VetNetwork Blog

Pet Insurance: Help Your Veterinary Clients Make the Right Choice

8 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Pet Insurance, Pet Trends on Monday, December 13th, 2010.

As with human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care is increasing, which in turn is leading a number of pet owners to choose what is termed “economic euthanasia.” Essentially, the cost to treat the illness or injury is more than the owner can afford.

To help prevent pet owners from falling into such a situation, there are a number of companies that offer a relatively wide range of pet health insurance products. The idea behind most of these products is that by offering a low monthly premium, pet owners will be able to protect their pet’s health in a medical emergency. For the most part, these products do provide reassurance.

However, there are a few issues pet owners should be aware of before purchasing insurance for their pets. The following should help you advise your clients on the merits of individual pet health insurance policies:

Cost – Most pet insurance is modestly priced in order to make it as affordable as possible for pet owners to purchase. The range is generally between $10 per month to about $100, though the average is around $30. This is affordable for most pet owners, but according to Consumer Reports, a healthy pet may cost quite a bit more in insurance premiums than is saved on health care.

Consumer Reports advises people to consider setting up a savings account where they deposit a certain amount each month. The money will be there in an emergency, but if you don’t need it the owner has the money rather than the insurer.

Claims Process – Unlike human health insurance, veterinarians do not provide services and then bill the insurer. As veterinarians well know, clients pay out of pocket and then rely on the insurer to reimburse them. There are a couple of potential problems with this.

The first is that the client has to have the money upfront, which may be difficult if the pet requires a few thousand dollars of medical care or more. Even though the pet owner may have insurance, it may not be possible to pay for services upfront.

The second is that the insurer may not cover the procedure or provides only limited coverage leaving the pet owner on the hook. One company, Trupanion has an easy to read list of what is covered while other insurers are more opaque, which makes it difficult to always know if an illness is covered or not.

Deductibles and Coverage Limits – Depending on the policy, there is a deductible for each claim, which can be quite expensive. The average deductible is about $100, but according to a chart on PetInsurance.net, some can be as high as $500 or $1,000. One carrier on the chart requires a 50 percent deductible and then will pay 90 percent of the remainder.

Insurers also set various limits of how much they will pay out. For example, Trupanion will cover up to $20,000, Hartville Group Inc. will cover between $42,500 and $100,000 depending on the plan, and QuickCare is $2,000 to $2,500 per claim. To say the least, there is a considerable range in what the caps are for these companies.

After the deductible is paid, insurers will cover 100 percent of the cost or less. QuickCare offers 100 percent coverage while VPI Pet Insurance bases what it pays on the medical condition. Purina Care ranges from 60 to 80 percent and most others are 80 or 90 percent.

Preexisting Conditions – It is rare for a pet insurer to cover preexisting conditions, though some will if the pet owner can prove that the illness or injury has been cured.

Additionally, some plans are based on the pet’s age, medical condition, lifestyle and species. Most insurers won’t offer insurance to pets less than 8-months-old or more than 8-years-old, though if a pet is insured prior to turning eight, the coverage will continue. There are also entire breeds that some insurers won’t cover, offer only limited coverage, or include exclusions such as for hip dysplasia.

Approved Providers – Pet owners must make sure their veterinarian is approved by the insurer. Some insurers limit coverage to certain veterinarians on a network or provider list, though most pet insurance companies allow owners to use the veterinarian of their choice.

Other Options – Pet insurance is not the only option when it comes to covering health care costs for a pet. For example, CareCredit works like a credit card by reimbursing veterinarians for expensive procedures and then allowing the client to repay the company with interest over time.

For many of your clients, pet insurance may be a reasonable cost to pay for the peace of mind that it can provide. However, clients should be sure they purchase a policy that actually does what they want it to do as well as keep up with any changes in coverage that may occur.

However, the best policy is the thorough practice of preventative medicine.

Article Written and Copyright © by
Mark Feltz, DVM
Owner
VetNetwork
www.vetnetwork.com

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8 Comments for Pet Insurance: Help Your Veterinary Clients Make the Right Choice

Erin Zimowske | December 13, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Ahhhhh!! Just dreaming here, but wouldn’t it be brilliant to have a Veterinary Insurance group step up and offer insurance premiums that allow the COVERAGE of preventive medicine AND illness/surgery if needed with medical premiums and co-pays. I for one, as a veterinarian, would love the insurance companies to pay us directly and would gladly belong to a “HMO Provider List” as our Human medical counterparts do.

Pete m | December 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Yea. So that the insurance companies can start deciding what we should be paid. Bad idea

Ok Insurance | March 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

This kind of insurance is very important for pet lovers especially for dogs as which is the man’s best friends

Dr. Bakare Michael, Nigeria. | May 29, 2011 at 6:22 am

This is a challenge for clients but biz. opportunity for vets. We need to look into this and come up with better plans.

ralph@insurancecomparisons.org | July 2, 2011 at 9:31 pm

They should provide a detailed summary of their policy details clearly on their website. But there are hundreds of companies and almost as many offerings. The three basics to look for are fully comprehensive pet insurance; coverage, other customer review and the price.

Ronald E. Whitford, DVM | July 24, 2011 at 9:46 pm

This article should be developed into a client education article for all websites. The one factor that sways our clients to consider pet insurance is the fact if they take the wellcare option for some plans that covers full cost of annual wellcare without deductibles the actual cost of the insurance is minimal….$5-10/month!

Christine Gardner | October 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

The beginning of the end. DO NOT END UP LIKE THE DENTISTS. Just say NO!
Educate your clients to save a bit a month for Veterinary care. Insurance companies only, benefit. I can share horror stories for a month straight to convince you that Insurance is a dirty word and not in anyones best interest except the Insurance Companies. I am a over the top companion lover but I know it is better to save then make an Insurance Company rich. Trust me I have managed dental practices for over 25 years!

Med Vet | May 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

For seniors, the maintenance of a pet might be impossible, without pet pet insurance.

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