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Customers will follow your lead if you trust pet health insurance. Veterinary teams should choose a few favorite companies and familiarize themselves with the basics of the policies. Appointing a resource person is a good idea.
Customers ask for and buy pet health insurance for a variety of reasons, so help, educate and encourage them.
Whether it’s on an airplane, in a restaurant, or at the front desk of a veterinary hospital, pet owners learn about pet health insurance. But of course, they usually put it down too late – after a major medical or surgical expense. This is because we, the veterinary profession and the decades-old insurance industry, have done a poor job of educating the public about the availability of insurance.
In the United States, the veterinary medicine industry has taken a neutral, bordering on antithetic approach to pet insurance. That is to say, our profession has very strong supporters and an equally strong group of detractors. Suffice it to say, this division has been slowing down the insurance penetration rate from a measly 1.7% of American cats and dogs to double-digit percentages in Sweden and the UK. United.
What is our role as veterinary professionals in explaining to pet owners how insurance can contribute to the cost of care? It’s educating, informing, and counseling – the same role we have with flea control, heartworm prevention, desexing, and all the other treatment plans we share with clients.
Why not take the same approach to pet health insurance that you take when choosing which preventative or therapeutic products to offer? Do your research, ask questions and be happy with your recommendations, formulating them actively, not passively. By passively I mean is the brochure on the counter or the wall hanger? By actively I mean do you have a plan – a system – to discuss and share insurance information with clients?
To convince clients, start by convincing yourself and your staff of the value of pet health insurance to the practice. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association has shared a lot of information about the financial benefits of having patients insured. I am focusing here on communicating the benefits to clients, so I will take ownership and commitment from your practice leadership.
If the practice is engaged in pet health insurance, how to choose from the plethora of companies?
- Compare companies. (Download the list at the end of this article.)
- Stop by insurance company kiosks at trade shows.
- Know what you would want if you insure your pets.
- Visit PetInsuranceInfo.com, a neutral site for insurance training.
- Ask customers who have insured pets about their experiences.
- Ask your staff to do their due diligence.
- Do not select more than two insurers to support.
- Organize luncheons with representatives of selected companies.
I also recommend that team members insure one or more of their pets. (I had one insured by Nationwide and another by Pets Best.) By doing so, your employees can learn how policies work and, more importantly, they will have stories to share with customers.
Better yet, there is a cheerleader on your team who is a strong advocate for pet insurance, either through her experiences or through an understanding of the benefits to the animal, the animal owner. and practice. She should be your go-to person for the “insurance talk,” someone who can help file claims, resolve issues and answer questions.
Be a communicating master
Too many customers don’t know there is pet insurance. It’s your role to tell them. Take advantage of all the resources available to advocate for pet insurance. Use direct marketing, indirect marketing, social media, text messages, tweets, emails, push notifications, phone calls, documents, brochures, posters.
For new clients, ask a question or two on your Welcome to Practice form.
- With which company is your pet insured?
- What is the policy number?
If the animal is insured, so much the better. Now you know. If the animal is not insured, questions may prompt questions. A good customer service representative and exam room nurse will see the answers on the form and start a conversation.
If the patient and the client are new, wonderful! Talk about the benefits of insuring early in the animal’s life, and help the owner register with your clinic. If the opportunity is missed, have your insurance advisor contact the customer at home and continue the conversation.
With existing customers, you might be surprised to learn how many are insured. When in doubt, you can always ask: “Do you need us to complete a claim form for your pet’s insurance?”
Once you know an animal is insured, write it down in your practice management software. Insured pets should be the preferred patients for any special care that would be covered by a policy.
Also, don’t forget that insured customers come more often. Have your cheerleader be the go-to person for appointments, vet care and follow-ups, providing these owners with a concierge level of service.
What to communicate
Your website is the clearinghouse for new and existing customers. Your support for pet insurance and a few select providers should be the focus, so state why you are suggesting pets be insured and identify which companies you approve. Link to each company’s registration page.
Don’t forget your Facebook and Instagram accounts. These are wonderful tools to promote an “insurance deal of the month” like the animal that was insured and if it wasn’t, euthanasia might have been the only option.
You must also communicate a value proposition. Here’s an example: “Your pet is a very important part of your life. When it comes to caring for your pet, both planned and unanticipated care costs can be difficult. We have found that most pet owners do NOT anticipate the cost of veterinary care. Pet health insurance will help YOU and YOUR pet meet both expected and unexpected health care costs. Don’t let your wallet define what you can afford to provide your pet. Insurance allows you to make decisions with your heart! “
Finally, don’t forget to answer frequently asked questions. You can do this by creating a page on your website, sharing a client document, or producing slides on your waiting room TV.
Here are some examples:
What is pet insurance
- A way to predict the cost of your pet’s health care.
- A counterweight to the costs of health care, illness or injury.
- Less complicated than it looks and less complicated than human health insurance.
- Similar to your landlord’s policy. Once the deductible is reached, you will receive a refund (not always 100%) from the insurance company.
What pet insurance is not
Full reimbursement for the services you receive.
What is covered?
It depends on the policy you are purchasing.
What is not covered?
Pre-existing conditions and other exclusions specific to the policy.
How does the insurance work?
You pay a monthly premium. You have a deductible which can be based on a condition or a policy. When you reach the deductible, you are reimbursed a percentage of the amount paid in addition to the deductible.
What is the best age to be insured?
When young, to avoid any problems with pre-existing conditions.
What about insuring older animals?
They are insurable, but pre-existing conditions could be a problem. The premiums increase as the animal ages.
Do I have to take out health or sickness insurance?
Both are available. Healthcare could be more affordable without insurance, but the costs add up over time.
Advocate, educate, encourage
Talking to clients about the cost of care is one of the most difficult parts of the veterinary practice. Pet insurance needs to be part of the conversation. And I mean active communication, not just handing out a brochure and saying, “Read this.” A passive recommendation is not a recommendation.
If you believe in insurance, talk it over with team members and let them talk to clients. It’s a perfect team health care topic.
Pet health insurance benefits the animal (no economic euthanasia), the client (costs are shared with the insurance company) and the practice (increased use of veterinary care, more compliance higher and higher average transaction). Customers demand and buy pet health insurance for a variety of reasons, so help, educate, and encourage them.
Dr. Peter Weinstein is the owner of PAW Consulting and is the Executive Director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. He was Medical Director and Head of Claims Department at Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (now Nationwide) in the early 2000s.
WHO IS WHO IN PET INSURANCE
Find out about the companies competing in the US pet health insurance market and what they have to offer policyholders. Click here to download the free PDF.