The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) in Chicago released “A Veterinarian’s Guide to Pet Health Insurance,” an eight-page position paper written by the Brakke Veterinary Practice Management Group on Jan. 19.
The NCVEI expects the paper to be the first in a series that will address business and economic issues facing the veterinary profession.
Published for distribution at the 2009 North American Veterinary Conference, the paper contends that an insured clientele is economically beneficial to the profession. It also provides tips to practices for promoting the use of pet health insurance among clients.
Those tips include appointing a staff member to be insurance coordinator for the practice, selecting and supporting a limited number of pet health insurers to support, educating the entire staff about pet health insurance, flagging medical records of insured clients so they can be informed of services covered by their insurance and submitting claims for clients, thereby bonding them to the practice.
“Pet health insurance information, whether on the Internet or in a brochure, is often directed to the consumer and/or created to sell a particular policy,” said Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, chief executive officer of NCVEI. “We wanted to take an objective look at the topic and give veterinarians the information they need to evaluate the growing pet health insurance industry.”
The pet insurance industry grew 20 percent annually from 2003 to 2007, with total growth at 107 percent, the NCVEI reported. At the same time, the number of companies offering pet insurance increased from three to as many as 10, according to the report, which estimated the number of insured pets in North America at about 850,000.
The report also seeks to overcome a concern among some veterinarians that pet health insurance could lead to a managed care system by noting it is more similar to dental insurance.
“While pet insurance doesn’t have the managed care problems that human insurance does, there is some similarity between dental insurance and pet insurance,” Dr. Felsted said. “Numerous studies have shown that those with dental insurance spend more annually on dental care than those without insurance. Research on the veterinary side also indicates a similar spending increase for those with pet health insurance, as well as increased engagement in their pets’ overall health.”
The report cited a pet health insurer's study that showed insured pet owners scheduled 40 percent more veterinary visits and spent twice as much on veterinary care over the life of their pets than non-insured clients. Similarly, a Journal of the American Dental Assn. study had found that insured dental clients spent 71 percent more annually than non-insured clients, the NCVEI reported.