Veterinarians are often looked to as a source of expert advice on pet care. Educating pet owners on preventive pet care and common health concerns — like nutrition, behavior, and weight management — are routine talking points during annual pet wellness exams.
These conversations should also discuss the veterinary costs associated with care so pet owners aren’t caught off guard by prices down the road. This is a great time to introduce the concept of pet insurance to clients who may not be familiar with it.
Let Pawlicy Advisor help streamline the pet insurance conversation in your veterinary practice.
Pet insurance offers a financial safety net in the case of illness or injury, which can be difficult for many families to otherwise afford out-of-pocket unexpectedly. Over the last five years, the number of insured pets continues to rapidly grow as more and more pet owners purchase policies to offset the cost of veterinary care. According to NAPHIA's 2023 State of the Industry Report, the number of insured pets in North America has had an average annual growth rate of 22.5% since 2018, with as many as 5.36 million pets enrolled in a policy by the end of 2022.
5.36 million pets
insured in North America by the end of 2022
Yet, despite this trend of double-digit growth year over year, only around 3% of US pets are insured. Low penetration rates are often attributed to owners either not knowing about pet health insurance or not knowing how it works. Increasing awareness about this option could help some families avoid financial hardship from unexpected veterinary bills.
It also plays an important role in veterinary practices by increasing compliance with recommended treatment plans and improving patient outcomes. There are many additional benefits to pet insurance for veterinary teams — from higher client satisfaction to lower stress levels for staff — that make enrollment worth discussing with your clients.
"Is pet insurance worth it?" is a question I commonly hear from clients. Unfortunately, this question often comes after I've delivered a diagnosis of a chronic condition or major illness requiring surgery. I inform them that unfortunately, pet insurance policies exclude pre-existing conditions, so it won’t cover the cost of treating the diagnosis they’ve just received. It may still be beneficial for that pet in the event they were to develop future medical issues or appropriate for other healthy pets they may own, so I still use the opportunity to educate.
Ideally, this client conversation should take place before pets develop any condition prior to enrollment. My preferred time to recommend pet insurance to clients is during new pet examinations, especially puppy and kitten visits. Purchasing a policy when a pet is young and otherwise healthy will ensure maximum coverage.
My preferred time to recommend pet insurance to clients is during new pet examinations...
Kate Boatright, DVM
When discussing pet insurance with clients, veterinary teams do not need to provide specific details. In fact, because of national insurance regulations, they shouldn’t provide specific information about particular policies without an insurance license. Instead, veterinary teams can introduce clients to the idea of pet insurance and recommend a tool like Pawlicy Advisor to learn which plan is ideal for their specific circumstances. They can also contact individual insurance companies for specific details.
It is okay for veterinary teams to suggest specific companies that they have had good experiences with, as long as they steer clear of discussing specifics of the policies. That should be left to the insurance experts to protect clinics from liability. All team members should receive training in how to answer basic questions about pet insurance for clients and where to refer clients to receive more specific information about policy options for their specific pets.
Some pieces of critical information that veterinary team members should convey to pet owners about pet insurance include:
Having a conversation with clients about pet insurance invites clients to ask questions about the affordability of future care and encourages them to make a plan for unexpected pet medical expenses, whether insurance is the answer for them or not. To save time when educating your clients, streamline the pet insurance conversation with Pawlicy Advisor. Learn more about how Pawlicy Advisor can help your practice and your patients by scheduling a free Lunch-and-Learn with your team.
A Team Approach to Financial Conversations in Clinical Practice
Over the next several months, Dr. Boatright will explore ways to help reduce the stress of financial conversations and help to prepare pet owners for the costs of pet ownership — both expected and unexpected.
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Dr. Kate Boatright, VMD, works as a small animal general practitioner, freelance speaker, and author in western Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her veterinary degree in 2013, she has worked throughout Pennsylvania as both a general practice and emergency veterinarian. Both in the clinic and outside of it, Dr. Boatright enjoys building relationships with her clients and educating pet owners on how they can keep their pets as healthy as possible. She loves being a veterinarian and educating students and colleagues on wellness, communication, and the unique challenges facing recent graduates. Outside of the clinic, she is active in many veterinary organizations, enjoys running, watching movies, and playing games with her husband, son, and cats.