ABI working on guidelines for veterinary surgeons on insurance - Veterinary Practice
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ABI working on guidelines for veterinary surgeons on insurance

hears what the insurers are doing to
educate the profession about the role it
can play and pet owners about the
benefits of pet insurance

THE pet insurance industry is still very much a growing market and as it develops, the industry discovers, on a daily basis, that it has a large responsibility to educate consumers about the benefit of insurance. Being able to fulfil this need in turn will help them develop long-term customer loyalty as well as provide pet owners with some peace of mind. As an integral part of the pet industry in general, veterinarians also have a key role to play. However, certain guidelines restrict what they are able discuss with their customers in regards to insurance. Consequently, one of the key customer-facing outlets isn’t being fully exploited. David Seel, managing director of Thornside pet insurance and chairman of the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) pet insurance committee, explores the industry, the role veterinarians have to play and how insurers can facilitate this. Considering that almost half of UK households own a pet1, it comes as quite a surprise that so many pet owners still don’t understand the full benefits and necessity of pet insurance. The costs associated with keeping a pet can be unexpected and may be difficult to budget for. According to figures2 from 2010, half of all pets require veterinary treatment each year following injury, illness or accident and the average cost of a claim3 is around £459 (blended dog and cat), with some more complex treatments, such as hip dysplasia, potentially pushing claims up to over £600. This only goes a short way to demonstrate the costs involved. Bearing in mind these costs, it seems many pet owners only approach cover from a mortality perspective and don’t consider other benefits such as the cost of advertising a reward for the return of a lost or stolen pet, and the cost of the reward itself; paying the costs of looking after a pet if the owner has to go into hospital for emergency medical treatment; or the cost of a holiday if it is cancelled because a pet needs emergency surgery close to departure.

Lack of awareness

There seems to be a lack of awareness of the wider benefits of pet insurance but steps are currently being taken to rectify this. The ABI has already developed a pet insurance consumer guide, outlining the key aspects of cover accompanied by case studies demonstrating the benefits. However, this in isolation won’t be sufficient and it is essential that other parties from within the pet industry play a key role in educating pet owners. Veterinarians are an obvious choice as they are in contact with pet owners on a daily basis, understand the cost of medical care and consumers’ wider needs. We hear from the veterinary industry that they’re keen to discuss the possibilities of educating customers further, and facilitating an open discussion around this issue can only benefit every party involved. There have been specific calls to develop a standard code of practice outlining what can, or cannot, be done regarding the promotion of pet insurance by veterinary practices under the FSA regulatory guidelines. Veterinarians have to be careful because of specific FSA regulations which determine what they are able to discuss with their customers in terms of insurance and while it’s understandable that veterinarians shouldn’t be promoting specific insurance plans there is scope for them to preach the
general benefits. It’s important to stress that veterinarians aren’t sales people, but they can play an educational role when dealing with customers. By request, the ABI is now working on developing a set of guidelines for veterinarians to follow which will help them understand what they can discuss without breaching any regulations. This will cover issues from being able to hand out insurance-related leaflets and discussing certain features of policies, do rules around holding insurance events and training requirements. This will hopefully prove invaluable, not only to veterinarians but to the industry as a whole. Promoting the virtues of taking out cover for pets is a win-win-win situation. Pet owners, veterinarians and insurers all benefit from pet insurance. Owners gain peace of mind (for their pets’ health and from a financial point of view), veterinarians will receive an increased number of payments (especially for additional services) as owners are able to cover the costs and insurers increase their policy numbers. And as it becomes apparent that educating pet owners is key, so is the fact that only by working together within the industry will this be realised. n ABI Pet Insurance Consumer Guide: www.abi.org.uk/Information/Con… rs/General/Pet_Insurance.aspx

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