Survey: Pet Owners Aware Of Insurance, Balk At Cost

Recent survey shows pet owners are uninsured due to high cost.

More than nine of 10 surveyed pet owners (94 percent) know that pet insurance exists but are likely to avoid buying plans because of cost concerns, according to a survey of pet owners and veterinary professionals.

The online survey, conducted by the marketing firm LePoidevin Rickinger Group of Brookfield, Wis., polled 806 veterinary professionals and 4,626 pet owners in September to gauge their awareness of pet insurance providers.

Results were provided exclusively to Veterinary Practice News.

“The most significant finding was the relatively high number of veterinarians who had no opinion or a low opinion of the facts of pet insurance,” said Dean LePoidevin, strategic director at LePoidevin Rickinger Group. He referred to a finding that 40 percent of veterinary professionals surveyed do not recommend pet health insurance.

“We see pet insurance as more likely to help save a pet’s life by allowing the owner to avoid decisions based solely on economic euthanasia,” he said. “Armed with information, vets and pet owners should embrace the benefits of pet insurance. After all, it’s about being able to practice better medicine.”

Despite the high awareness of insurance in general, the survey found that 78 percent of pet owners could not remember a specific brand unaided. Veterinary Pet Insurance, the oldest and largest provider, had the highest unaided brand recognition at 8 percent.

VPI had the highest level of brand awareness among veterinarians, with 80 percent of veterinary professionals (veterinarians, practice managers, technicians and other staff) recognizing the name when mentioned and nearly 60 percent able to recall the brand unaided.

Further, VPI was the only brand recognized by more than 50 percent of veterinary professionals. The next highest aided-recognition was ASPCA (Hart-ville Group) with 46 percent.

Veterinary professionals asked for more direct-to-consumer advertising from companies. When asked “What can pet insurance companies do to help with compliance?” with pet insurance recommendations, more than 20 percent of 500 replies asked for increased consumer advertising, LePoidevin reported.

Other comments focused on lowering premiums, improving coverage and service, and educating veterinarians, staff and pet owners.

The survey found that 60 percent of veterinary professionals recommend pet insurance to clients.

Of the 498 practices surveyed that recommended insurance, 65 percent stocked insurance company brochures in waiting rooms, 65 percent handed out brochures, 50 percent encouraged clients to check company websites, 41 percent recommended insurance as part of the veterinary visit and 13 percent promoted insurance on the practice’s website.

Two-thirds of insurance-recommending practices reported that less than 10 percent of their clients buy a policy. More than 90 percent of practices estimated that less than 30 percent of clients bought insurance.

Practice leaders (veterinarians and practice managers) were more willing than staff (technicians and others) to recommend pet insurance, with roughly two-thirds of leaders and one-half of staff willing to do so.

Practice size appeared to play a role in the likelihood of recommending pet insurance. Single-veterinarian practices recommended insurance 52 percent of the time, compared to more than 60 percent of the time for practices with two to five veterinarians. Practices with six or more veterinarians recommended insurance 55 percent of the time.

VPI was recommended most often, with 43 percent of recommending practices suggesting it by name. By comparison, 32 percent did not recommend a specific brand and 7 percent recommended Pets Best.

Veterinary professionals who did not recommend insurance cited various reasons, including:

  • It was an inappropriate or unproductive activity.
  • Fear of powerful insurance companies dictating veterinary practice in the future.
  • Concern that pet insurance increased paperwork.
  • A desire for a better understanding of plans.

Of the 4,626 dog and cat owners surveyed, dog owners averaged 3.5 vet visits a year and cat owners averaged 2.1 visits a year.

As these pet owners came from lists of Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy magazine subscribers, they were likely more attentive pet owners than average, as evidenced by their investing in learning more about their animal.

Nearly 10 percent reported having pet insurance, a rate much higher than national estimates of all pet owners. Of those, 44 percent had a VPI policy, compared to 11 percent for ASPCA and 5 percent for PetPlan USA.

Asked why they selected their brand, 35 percent referenced the company’s website. Nearly 24 percent found a  brochure at their veterinarian’s and 23 percent said their veterinarian recommended it.

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This article first appeared in the December 2009 issue of Veterinary Practice News

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