Pet Insurance: A Real Lifesaver
By Kathy Hosler
As pet lovers and pet care professionals, we want the pets that we care for to enjoy long and healthy lives. Unfortunately, that is not always the way things turn out.
Pets get hurt, develop life threatening conditions or suddenly become ill. We have all heard horror stories from distraught pet parents about taking their pets to emergency veterinary clinics and being unprepared for the costs associated with diagnosing and treating their beloved pet.
Our hearts go out to the people who are faced with these tragic situations. We wish that somehow we could help them. Well, maybe we can. We can educate ourselves and also our clients about the benefits of having insurance for their pets.
What is pet insurance, and how does it protect the pets we love? In a nutshell, it covers unexpected veterinary bills for covered conditions – typically an illness, injury or accident that a pet may encounter during its lifetime.
Pet insurance is designed for things that you can’t plan or budget for. Coverage varies, but typically does not include preventative or wellness care. Everyone that gets a pet knows that they will have to have things like immunizations, flea and heartworm preventatives, and wellness checkups at their veterinarian. These are things that a pet parent can plan and budget for.
Almost without exception, pre-existing conditions are not covered. In that way, pet insurance is somewhat like automotive insurance. Auto insurance won’t pay for any damage that is on your car when you take out the policy, but it’s going to cover you for all the future things that happen to your car. That’s the way almost all pet insurance works – they don’t cover pre-existing conditions. However, some companies do offer coverage for hereditary conditions.
For example, a three-year-old German Shepherd begins to limp and is subsequently diagnosed with hip displasia. That kind of diagnosis can really be significant financially, depending on the treatment options that might be used. The cost of treatment for any serious diagnosis can really set a pet parent back. It may severely limit the treatment options that they can choose for their pet.
When faced with an enormous veterinary bill that they can’t possibly handle, some pet parents opt for economic euthanasia. The pet is put down. It’s a tragic ending. Other owners will incur that great expense (because the pet is a member of the family) even if they have to cash in their 401K or take out a loan.
Statistics show that one in three pets will need unexpected veterinary care within a year due to injuries like ACL tears, corneal abrasions, being struck by a car or sicknesses like diabetes, pancreatitis and cancer – and an almost endless list of ailments that can include common seasonal allergies, ear infections and dental issues. According to Petplan Insurance, every six seconds in the United States, a pet parent is faced with a veterinary bill of over $3,000.
The costs can be monumental if a veterinarian recommends stem cell therapy, hydro therapy, chemotherapy, an MRI, CAT scan or other diagnostics, or high-cost prescriptions. Having pet insurance takes away the financial part of the equation. It allows the veterinarian to make the best recommendation as to the course of treatment and enables the pet parent to select the treatment that will give the best outcome. Having pet insurance helps mitigate the financial risks. Owners can get the best care for their pet when they don’t have to make decisions based on the expense.
As the costs of pet health care increase, pet owners are looking for other ways to help manage their financial risk. Sadly, many pet owners are not aware that they can get health insurance for their pets. Only about one percent of the pets in the United States are insured. That’s where pet care professionals can become an invaluable asset.
Groomers, daycare and kennel owners, pet sitters and trainers are often looking for ways to expand their business and provide broader services to their clients. Introducing pet insurance to your clients can be a real win/win scenario. You are already a trusted source of advice for all things pet related. When you can educate and provide a valuable service, you add value to and strengthen the relationship you have with them. How can you learn more about pet insurance so that you can speak knowledgably about it to your clients?
Many pet insurance companies offer a lot of options when it comes to education. Some of them will present webinars to pet care professionals to help them learn more about the basics of pet insurance. Once you have a fundamental knowledge, you can share it with others.
Most of the companies offer some type of a referral program. Pet care professionals can become an affiliate of the insurance company. You do not sell insurance – you refer clients to the insurance company, and then receive a monetary compensation for a referral that culminates in a policy being issued. Affiliates can put links and banners on their websites, and they can send out newsletters and emails to their clients. The insurance companies will provide you with online marketing tools, brochures and literature that you can give out.
Every owner wants their pet to receive the very best care when they have a medical need. Introducing them to the benefits of pet insurance may be ‘just what the doctor ordered’!