Pet insurance: Rainy-day investing in your team?
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director
Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.
Almost all veterinary team members have pets, yet just like average Americans, the vast majority have no pet insurance for that proverbial rainy day. Have you thought about offering this employee benefit? Here are details on discounts from a few providers, plus one smart practice managers how-to for managing the plan.
One of these cats has pet insurance. One doesn't. Guess which. Go on, guess. OK, it's pretty obvious, you're right. (Adobe Stock)
You're not a pet insurance salesperson. You and the rest of your veterinary team are not pet insurance salespeople. But one solution to the perennial problem of money conversations with clients is getting people to either change their saving habits to put away money for big pet medical expenses down the road or get them to sign up for pet insurance. And one way for veterinary team members to offer more thoughtful education about pet insurance in general is to use it themselves. Here are details on discounts from a few providers, plus one smart practice manager's how-to for managing the plan.
Do pet insurance providers recommend that practice owners offer it as an employee benefit?
“We know that veterinary staff members will do anything for their beloved pets and often face the same financial struggles that all pet owners can face when an unexpected injury or illness occurs. Veterinary practice owners are known for being very generous with offering employees discounted or even at-cost services. However, this can negatively impact practice revenue as well as having tax implications on the practice and potentially the staff member. These concerns have prompted many veterinary practice owners to look into providing an employee pet insurance benefit as an alternative that is more sustainable to their business.
“Another advantage to having employees insured is that it helps them gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of pet insurance and how it works. If clients come with questions about pet insurance, they'll be able to speak with firsthand knowledge as a fellow pet owner and pet insurance policyholder. When veterinary professionals feel more comfortable speaking with their clients about why pet insurance is important, the end result is more clients insuring their pets-helping to mitigate the financial burden that can stand in the way of getting pets the optimal medical care.”
- Staci Welsh
Veterinary services manager
Which pet insurance providers say they offer special pricing or special benefits for veterinary practice employees?
• ASPCA Pet Health Insurance offers a 20 percent veterinary practice employee discount, and the insurer promises "personalized service" when it comes to designing, implementing and managing those benefits.
• Embrace offers a 20 percent veterinary practice employee discount that can be combined with some other discounts for a maximum of 25 percent off. This discount is available in most states.
• Figo offers promotional codes for veterinary staff.
• Nationwide offers a veterinary professional discount of 5 percent and a multipet discount of another 5 percent for two pets or 10 percent for three or more pets.
• Petplan offers a veterinary professional discount (subject to state regulatory approval).
• Trupanion can offer group pricing in select states, which lets them price organizations based on their specific pet data.
Which pet insurance providers say they offer “refer-a-friend” discounts or incentives?
• Nationwide pet insurance customers who refer new customers can receive Amazon gift cards for every completed application.
• Petplan is on the verge of launching a new refer-a-friend program.
• Trupanion recently announced a new referral program for members. Members can earn Amazon gift cards for each qualifying referral using their unique link.
She's done it for five years
“We started offering pet insurance to our employees in late 2013, because we realized IRS taxation law required us to change how we handle discounting for staff.
“We offer a tiered benefit program based on longevity of employment. A stipend is paid to the employee every month to apply to their pet's policy. This stipend is processed through payroll as its own line item, so the employee can clearly recognize the benefit has been paid along with year-to-date totals. The insurance company we signed on with, Embrace Pet Insurance, required the employee to own the policy and pay for the policy directly so the key is ensuring the employee receives that stipend before the policy is charged to the employee every month. We keep a chart with a list of the employees with policies, the pet(s) on those policies, the policy start dates and the policy totals. This is then cross-referenced with team members' earned stipend so we know what to pay to the employee.
“For example, if an employee has earned a stipend of $100 per month but the policy totals $74, they receive a $74 stipend in their pay. If that same employee were to have a policy that totaled $115 per month, they would receive the $100 stipend per month and take on that differential as their personal financial responsibility.
“Because this can be an involved process, we set aside time for Embrace to send a sales representative and an insurance underwriter to our practice for onboarding, where they met with each eligible and interested employee and discussed the options for their furry family members. (At this time, feathered and scaled friends as well as pocket pets and other exotics are not covered.) We were able to access medical records for Embrace's auditing purposes on-site, and the education provided at those meetings assisted our team in making valuable healthcare decisions for their pets.”
- Molly Lautzenheiser BSBA, CCFP, SHRM-CP, CVPM
Avon Lake Animal Clinic, Avon Lake, Ohio