1-in-5 UK families have pet insurance. That’s an awful lot of pet owners with policies. Why? Well, many pet owners tell us it’s because of the rising cost of care – with the average insurance claim now surpassing £700 – it’s a great way to capture better value from vets.
It’s not only pet owners that benefit from the protection insurance provides, it benefits pets and practices, too. But it’s not all straightforward. A lot of people still don’t really know the difference between policies, so it’s important your team are there to educate clients as to what to look for when they are choosing their policy so that they can make an informed choice and avoid potential pitfalls.
But firstly, is it even worth getting involved in pet insurance?
Pet insurance has made real, positive impacts to UK pet care. It benefits pet owners, pets themselves and has made veterinary practices more profitable:
Pet insurance has the capability to turn tearful pet owners into loyal and happy clients. To actively promote a particular pet insurer you need to become an Appointed Representative (AR). Before you consider becoming such an AR, there are some key considerations you should make.
Pet insurance policies are like dog breeds… there’s variety aplenty and not every breed is suited to every owner. Before you begin talking to clients about insurance policies or promoting them yourself, you need to know what they offer. Policies will either offer cover for accidents or cover for accidents and illness.
Cover for Accidents – these are usually more affordable as they ONLY cover treatments for illnesses and/or injuries as a result of an accident. For example: treatment for burns, bone fractures and road traffic accidents.
Cover for Accidents and Illnesses – as well as providing cover for accidents (as described above), accident and illness policies are more comprehensive than accident policies alone. These include cover for illnesses and conditions the pet might naturally develop throughout their life. For example: sickness, disease, infection or any change in the pet’s normal healthy state.
You can categorise these policies within one of the three levels of cover:
These are considered ‘basic’ insurance policies and are usually the cheapest available.
Time-limited policies place restrictions on the length of time claims can be made. Time limits can be as short as 3 months for some insurance providers, or as long as 12 months. After the time limit passes, the same injury/illness/condition is not eligible for claims again, even if the policy is renewed! There will also be a financial limit set, this varies greatly between providers.
For example, an annual policy provides cover for each new medical condition for 12 months, usually from its onset or diagnosis. However, if the financial limit is reached BEFORE the 12 month period, the insurance will stop paying for that condition – whichever comes first. Once the financial or time limit has been reached the condition becomes excluded and no further claims for it can be made.
A low price may look tempting, but what will happen in subsequent years? What looked like a good deal can soon turn sour. Many turn to these policies based on price ALONE which can leave clients dissatisfied in the long run.
If you choose to promote such policies you must be clear to explain their limitations to clients.
Maximum benefit policies have specified price caps (financial limits) for particular injuries or illnesses.
There is a financial limit for each new condition the pet may suffer. Each condition is insured until the financial limit has been reached, as long as the insurance policy remains in force there is no time limit on claims. Once the financial limit has been reached, the medical condition becomes a pre-existing condition and is excluded from future claims.
Chronic conditions and ongoing treatments may NOT be sufficiently covered under these policies – so, again, clients will need to be informed with regards to these potential limitations if you choose to promote them.
Many might turn to these policies based on comparison to other financial limits – for example, if a maximum benefit policy offers cover up to £12,000 this can look more attractive than (a more comprehensive) lifelong policy offering £2,000 year after year, not taking into consideration the benefits of lifelong policies. It can be very confusing and it is no wonder clients can get caught out when comparing policies – especially as comparison sites can be unclear, often excluding vital information.
This is also known as ‘lifelong’ or ‘re-charging’ pet insurance because the financial limits ‘re-charge’ year on year.
Conditions are insured, up to a set financial limit each year. This might be on a ‘per condition’ basis OR there might be a total ‘pot’ available per year for all conditions. Where the financial limit has been reached, no further claims will be paid until the policy is renewed and the benefit is ‘re-charged’.
An ongoing condition that has reached the financial limit will continue to be covered by the policy the following year providing the policy is renewed. There is no limit on how many times the condition may be claimed upon in this way.
This is the most comprehensive cover and the policy premium will be reflective of this (after all, like most things in life, you get what you pay for!)
These policy types, in general, offer the most comprehensive levels of cover but understandably are typically the most expensive. However, if a pet suffers from a chronic condition, they can become the best value available. With the size of the average vet bill increasing, policies with more limited levels of cover can end up proving a false economy to the client. Further, as a veterinary practice, promoting an insurer with more comprehensive cover levels may help avoid the potential for future client dissatisfaction and expression of such ill-feeling towards staff who have promoted the insurer in the first place.
The standard features on policies aren’t always universal. The variety of providers, policy types and small print can be overwhelming. Selecting the right partner, therefore, is key to achieving the benefits of pet insurance in your practice.
Partner with a provider that offers clear cover that you feel will most suit your clients. Your clients need to understand the ins and outs of different policy types – and understand that they shouldn’t be led on price alone. Education is vital and your choice of insurer should be influenced by their ability to support the team in training.