Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Selling Pet Insurance to Supplement Life and Health Sales

Welcome to our first ever close-up cover of pet insurance. We explain how brokers can take advantage of exciting new opportunities with pet insurance sales.

Pet Insurance – One of the Top Requested Benefits of 2014

by Jessica Calise

In a fluctuating economy, businesses are looking for a competitive edge by offering incentives and benefits to attract and retain the best employees. For a long time, health insurance was the carrot that many employers used but, with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, businesses are looking for new incentives. Some employers now offer a different kind of health insurance directed toward a different (and for many, an equally important) family member.

Three-quarters of American households own pets including 55% of Californians, according to a 2012 report by the American Veterinary Medical Assn. Pet owners can be found in every demographic and socioeconomic class in the United States. With pet owners comprising more and more of the workforce, employers are seeking new ways to appeal to this large subset of Americans. One of the most talked about ways is to welcome pets into the workplace. While the vast majority of office pets are dogs, other creatures have been known to visit on occasion — from cats to snakes. Advent Software in San Francisco even made sure to mention ant farms in its pet visitation policy.

Allowing pets in the workplace is a convenient perk to pet owners who are wary about leaving their animals at home all day. Pet owners who bring their dogs to work have less stress during the workday. Even co-workers who interact with the dogs report greater job satisfaction, according to a study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. Speaking about the study to CNBC, principle investigator Randolph T. Barker, Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth School of Business said there is a noticeable difference in employee stress on the days dogs are in the office and days they are not. He also said that most employees who worked in an office that invited pets had a much higher job satisfaction compared to others in their industry.

In light of this national trend, a growing number of businesses in California are opening their doors to furry friends — from small, family-run businesses to large corporations like Dell Computers and Google. The website www.dogfriendly.com tracks U.S. businesses that welcome animals in the workplace.

Inviting animals into the office is not the only way that an employer can cater to employees with family pets. The majority of pet owners consider their pets to be members of the family with all the attendant emotional and financial considerations such a label can entail, according to the AVMA. It should come as no surprise that pet owners are willing to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year for the care and maintenance of these furry family members. Americans spent $14.37 billion on veterinary care in 2013. They predict that number will increase to $15.25 billion in 2014, according to a survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Assn. (APPA).

Families often rely on health insurance to cover the high cost of human medical bills, but they pay the full price of vet bills. Additionally, many vets require full payment at the time of treatment. A dog owner can expect to pay an average of $231 in yearly vet visits, according to the APPA. This number nearly triples when the pet suffers a sudden medical emergency or develops a chronic condition. Some of the most common illness claims made to pet insurance companies in the United States are allergies, feline kidney disease and cancer. The National Canine Cancer Foundation estimates that cancer treatments for a single dog can cost a family over $6,000 in some areas of the country. Accidents and emergencies can also put a serious dent in a family’s monthly budget. For instance, when the family dog swallows a foreign object, the pet owner must swallow an out-of-pocket bill to the tune of $2,000 or more to cover the cost of x-rays, emergency surgery, and post-operative care.

Despite these high costs, only a small percentage of pet owners have taken the leap and purchased health insurance plans for their pets. However, the number of families purchasing pet insurance has increased in recent years. According to USA Today, that number is only expected to grow. As more and more pet parents go to extreme measures to keep their pets happy and healthy, they are turning to pet insurance to manage exorbitant veterinary bills. For a low monthly premium, pet insurance policies cover significant portions of annual exams, routine tests, chronic illnesses and medical emergencies. So instead of writing a check for $2,000 the next time Fido swallows a flash drive, with pet insurance Fido’s owner would be responsible for a co-pay of only a few hundred dollars.

For smart employers, offering pet insurance policies can be another tool to draw in new employees and retain their best workers. Many business owners don’t realize that implementing a company-wide pet insurance program couldn’t be easier. Pet insurance plans can be put in place at no cost to a business and most require very little administration on the part of the employer. In other words, a company that offers pet insurance often gains more in terms of employee satisfaction than the capital investment that’s needed to make the plans available in the first place. Dozens of high-profile companies like American Express and General Motors already offer pet insurance to their employees and more Fortune 500 companies join their ranks every year. The cost effective nature of pet insurance policies also makes them appealing to mid-size and smaller businesses as well, but most of these growing companies are not educated about the low-cost/high-reward pay-out of these plans. This little-explored corner of the insurance market is waiting to be filled by licensed P&C brokers capable of addressing this knowledge gap. q

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Jessica Calise is marketing manager for PetPartners. PetPartners has offered quality plans to pet owners in all 50 states for over a decade. Employee plans include payroll deductions or direct pay from employees under employer sponsored programs, resulting in virtually zero administrative cost to business owners. PetPartners administers plans to large corporations like General Motors and is the exclusive provider of pet insurance for the American Kennel Club and the Cat Fanciers’ Association. Customizable plans can be quoted online at http://www.petpartners.com or by calling 866-774-1113. For more information about how to become a broker/partner with PetPartners, contact -Jessica Calise at jcalise@petpartners.com.