Pete, a Basenji-Corgi mix, was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia when he was nine years old. His treatment regimen included strong medication, weekly testing, and alternative therapies from several veterinarians specializing in emergency care as well as conventional and holistic medicine. Luckily, Pete’s owners had medical insurance for him, so their dog had access to all the options he needed to treat his condition and extend his life.

In total, Pete’s owners submitted over $15,170 in claims, but only had to pay $4,119 of the costs, including the deductible. They credit their ability to continue Pete’s treatment to this financial coverage, and stated that without the treatment, he would not have lived as long as he did – a further two years after diagnosis, despite his low chances of survival.

Pet owners like Pete’s have access to an unprecedented level of veterinary care, and many are taking the integrative approach, combining conventional and alternative therapies to optimize the care their animals receive. However, this approach comes with financial restrictions; an integrative treatment program that could make a huge difference for a pet may fall outside a client’s budget, rendering them inaccessible and forcing pet owners and veterinarians to compromise on care. Sometimes economic euthanasia becomes the only option, and this can take an emotional toll on both owner and veterinarian.

How insurance increases vet visits

In an analysis1 of 83,908 insured and uninsured pets, the mean annual revenue for veterinary practices increased from $437 per uninsured pet to $837 per insured pet, while mean annual visits increased from 2.4 for uninsured pets to 4.4 for insured pets.

 

TOUGH DECISIONS CAN BE MADE EASIER

Fortunately, medical insurance for pets is changing this scenario. As insurance companies adjust their policies to better fit client needs and the veterinary industry, more pet owners are enrolling in coverage, helping to eliminate financial burden and increase access to the best veterinary medicine. Some policies now offer coverage for alternative therapies like rehabilitative therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, chiropractic, behavioral modification, homeopathy, and naturopathy. Every provider is different, however, and offers varying coverage with differing plans, payment options, pricing options and limitations. While most companies use a reimbursement model, some, such as Trupanion, offer a vet-direct pay option that pays the veterinarian directly so clients only need to pay a small portion of the bill up front. While some companies require annual contracts, others use a monthly subscription model.

Before deciding to recommend or enroll with a provider, practices should ask relevant questions such as:

• What percentage of the veterinary bill is covered? Are there limits or a benefit schedule?

• How will a pet’s species, age, and breed influence the cost and coverage of the policy? Is there a deductible?

• What treatments are included in coverage? Is there an option for alternative therapies?

• Does the policy cover hereditary and congenital conditions?

• What constitutes a pre-existing condition?

Great coverage builds a flexible base for you and your clients to work from, allowing you to make decisions based on the well-being of the pet rather than the client’s finances.


Dr. Kerri Marshall graduated with her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Washington State University. She worked for 16 years at Banfield Pet Hospitals and joined Trupanion in June of 2011 as Chief Veterinary Officer.