September 13, 2013
In Pet Health Insurance Month, Dr Riggs weighs in with his veterinary perspective on pet insurance.
If you talk to a number of vets about pet insurance, you will get many different opinions. There are many vets, like myself who have researched and done my due diligence, and see it as a win/win/win situation for the client, the vet, and most importantly the pet.
Some vets think pet insurance is evil, and the industry is trying to control veterinary medicine and tell us how to practice medicine, as it has human insurance.
Then you have the third group…"there’s pet insurance???"
It is true the early pet insurance companies were not very good. I initially had bad experiences with pet insurance myself. This is where the newer pet insurance companies started to pop up, and thrive. The newer companies, such as Embrace, have looked at Sweden, United Kingdom, and other parts of the world to see how to develop a new model. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated around 25% of pet owners have pet insurance as opposed to the United States , where less than 1% have pet insurance. The newer companies, have great customer service, quick claim payments, and almost nothing for the vet to fill out. They truly have learned from others' past mistakes.
I think a lot of “older vets” got a bad taste for pet insurance because they had that same bad initial experience I did. The early pet insurance companies often denied claims, had bulky forms vets had to fill out and crummy customer service. That became a reflection on the vet, because they recommended it. It simply was not worth the effort.
In addition, some vets equate pet insurance to our human health insurance. I don’t need to tell anyone how messed up our healthcare system is. Some are concerned that it will become managed care and the insuraners will dictate how the vets would practice. There is a lot of fear and misunderstanding about pet insurance and veterinarians.
Pet Insurance is Indemnity insurance. It is not managed care. I compare pet insurance to car insurance. You pay the insurance company to protect yourself from some unseen problem. This prevents you from having to pay a large sum of your own money. Pet insurance is the same way, the policy holder pays a small monthly amount and if your dog eats someone underwear, or whatever, then you are protected from the high cost of the surgery. You hope you never need to use insurance but it is there, in case you need it and it takes away the problem of not having enough money to be able to treat your pet, which is a very difficult situation, for the vet, when you know you can help an animal and the people can’t afford it.
Managed care is not the intent of pet insurance nor the vets. Vets would not, and could not, allow that to happen. The number of people required to process human health insurance issues, would be cost prohibitive for vets. Payment to physicians can take up to 6 months and when they arrive, the reimbursement is a fraction of the charges. With pet insurance the client pays the vet at time of service as usual and then gets reimbursed by the insurance company.
Finally, veterinarians only benefit from pet insurance by allowing clients to be able to pay for what is needed for the pet. THERE ARE NO KICK BACKS. Related Posts
September is Pet Health Insurance Month across North America
Guest Post: Veterinary Perspective on Pet Insurance
Other posts by Dr Riggs