Ever wonder why pet insurance isn't more popular than it is? Some say it's because the industry doesn't advertise. I say it's because the industry can't yet afford to. Not when most veterinarians don't actively recommend it. Not when your go-to individual for pet health issues doesn't necessarily stand behind it. 

It's true that veterinarians, even those of us who advocate pet insurance, don't always do everything we can to ensure our clients know about the option of insurance. Then there's the bulk of my peers, most of whom actively eschew it altogether. 

So what’s up with that? Is it:

a) Fear

b) Uncertainty

c) Ambivalence

d) Ignorance

e) Waiting for the dust to settle among the numerous competitors so we can recommend the right product

I posit it’s all of the above, with “fear” topping the charts by far. (Though, for me, it’s been “e” until relatively recently––though the dust is far from settled). 

OK, so why would veterinarians fear a simple financial product we’re all familiar with? In my estimation, the biggest issue is one I like to call “the ghost of HMOs past.” In other words...

a) We fear the entry of managed care and the ambiguities of third party payments into our professional lives. 

b) We fear it’ll insinuate itself insidiously into every aspect of our practices. 

c) It’ll low-ball our prices. 

d) It’ll strangle our independent modes of practice. 

e) It’ll dictate our standards of care.

In effect, we fear it’ll do what it did for human medicine: It’ll kill the love and turn our practices into places where paperwork and the vagaries of insurance payouts reign supreme. 

But is that a fair assessment? I’ll offer you a few reasons why I believe these fears are irrational:

a) Veterinary medicine uses pet insurance successfully in Great Britain (25 to 30 percent are covered across the pond)

b) Horse veterinarians in the U.S. happily use equine health insurance all the time

c) Pet insurance is designed like dental insurance (and dental insurance is very popular among dentists)

Despite your veterinarian’s potential unwillingness to recommend insurance, the truth is that pet insurance is rapidly becoming a “necessary evil.” But researching your insurance plan is just as critical. More on that in one of next week’s posts on the subject.


Dr. Patty Khuly