How pet insurance can help your clients—and your practice

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Sep 01, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

Much has been said about pet insurance, both good and bad, by veterinary clients and veterinary professionals alike. While the pet insurance industry has fought for public awareness, it has a long way to go—less than 3 percent of U.S. pets are covered by a pet insurance policy. Despite this, pet insurance companies generate a lot of interest in the veterinary world. In fact, the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues came out with a strong endorsement of pet insurance in a recent position paper.

But how can you best encourage clients to sign up and use pet insurance to improve their pets' health? I went to one of the industry's pioneers, Dr. Jack Stephens, founder of Pets Best Insurance, for a little advice.

Dr. Stephens believes that without pet insurance, clients may not be able to keep up with the cost of ever-advancing medical services available to their pets. But pet insurance can multiply the client's spending power.

For example, a client may pay a maximum of $1,400 out of pocket for an unexpected pet health emergency. On a $100 deductible plan with a 20 percent co-payment, that client could afford $6,600 of care. As a result, a catastrophic emergency could be absorbed into the client's budget and an animal could receive the care it needs. Here are Dr. Stephen's suggestions for how to promote pet insurance to clients.

First, he suggests picking particular plans to recommend. "Your clients don't have the time or the interest to comparison-shop," he says. "Make their lives easier by doing your own research and selecting one or two different plans to promote."

Next, he suggests discussing the choice with staff and talking to them about the benefits to pets, clients, and the hospital. "Without staff understanding the value proposition, no strategy will succeed," Dr. Stephens says.

Once your staff believes in the initiative, your doctors should make the recommendation in the exam room by discussing the benefits with the client. Frame the discussion as a budgeting tool to ensure that the client can always afford any pet care he or she might need. To reinforce the message, consider linking to the pet insurance company's website from your hospital's site, placing brochures in the waiting area, and offering examples of clients using insurance.

Lastly, Dr. Stephens suggests offering pet insurance as an employee benefit rather than simply discounting services for team members. They'll be better advocates if they use it themselves.