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The Perils of Pet Insurance - Online Survey Results

Posted in Client Service @ Jul 3rd 2014 - By Judy Gillespie, Vetanswers
The Results Are In

Pet Insurance - this is what you thought

I recently received a nasty surprise when I opened the pet insurance renewal for my 7 year old staffy, Nina and saw a 52% increase in my premium.  This then led to the wrting of a blog post that was an 'Open Letter to Insurance Companies': A 52% price increase this year (or 119% over 5 years) is never going to be ok.  Unfortunately although I contacted most of the Pet Insurance Companies in Australia via their twitter accounts and asked for their opinions & feedback disappointingly not one of them commented on the blog post.

I am sincerely not out to criticise the pet insurance companies as I strongly believe the success for both the veterinary and the pet insurance industries lay in both working together.  But I'm not aware that this is really occuring although the AVA does currently have a Pet Insurance Taskforce.  

So although I believe pet insurance is an essential part of owning a pet my concern is twofold:

  1. Pet Insurance price increases may mean that many pet owners will no longer be able to afford to insure their pets, and

  2. The inherent complexities that become apparent when trying to choose the right insurance may mean that many pet owners simply choose not to insure.

And to be honest, I couldn't blame them. My renewal has skyrocketed to over $800.00 and that's a lot of money to spend when I'm not entirely sure what is and what isn't included.  In order to choose the right insurance for Nina I needed to know the right questions to ask and I figured your veterinary clients probably wanted to know the same thing. So I decided to put together an online survey and ask the experts - you! 

The survey was live for two weeks and collected 72 responses.  The final resource compiled from the information collected will be a checklist: ‘Important Questions to Ask Your Pet Insurance Company Before Signing Up’

Click here to read the complete report: The Results - The Perils of Pet Insurance Vetanswers Online Survey July 2014

Survey Overview....

100% of the respondents were pet owners but only 50% had pet insurance.  This fairly low take-up is most likely due to the fact that over 66% of respondents worked in a veterinary practice and so would likely receive veterinary care for their pets at reduced rates.  However unless they worked in a specialist centre they would be unlikely to receive care at reduced cost for treatments related to cancer, specialist orthopaedic surgery, etc.

Of those that had pet insurance 77% were either happy or extremely happy with their policy and over 80% were either happy or extremely happy with the service they had received from their pet insurance companies.

For the 66% of respondents that worked in a veterinary practice there was a wide range of pet insurance that they recommended.  I have been told on numerous occasions that it is not ‘lawful’ for those working in veterinary practices to recommend a product as they are not registered financial advisors however I have been unable to get this substantiated and it seems the 36% that responded were mostly happy to give clients their opinions. It seems the most popular Australian companies were: PetPlan (6 mentions); Medibank (4 mentions); Prosure (3 mentions); and RSPCA (2 mentions).  Then there were a range of other companies that had single mentions: Bow Wow Meow; PIA Pet Insurance Australia; Woolworths; HCF; Vets Own; and Pet Secure.

The second last question asked respondents to suggest what should be added to a resource for clients seeking pet insurance (‘Important Questions to Ask Your Pet Insurance Company Before Signing Up’)  and there was a wide range of excellent suggestions which will be compiled into a resource and made available for all to share.

The final question was a very broad one: ‘Is there anything you would like to add about Pet Insurance?’ and received probably the most interesting responses including one that questioned “I wonder what axe you are grinding” which was a fair question as I did not link the survey to my original blog post.

Comments from respondents ranged from “Pet insurance  doesn’t cover everything and you can save that money on your own” to “It’s a life saver – saves my financial life and my pet’s life.  I can give her the optimal care she needs and never have to say no to what the vet recommends because of the cost” which seems to state exactly the reason to have pet insurance.

Some other interesting comments from this question:

“I wish it was less complicated, more affordable, and that all pet owners would have to get it when buying a pet!”

“It should be made easy on vets to complete! My boss is talking about charging clients for time taken to complete forms and print long histories etc. when I complete forms for repeat medications I have to go back thro the file each time for 'date of first signs'! ......“

“There is definitely a skill in completing the application form, and ensuring history is easy to read for claim examiners. I will prepare a summary history to include with history written for easy comprehension. Also important to put non claimable items on different invoices so only invoices with claimable items are submitted. We handle claims for clients so have control over the process and it works very well for us”

“I think once there is a company that people have a good experience with, clients will start recommending it to each other and vets will feel happy recommending it. As it is client's expectations don't match up with what they're getting from pet insurance. Until that changes, it's not going to catch on.”

“Industry-wide consistent veterinary claim form valuable for us vets to fill.”

“A must for pets and their owners and agree the insurers and profession should work together as they have the same objectives in mind the (well being) of pets”

“Have a look at the ABC show The Checkout - find it on iView or just watch the relevant clip on Youtube, here:

In conclusion?

I'm not sure there is an obvious conclusion to draw.  Admittedly 72 responses is a fairly small sample but you can see from the comments above the responses range from strong advocates for pet insurance to those that believe pet owners would be better off banking the annual premium.  My biggest concern was that I could see no evidence that the pet  insurance industry was making any attempt to work alongside the veterinary industry and there were a number of comments about difficulties those in veterinary practices had in dealing with pet insurance company employees.  

I did however achieve my goal, which is a very detailed range of questions to ask pet insurance companies and at the very least will help me choose the right pet insurance for Nina and will hopefully help your clients do the same thing for their pets.  After all - that's where this whole thing started!


Jess @ Jul 8th 2014 9:15pm
If I banked my $600 premium each year for the 4 years I have had my dog, I would still only have $2,400... In contrast, by paying that amount out slowly over the 4 years I have been able to claim back approximately $6,000 and counting... It's always the ones who haven't had things go wrong that knock pet insurance; I know I for one would never own a pet without it, just like I would not risk my car or house or own life without insurance.
Judy @ Jul 9th 2014 3:30pm
Hi Jess - thanks for your comments and you've made an excellent point. You never know how important insurance is until you need it! I guess my concern is that my pet insurance premium has increased such a huge amount over 4 years that I wonder when it will stop. Especially as my 7yr old dog has never been sick (lucky I know!) and I already pay over $400/year for a variety of wellness checks - so I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the pet insurance companies to recognise the care I'm giving Nina. Just like house insurance recognises if you take measures to make your house more secure by decreasing the premiums.

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