Handout: 20 questions clients should ask about pet insurance companies

Are your clients getting lost in the fine print? Here's a resource to help them understand different plans, policies, and providers.
Mar 01, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

You can imagine the thoughts running through a client's head while he flips through a stack of pet insurance pamphlets. "This one offers the lowest premium. Do I need coverage for holistic care? What happens if my dog develops cancer?"

Choosing the right pet insurance company can be an overwhelming task. But the plethora of choices for clients to choose from is a good thing, says Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. "In some ways it's confusing for clients, but it's good because they can pick a plan that's right for them," Dr. Felsted says. "They just have to do some research."

It's your job as a practice owner to help them with that research, Dr. Felsted says. When you discuss pet insurance with clients—and you are talking about it at every appointment, right?—stress that it will take some work to find the right plan. As with human insurance, coverage and premiums are directly related. If a client seeks a higher level of coverage, she'll have to pay more in premiums.

Ultimately, pet insurance companies are for-profit entities, so they must generate more money than they distribute to pet owners. This might mean that some clients will pay monthly premiums and never use pet insurance—they can consider themselves lucky that they have such healthy pets. But clients with particularly accident-prone or cancer-stricken pets might file a claim every other month.

While clients won't know how much coverage they'll use when they sign up for pet insurance, there's one thing they can count on: peace of mind. That's because pet insurance is all about risk management. Even if clients pay more in premiums than they receive in reimbursements, they'll always know that if something catastrophic happens to their pet, they'll be able to pay for the necessary veterinary care. You can't put a price on that.

Still, you've likely encountered a client who's upset with his level of coverage once it comes time to pay the bill. These kinds of clients are typically the ones who haven't done enough research, Dr. Felsted says. They assume that their plan will cover whatever their pet needs, be it surgery, dental care, or holistic treatments. Make sure your clients are aware that most insurance plans have at least a few restrictions.

And since insurance companies' websites don't always offer the full story, clients should dig deeper. Head to http://dvm360.com/insurancequestions for a list of questions clients can ask themselves or an insurance representative to find the right plan for their pet. If they understand the coverage, they'll be prepared in an emergency—and you'll be able to provide the care their pets need.