Advances in veterinary health care - including high tech diagnostics and specialty care treatment options - help us take better care of our pets. Not surprising, many of these options are costly, and bills for veterinary services are an out-of-pocket expense for the pet owner. This cost of care often becomes the deciding factor on whether or not to accept the recommendations made by the veterinarian.

In a recent VetVine Specialty Update, Dr. Mary Beth Leininger - a Past President of the AVMA and pet health insurance advocate - discussed the financial aspects of pet health care and what pet owners and pet care professionals need to know regarding pet health insurance. She also shares some exciting news from the world of pet health insurance - specifically, the new pet health insurance program from the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance called Complete Coverage SM.

In the world of human health care, health insurance is critical for helping people to afford medical care, but options for seeking that care are often limited by plans that dictate where that care can be obtained (e.g. PPOs, HMOs).

In 2011, the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study and the Partners for Healthy Pets reported the results of several large surveys of pet owners that identified their concern about the cost of care. Escalating costs for veterinary care were one reason why pet owners reported delaying visits to their veterinarian for wellness or preventive care. A majority of pet owners, while they recognized the importance of wellness visits, indicated that if preventive care was more affordable and could be billed monthly, they would visit their veterinarian more often.

There are a number of options available to help pet owners manage the financial impact of routine and non-routine pet health care. One option that is growing in popularity for pet owners is pet health insurance (PHI) and it's important to recognize how this insurance differs from human health insurance:

  • Pet health insurance is considered Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance and provides reimbursement for a portion of the cost that pet owners expend for their pet’s care: the amount of the reimbursement is determined by the type of policy that the pet owner purchases. Like all P&C coverage, PHI is highly regulated for the protection of consumers by the 50 different state Departments of Insurance.

  • Pet health insurance does not rely on PPOs or HMOs, nor do pet health insurance companies mandate where the pet owner must take their pets for care. Pet health insurance companies do not interfere in the relationship between the pet owner and their veterinarian of choice.