Pet Insurance Blog

Discussing Pet Insurance With Veterinary Clients

Kate Boatright, VMD
Dr. Kate Boatright
Associate Veterinarian, Speaker, Author - Penn-Ohio Veterinary Services and KMB Veterinary Media LLC
dog owner discussing pet insurance

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.

The Role of Pet Insurance

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.

When to Educate Veterinary Clients About Pet Insurance

"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

How to Discuss Pet Insurance in Vet Offices

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.

vet talking to client in office

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:

  • Pet insurance operates differently than human insurance. Clients do not need to navigate the complexities of “in-network” care since most insurance providers reimburse the client and do not pay the veterinary clinic directly.
  • Be prepared to pay bills up front. Another difference between pet and human health insurance is that pet insurance plans operate on a reimbursement system, so the client is still responsible for paying the bill up front. Speed of reimbursements will vary based on company policies and payment options. It is important that clients have a plan for how to cover the initial cost of vet bills even if they have an insurance policy.
  • There are many different insurance options. There are over 20 pet insurance providers in the US. Each offers different levels of reimbursement, deductibles, premiums, and coverage options. Some policies cover accident-only while others cover accidents and illness. Additionally, many companies offer wellness add-ons to help with the cost of routine care. Clients should shop around and compare pet insurance companies to determine the best fit for them and their pets.
  • Pre-existing conditions are excluded. Pet owners should be aware that coverage for some conditions will be excluded if they’ve been diagnosed previously. Veterinary clinics can not provide information on what different policies will cover but should encourage clients to ask specific questions on coverage before purchasing a policy. Pet insurance may still be a good investment, depending on the age of the pet and the conditions that are excluded.
  • .Not one-size-fits-all. Pet insurance is a fantastic option for some clients, but it isn't the exclusive solution to the problem of overcoming financial barriers to care. For some clients, monthly insurance premiums are not feasible. For others, being able to pay the bill up front and wait for reimbursement could lead to financial hardship.

Compare pet insurance companies side-by-side.

Streamlining Pet Insurance Education For Clients

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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Kate Boatright, VMD

Dr. Kate Boatright
Associate Veterinarian, Speaker, Author - Penn-Ohio Veterinary Services and KMB Veterinary Media LLC

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.

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