Veterinians see increase in health plans; check plans carefully for coverage

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

When faced with an emergency injury or unexpected illness with their pet, insurance can be an invaluable resource.

Anything from getting hit by a car to a urinary tract infection may be covered according to the various plans offered by the pet insurance providers. Top 10 Pet Insu

“However, only approximately 1% of the pet population is covered,” says Ann Selander, administrator for WestVet Emergency & Specialty Center in Garden City. “I think it stands to reason that pet insurance is lower on the list of priorities given the recent economic situation we are all working through.  It is hard to promote it to folks that can’t afford their own health insurance let alone that for their pet.”

Selander helps educate clients who come into the hospital about the differences between insurance and well plans, as well as different insurers in the market.

“Often, what you pay in premiums is essentially equivalent to paying outright for the care at the time of service,” she says. “That being said, there are many choices available.”

The pet insurance industry grew 10-fold in 15 years, as it went from a single pet insurance company in 1997 to 11 companies to date. With pet owners spending at least $650 on veterinary bills last year, pet insurance agencies offer families plans from $15 to $75 a month to help budget for pet health emergencies, according to USA Today.

In 2011, Americans spent an estimated $50.8 billion on their pets, and more than a quarter of those expenses — $14.1 billion — came in the form of vet bills, according to the American Pet Products Association. Pet insurance policy sales increased between 8% and 10% annually at different companies, the North American Pet Association reports. Boise-based Pets Best Insurance, for instance, has had 20% yearly sales increases since it started in 2005.

Pets Best spokesman Chris Middleton says it’s important to compare pet insurance options to be sure you’re getting what’s best for you and your pet. Pets Best Insurance has no networks – you choose any veterinarian anywhere in the world.

“Making clients aware of pet health insurance can be a smart business decision — one that may help to allow you to practice better medicine and help to lead to healthier pets and happier pet owners, who have up to five times the spending power of non-insured clients,” he says. ‘Many pet owners don’t even realize that pet insurance is available and affordable, so they will appreciate hearing learning about its benefits.”

Pet insurance plans generally cover treatment for animal illnesses or injuries. These plans require monthly premiums and cover a large part of the cost of diagnosis and treatment for emergency situations; however, there may be exclusions as well as caps on your claims.

But, it’s not without failings. Only recently, PurinaCare, which entered the market three years after Pets Best, sold its 12,000 pet insurance policies to Toronto, Canada-based PetHealth Inc.

“The transaction will not have a negative impact to the industry,” Jack L. Stephens, DVM, founder and president of Pets Best, told Veterinary Practice News. PurinaCare’s disappearance in May 2013 was a blip on the pet health insurance screen, he added.


1 Comment

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One response to “Veterinians see increase in health plans; check plans carefully for coverage

  1. Mark Burrows

    It only stands to reason. From a psychological standpoint domestic pets become very much part of the family. Many breeds of dogs develop traits of loyalty, devotion, and a need to serve. Cats on the other hand are more entertaining because they demand their humans to provide those traits. Suggestion: It is not really a good idea to have more than one cat at a time. They will find clever ways to establish themselves as the alpha cat and do all kinds of nasty things and try to place the blame on the other cat or cats.
    Point is, pets are every bit a part of a family and are loved just as deeply. The well being of a pet is always of great concern to any person or family that loves a pet. Therefore insurance does make sense because often the cost for one trip to the vet might be such an impact that putting down your beloved pet to put it out of it’s misery is the less expensive option.
    Let me tell you, it isn’t, because I assure you that if you visit any psychiatric ward or facility you will find patients there that are being treated because of severe situational depression because they have lost a pet.
    Veterinarians know this, this is why they profit so much. It actually was the compassion of one vet that decided that there should be insurance available for pets when he saw the human suffering from what he had to do.
    Insurance is a highly competitive business, because some need to build their asset base, they have to charge more. Some have a high asset base so do not need to charge as much. The danger is some companies may get in by charging low, then after a few years, hope to get bought up by a larger insurance company and if that does not happen, they fold, void the remaining policies. When Purina Care sold it’s policies to Pet Health Inc. This was a strategic move. Trust me, Pet Health Inc. approached Purina Care and made the offer. Same activity happens in our own life insurance companies. My own life insurance company has bought up many others now has assets bordering close to a trillion dollars.
    Making investments with top insurance companies are safer than trusting a broker and relying on the stock market, or having your bank make investments for you.
    Your article is making me think of contacting the top pet insurance companies and talking to them about investment opportunities. After all, that is exactly what insurance companies do, is sell insurance, then build an asset core to cover payouts, but they rotate funding out of the asset core to make investments and from those investments put a share of the profits back into the asset core, a share to stock holders who may be policy holders, a share for themselves, and a share to the investment pool.
    If they have a high asset core, they have also an extremely powerful investment core that does not effect the asset core.

    Mark Burrows

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