Now, more than ever, we need to talk about pet insurance with our clients. 2020 saw a massive rise in pet adoptions across the country and yet millions of Americans are under enormous economic pressure amid the pandemic.
As the authority on pet health, veterinary professionals must advocate for resources that can help new pet parents budget for veterinary treatment—or else we risk seeing a parallel increase in economic euthanasia and a decreasing standard of care.
Proactive Conversations Can Save Lives
While many vet teams do recommend pet insurance, more proactive education is critical to meet the rise in new, inexperienced pet owners. Simply asking, “Do you have pet insurance?” can make clients aware that coverage options exist.
In my own experience, clients with pet insurance are more likely to say “yes” to diagnostics that can grant more confidence in treatment plans and improve client compliance. And while none of us got into this profession to talk about finances, the reality is that conversations around treatment costs are frequently a point of contention with pet owners when many Americans don’t even have $2,000 in savings. Our best option is to make sure pet owners are thinking about potential costs and exploring financial tools that can help budget for pet health.
A Positive Impact
The biggest impact pet insurance has on the pet parent, the animal, and even the veterinary team, is that the “level of care” conversation doesn’t have to revolve around costs; instead, we can go straight to the best treatment options.
Our profession is plagued by high rates of depression and suicide in large part because of the constant ups and downs of dealing with economic euthanasia. However, one report cited that clients with pet insurance are over 90% less likely to have to opt for economical euthanasia.1
Conversations about euthanasia are always challenging and emotional ones to have with pet owners, and the topic might not be something new pet owners and owners of young pets want to think about. That’s why it’s so important to have a conversation early in the client relationship about the cost of veterinary care over the life of their pet.
One study surveyed over 20,000 pet owners and found that less than 20% would be able to afford a major vet bill without pet insurance.2
It’s also important to note that vet practices see greater annual revenue through insured pets versus uninsured pets.3
How to Talk About Pet Insurance (Without a Bias)
In the past, vets may have recommended a single provider or just handed clients a bundle of brochures when discussing pet insurance. The truth is, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for pet insurance, and handing clients a stack of different providers’ marketing materials isn’t a great experience either.
From the growing number of providers, it’s impossible to know which specific plan will best fit a client’s unique breed, age and location. Instead, educate pet parents on breed-specific health risks to keep in mind when considering coverage options. Inform clients of resources that allow them to learn about and compare top providers side-by-side.
Many veterinarians choose to have this conversation during a client’s initial visit and during routine care when pets are healthy and perfect candidates for coverage. Simplicity is key to avoiding analysis-paralysis, and such educational resources have recently emerged.
Marketing materials rarely provide the best information about insurance plans, and most people don’t read the fine print. For motivated clients, it can take hours, days or even weeks to compare plans. For unmotivated clients, many will give up on research. Veterinary teams can help by steering pet parents toward unbiased comparison tools and objective marketplaces.
Such resources streamline the volume of information needed to make an informed decision about pet insurance—and can increase the rate at which clients move forward with a coverage option. There is even a free resource that scores top coverage plans based on the user’s breed-specific health risks and shows the expected lifetime costs of each plan (some plans that are cheaper today may be more expensive in the long run, depending on how the premiums increase over the pet’s lifespan.)
Including resources on your practice website can make it easy for clients to find more detailed information and third-party comparison tools. However, proactive in-person (or telehealth) conversation is key to making more pet owners aware of treatment financing protection.
We have a window of opportunity to give a larger percentage of the population the resources they need to cover the cost of treatment and ensure their pets live long, happy lives. +
- AVMA’s Market For Veterinary Services 2017 https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/resources/2017-econ-rpt4-mkt-vet-services.pdf
- Fascinating Pet Insurance Statistics from 2019-2020 https://www.pawlicy.com/blog/pet-insurance-statistics-2019-2020/
- Insurers Say Pet Care Spending, Visits Increase With Insurance https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2016-10-15/insurers-say-pet-care-spending-visits-increase-insurance