Did you know that the first pet to be insured was the famous TV collie Lassie? The industry has come a long way since Lassie’s policy in 1982. There are now 11 pet health insurance companies and over 1.4 million insured pets.
There’s still a lot that consumers don’t know about pet health insurance because it’s such a new concept. We talked with Liz Watson, CMO at Hartville Pet Insurance Group, about some of the most common pet insurance questions and why it’s swiftly become such a popular voluntary benefit at many workplaces.
(Watson practices what she preaches, by the way. She has four cats and two dogs, and they’re all happily insured.)
Are Businesses Really Offering Pet Insurance to their Employees?
Yes! Well, sort of. Pet insurance in the workplace has been making headlines lately, but many of those stories are kind of misleading. You might think employers are starting to offer pet insurance right alongside medical and dental, but pet insurance is actually what’s known as a “voluntary benefit.” These are optional, additional benefits for employees. The employees pay for these programs themselves; the advantage of doing it through the workplace is they often get a discount on the premium rates.
“Identity theft is another common one, or something like gym memberships,” Watson says. “Generally speaking, the costs for voluntary benefits are not being subsidized by the employer for the employee. At this point, it is generally being made available to the employee to find on their employee portal or benefit exchange…. What does very often happen is in the voluntary benefit space there is a discount available to the employee as an employee of XYZ-company. They’re still buying an individual policy, but they’re getting the benefit of a discount based on their employer.”
What Kinds of Jobs Offer Pet Insurance?
“The tech sector, financial services, and healthcare” are the biggest corporate providers, according to Watson. She thinks this is because these are the kinds of dog-friendly office situations where employee morale is paramount.
“People are beginning to have ‘bring your dog to work’ situations. And even if it’s not an everyday kind of thing like it is here at Hartville, I think there’s good reason for smaller companies in the tech sector to create dog-friendly spaces for their employees. It makes the employees happy—everyone can use a hug from a puppy when they’re having a hard day.”
These types of jobs are highly competitive, too, and to attract the best workers employers attach all kinds of perks to the job. Industries like tech, finance, and healthcare also seek to attract younger workers with competitive, cutting-edge knowledge. And as it turns out, millennials are a huge target of the pet insurance industry.
Why Do Millennials Love Pet Insurance?
Millennials love their pets. If your Instagram feed doesn’t prove it to you, the statistics will.
Millennials have surpassed the baby boomers in pet ownership. 35.2 percent of America’s 75 million millennials now own pets.They’re also getting pets earlier and pampering them more. The average millennial gets their first pet at age 21, while the average baby boomer waited until age 29. Thirty percent of millennials prepare their pets home-cooked meals (compared with 19 and 10 percent of dog and cat owners over 35). They’re more likely to read the ingredients on their pets’ food, splurge on toys and treats, and monitor their pets with tech devices like chips or webcams.
Not surprisingly, they’re also more likely to insure their pets. Millennials are often credited with the pet insurance industry boom. Why are they so interested? Most people think it’s because many millennials consider pet ownership preparation for parenthood.
“Millennials are just getting comfortable with the idea of responsibility, which means both being financially responsible and being responsible for the dogs and cats in their lives,” says Watson. “Millennials adopt animals as a way of creating part of their family before they’re completely settled down. Everyone needs companionship, and what’s better than a dog or a cat?”
Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
Serious health issues, whether they’re emergencies or chronic problems, can cost pet owners thousands of dollars. According to the ASPCA, the average price for dog health insurance is $32 per month; for cats, it is $22 per month. If your dog or cat has a major injury or health problem once every couple years, your pet health insurance will pay for itself. And if they don’t, your pet health insurance premiums are an investment in your own peace of mind.
“We know that dogs and cats who get veterinary care are healthier and live longer lives,” Watson says. “We have a personal mission to see that as many dogs and cats get covered as possible. It’s good for the dog or cat, obviously, and we also think it’s good for the person who owns a pet, because nobody ever wants to be in that position where they can’t afford to have a treatment done or a service taken care of and have to make that awful choice.”
Some pet owners opt to put money aside in a special fund every month. If their pet falls ill, they can pay for it; if their pet remains healthy, they get to keep the money. But for those who aren’t good at saving, or who are worried their pet might suffer an injury before the fund has grown enough, pet insurance is the safest way to make sure you’ll be able to afford treatment if the time comes.
How Do You Choose a Provider?
There are a number of providers out there, each offering a variety of plans. How do you make your choice?
“We recommend that pet parents research a couple companies and consider both how much coverage they'll need and how much they'll be comfortable paying each month,” Watson advises. “For example, some companies offer unlimited coverage, which sounds great, though you should consider if you'll need that much coverage and whether it's worth the additional cost. Also, pet parents should consider some other important points that may vary between providers. For example, whether a company covers vet exam fees, offers wellness coverage or has an annual deductible that only needs to be met once a year instead of on each claim.
“Finally, ask your HR manager to offer pet insurance as a voluntary benefit,” she adds. “There's no cost to your company, and you and your colleagues could get a discount.”