Focusing on pet insurance: The myths and truths - Veterinary Economics
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Focusing on pet insurance: The myths and truths
If the thought of pet insurance leaves you cross-eyed, you're not alone. But with a clear picture of how it works, you'll see 20/20 in no time.


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.


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 receipt.

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.



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