The veterinarian has a certain level of responsibility and, depending on the plan, that responsibility varies. Keep in mind,
says Dr. Christine Merle, MBA, CVPM, a consultant with Brakke Consulting in Dallas, that the goal of pet insurance is not
for clients to recoup costs—they might not make a financial return on their investment. Pet insurance is about risk management
for serious illness and emergency emergencies.
So if it's that simple, why hasn't pet insurance caught on? Clients and veterinarians alike are leery of it. "We don't like
the word 'insurance,'" Dr. Merle says. "We hear a lot of negative things about the human health insurance industry, so it's
hard to think that pet insurance can be a positive thing."
Clients also have fears about the limitations of pet insurance. A colleague of Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, recently treated a client's dog for cancer. The client's pet insurance
capped out at $1,500.
The client couldn't pay for the rest of her dog's care and she opted for euthanasia. "There are still a lot of misconceptions
out there about what insurance can and can't do," Dr. Rothstein says. "Depending on a pet's susceptibility to genetic diseases,
it can be pretty restrictive. So is it really that beneficial?"
Clients now have more options than ever in choosing a plan. In the last two to three years, Dr. Rothstein says, with more
pet insurance companies launching all the time, there are tons of options out there—every company and every plan is different.
DON'T BE SHORTSIGHTED
Let's set one thing straight: the experts and practitioners we talked to agree that pet insurance is a good thing. It gives
clients the option to seek care for their pets that they might not otherwise.
And for Dr. Rosenberg's cancer clients who often can't afford her treatment plans, it can be difficult to make the decision
to treat a pet if the outcome isn't going to change. "If more clients had pet insurance, it would make it easier for them
to feel comfortable about moving forward with treatment, especially in my world where most patients we treat are terminal,"
Dr. Rosenberg says.
Every client has their own level of risk they're willing to tolerate. So what about your tolerance level when it comes to
the ins and outs of pet insurance? You've likely heard the horror stories about paperwork, managed care, and customer service
issues. But your experiences with pet insurance—and clients'—don't have to be negative. Here's more on the pros, cons, myths,
and truths to help you see pet insurance clearly.
MYTH: Extra paperwork will overrun your practice.
TRUTH: Paperwork on your behalf is fairly minimal.
Clients may need you to help them fill out the insurance company's paperwork or claim form, which often includes the date
of diagnosis, what the diagnosis is, your signature, and a copy of the receipt. Sometimes the insurance company may require
additional information, such as a copy of the medical record. Just what you need, more paperwork, right?
But before you cringe at the thought, think about how you could make the paperwork a routine part of your day. Take a proactive
approach. Instead of waiting for a client to bring in the paperwork, keep a copy of the client's claim form on file and make
a note of it in the electronic medical record. Print a copy of the form and hand it to the client. Print two copies of the
You already provide clients with great service every day, so remember that helping clients with pet insurance paperwork is
just another part of that great service. Going the extra mile is what sets your practice apart from the crowd.
The goal of pet insurance isn't to create extra work for the veterinarians. "It's about providing a service that's beneficial
to clients and your practice," says Dr. Karen Felsted, MS, CPA, CVPM, CEO of the NCVEI. "If it allows your clients to do more
things for their pets, that's great for the pet, the client, and you as the veterinarian." Occasionally, yes, you may end
up doing some extra paperwork, but if a client opts for a $1,500 procedure that they wouldn't have considered without pet
insurance, isn't it worth it? Think about how often you call other veterinarians to get copies of records for clients. You
could just ask the client to bring the records in, but you do it as a courtesy. Signing off on clients' pet insurance paperwork
is about offering them that same courtesy and excellent service.