A Vetinerian’s Take on Pet Health Insurance

As a veterinarian, I think pet health insurance is an important issue to should discuss, and I’ve done a fair amount of research into this issue over the course of the last few years.

In general, I’d say that the vast majority of veterinarians are favorably disposed to the idea of pet health insurance. In fact, I have some pretty good data from the DVM Newsmagazine State of the Profession market research study conducted in 2006 that demonstrates just how vets feel about insurance.

Here are two interesting tidbits from that study:

  1. 76% of respondents reported that they would like to see greater use of pet health insurance by clients.
  2. 56% of respondents actively promote pet health insurance to clients.

When you look at the demographic breakdown of the respondents in item one above you also see an interesting trend: younger female veterinarians view pet insurance more positively. A full 81% of them support the wider use of pet health insurance. Since most veterinarians entering primary practice these days are female, from the vet’s perspective, the future prospects for pet health insurance look good.

In conversations I have with vets as I travel around the country, I get a more nuanced sense of how they feel on the topic. They are interested in pet health insurance, but only if it offers what the client actually needs and does so in a straightforward manner. If a client is unhappy after they have filed a claim because it turns out they did not understand the terms of their policy, it can reflect negatively on the vet. No vet wants to be in that position.

Another interesting piece of data from the DVM Newsmagazine study dealt with the percentage of cases handled where cost either limited the treatment or was the cause for treatment being denied. Veterinarians reported that cost limited their treatment options 23% of the time, and in 14% of cases treatment was denied altogether due to financial constraints.

When cost of treatment is an issue, 37% of the time the quality of veterinary care suffers, and animals end up suffering as a result.

That is the primary reason veterinarians tell me they want to see greater use of pet health insurance by clients. They want to be able to provide the best care available. They want to be able to do what they were trained to do.

Veterinary medicine has grown increasingly sophisticated over the last decade, in particular. The cost of some services and diagnostic procedures has also risen. And bear this in mind: the ultra sound machine the vet uses is made by the same company that makes the one your own physician uses. The vet does not get a discount on the machine because he or she makes less money per year than the average physician.

Pet health insurance can help relieve the financial burden on the client and allow them to access the best care available. Peace of mind is a valuable thing when it comes to your pet.

By Dr. Larry McDaniel

Dr. Larry McDaniel’s career includes private veterinary practice in Idaho and Montana, followed by positions in the pet food industry with Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Nestlé Purina PetCare. He is a former president of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, and one of the founders of PurinaCare Pet Health Insurance.