pet during the summer of 2020.
The Walmart brand is also one of the most recognizable in the United States. Walmart’s stores serve nearly 265 million customers each week. The company includes pharmacies in its stores, which means Walmart Pet Insurance customers could pick up their pet’s prescriptions at the same time they do their regular pet shopping.
Fetch has been operating in the U.S. since 2003 (originally under the licensing name "Petplan") and is one of the largest insurance producers in North America. Walmart customers who have been considering pet insurance may feel more secure knowing their carrier partners with The Dodo, known as the number one animal brand in the world.
Finally, there’s something to be said about the convenience of buying pet insurance from a store you shop at regularly. Walmart Pet Insurance may be a logical step for customers who already take advantage of Walmart’s other pet services.
NOTE: Pawlicy Advisor is an independent pet insurance marketplace and is not affiliated with Walmart in any way.
Walmart’s plans provide a similar level of coverage compared to accident and illness policies offered by other pet insurance providers. Like other pet insurance plans, Walmart lets you use any vet you want and you’ll be reimbursed for your bill after you submit a claim.
Still, there are a few notable perks to Walmart’s plans.
Walmart Pet Insurance plans cover behavioral therapies. You can even get coverage for alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, and homeopathic treatments at no extra cost. These aren’t always covered by other pet insurance providers.
You can also get coverage for boarding fees, advertising and reward money if your pet gets lost, and up to $1,000 in TeleVet communication. Again, these come at no extra cost. Some plans offer this type of coverage, but you sometimes need to pay extra to get it.
Walmart Pet Insurance plans are also customizable, but only up to a point.
Walmart gives you three options to adjust three features of your pet insurance plan. These are your maximum annual payout (annual reimbursement limit), your annual deductible (how much you have to pay out of pocket per year before insurance kicks in), and your reimbursement rate (the percentage of your vet bill Walmart covers).
^ This coverage information is based on the results generated for a 1-year-old, medium-sized, mixed-breed dog.
Like every pet insurance company, Walmart won’t cover pre-existing conditions. That’s why it’s best to sign up for a plan when your pet is still young and healthy. That way, you’ll be able to cover any illnesses that develop as they age.
Walmart Pet Insurance doesn’t cover the following, either:
Unlike some other brands that provide accident and illness plans for pets, Walmart does not currently offer routine and wellness care as an add-on feature. Walmart’s plan only covers unexpected accidents and illnesses, so you can’t get reimbursed for routine checkups, vaccinations, teeth cleaning, or spaying and neutering, even if you’re willing to pay a little extra per month.
There’s a lot to like about Walmart Pet Insurance. The retail brand offers similar levels of coverage when compared to other accident and illness plans, but with some additional perks at not only no extra cost, but at a 10% discount. Pet parents who want to take advantage of alternative therapies should consider Walmart’s product if their current plans don’t offer coverage or require them to pay extra.
Walmart’s plan also covers remote veterinary (“TeleVet”) services specifically. This is noteworthy given the launch date of Walmart’s insurance product. Many veterinarians were forced to switch to telemedicine to continue providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the practice will likely continue as pet parents search for convenient alternatives to the traditional vet visit.
Like other providers, if you need to shave a few dollars off your monthly premium, you can adjust your plan to do so. If you prefer, you can customize your plan to provide an unlimited annual payout and a high reimbursement rate.
Like a lot of new pet insurance companies (Lemonade for example), Walmart designed their shopping experience to be easy and accessible. You can sign up for a Walmart Pet Insurance plan online in minutes, even from a mobile device.
With the current 10% discount (as of December 2020), a Walmart plan might be a good bargain for many pet parents. It should be particularly attractive to Walmart customers, especially those that already rely on Walmart for a portion of their pet shopping needs.
The biggest gap with the Walmart Pet Insurance product is its lack of a routine and wellness care option. At present, wellness care isn’t available even as an add-on service. That means any customer who purchases a Walmart Pet Insurance plan will have to pay for regular vet services like checkups, vaccinations, and teeth cleanings out of pocket, unless they purchase a wellness plan from somewhere else.
Although not every pet parent wants a wellness plan, they are still popular products. Some companies, like Wagmo or Banfield, focus their business on offering robust preventive care coverage.
Additional limiting features to keep in mind are the $1,000 reimbursement caps on some types of coverage and lengthy waiting periods for conditions such as knee issues. It’s great the Walmart offers coverage for behavioral therapies and boarding since not all insurance providers do, but you’ll need to determine if the coverage is worth it if you believe you’ll spend a lot on these services. You’ll also need to think about your pet’s breed-specific health risks and assess whether Walmart Pet Insurance’s waiting periods meet your pet’s unique needs. There may be some plans available that offer more coverage for these types of services and shorter waiting periods for relevant pet health conditions.
When it comes to reimbursement speeds, keep in mind that Fetch manages Walmart Pet Insurance policies. According to their website, the company reimburses claims within 30 days. Some pet insurance providers can offer faster reimbursement speeds.
On a similar note, Walmart Pet Insurance policies have strict regulations concerning annual wellness visits: if you buy a Walmart Pet Insurance policy, you must ensure you bring your pet to the vet annually for dental and wellness exams or else risk losing key elements of your coverage.
Finally, some pet insurance plans give you more options for customization than what Walmart currently offers.
Overall, Walmart Pet Insurance looks like a good option for many pet parents, especially if they’re already Walmart customers. Walmart’s plan covers most unexpected injuries and accidents, but it also offers additional levels of coverage in areas that other plans may not. Walmart’s “TeleVet” coverage might be an attractive feature for pet parents who want to avoid in-person vet visits.
The 10% discount (as of December 2020) might not seem like much at first, but it can make a significant impact on your monthly payments. If you compare Walmart’s offering to top plans from other providers, you may be able to get the same amount of coverage for a lower price.
Nonetheless, if you want to buy a plan that includes coverage for the majority of wellness and routine care, you should probably look elsewhere. Your only other option is to purchase Walmart’s plan and get supplemental wellness coverage from another provider.
If reimbursement speeds are important to you, Walmart's promise to pay you within 30 days may not be a big selling point. You might be able to find similar coverage and faster reimbursements speeds with some other plans.
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Woody Mawhinney, CEO and Co-Founder of Pawlicy Advisor, was relieved when his pet insurance covered his Shar Pei’s monthly prescription costs. However, many veterinarians and pet parents in his community shared with him the difficulties they faced when evaluating options. As a licensed insurance producer nationally, he launched Pawlicy Advisor as the first U.S. pet insurance marketplace actively endorsed by veterinarians, aiming to improve the pet insurance experience by providing objective analysis, more thorough comparison, and a streamlined educational experience.