Insurers say pet care spending, visits increase with insurance

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Pet insurers want veterinarians’ help convincing pet owners to buy insurance, which industry representatives say is connected with more visits and increased spending.

In an Aug. 6 press conference and an Aug. 7 set of lectures at AVMA Convention 2016, representatives of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association and of individual insurers presented figures that they said indicate pet owners with insurance are more likely to seek care for their pets.

Randy Valpy, NAPHIA president, said in the press conference that the pet insurance industry grew about 17 percent in the past year, but policies still cover less than 2 percent of pets.

John Volk, a senior consultant for Brakke Consulting, said results of a study he conducted with NAPHIA showed a connection between insurance and higher spending at clinics on dogs and cats. For pets with insurance, the mean annual health care expenses paid were $324 per dog and $264 per cat, compared with $251 and $146, respectively, in expenses paid for pets without insurance. Those figures do not include insurance premiums.

Kerry O’Hara, PhD, a consultant for the insurer Nationwide, said Aug. 7 that her company’s figures indicate pet owners with insurance had a mean of 2.1 veterinary visits per year, whereas those without insurance visited about 1.4 times a year.

T.J. Houk, who leads an analytics team as chief data officer for pet insurer Trupanion, said in his lecture that Trupanion is trying to determine whether those who bought health insurance would have spent similar amounts. His company’s data show increased clinic income from pet owners with insurance over those without insurance but with similar demographics, he said, and he hopes additional data will help show a causal effect.

Asked whether Trupanion had data showing differences in effectiveness and quality of treatments, Houk said the company hoped to provide answers soon.