Woody Mawhinney is the co-founder and CEO of Pawlicy Advisor. He launched Pawlicy Advisor as the first U.S. pet insurance marketplace that aims to improve the pet insurance experience by providing objective analysis, more thorough comparison and a streamlined educational experience. Learn more at pawlicy.comRead Articles Written by Woody Mawhinney
Several years ago, my Shar Pei puppy, Wrigley, was diagnosed with a genetic disease requiring expensive medication to stabilize. Luckily, I had pet health insurance, which continues to cover Wrigley’s monthly prescription costs.
While speaking with pet owners in my community about my experience, I discovered how lucky I was to have chosen an insurance plan that covered Wrigley’s uncommon condition. The other pet owners shared stories about inadequate or overpriced coverage and the difficulties they faced evaluating their options.
As the CEO and co-founder of Pawlicy Advisor, I have spoken with hundreds of pet owners and veterinarians nationwide about the pet insurance experience, how valuable the product can be when navigated correctly, and how it could be improved.
To help steer the industry in the right direction, it’s important to talk about the future of pet health insurance, why the market is growing, and what growth could mean for pets, pet owners, veterinarians and practice owners.
2022 and Beyond
Pet owners now have more options for pet health insurance coverage than at any time in history. The pet insurance market is doubling in size every three to five years, and the number of product options available to consumers is increasing rapidly, from startup brands to insurance giants developing their first pet products.
The market growth has driven competition and led to many product improvements. Generally speaking, the industry has transitioned from offering highly detailed and complex limits per medical procedure to umbrellalike coverage, drastically simplifying and supporting pet owner decision-making.
I also am seeing pet insurance bundled with other insurance products, introducing discounts for consumers enrolled in multiple coverages. I foresee an innovative future where pet insurance coverage is bundled with smart devices or other pet products in return for policy discounts.
Lastly, I’m confident that faster claims reimbursement will be an integral part of a better future. Companies are beginning to harness natural-language processing and artificial intelligence to process lengthy documents, helping to adjudicate most claims quickly and efficiently. The development is exciting because it means that someday soon, the time between a claim submission and reimbursement won’t be weeks or days, but hours, minutes or even seconds.
Why the Market Is Growing
Pet insurance is no longer the series of complex and confusing products it once was. Over time, the coverage has broadened and become more streamlined and easier to understand. Consumer demand is rising.
As more companies enter the pet insurance market, more investments are being made in educating consumers. Many people learn about pet insurance for the first time online, at their veterinary office or from other pet owners. Online educational and comparison resources are a driving factor in helping pet owners to navigate the nuances of the products. Moreover, veterinary practices are directing clients to such resources.
Inflation and rising veterinary costs are significant factors in the growth of U.S. pet insurance. As pet owners face financial stress because of increases in the cost of living, unexpected, expensive veterinary bills are a greater concern. I hear from veterinarians that pet insurance is becoming a more prominent consideration for their clients because it reduces financial risk in an inflationary environment.
What It Could Mean for Pets and Owners
As insurance options and consumer demand grow, we should see better experiences with the products and in client conversations.
In sum, pet owners likely will benefit from:
- Better coverage.
- Better prices.
- Faster claims processing.
- Better customer support.
- Easier navigation of options.
- More personalized comparisons.
- Peace of mind at veterinary appointments.
What It Could Mean for Veterinarians
Growth in the pet insurance industry, particularly in the percentage of insured clients, is a massive win for veterinarians who’d prefer to focus on treatments rather than costs.
Veterinarians and practice owners likely will benefit from:
- Increased acceptance of treatment recommendations and less economic euthanasia.
- Fewer challenging financial conversations with clients.
- Less time spent answering financial questions.
- Simpler claims-reimbursement procedures.
Statistical analyses show that practice owners could see a significant increase in clinic revenue as more clients become insured. Similarly, veterinary teams should see fewer client conflicts as the conversation shifts to care, not costs. Faster claims reimbursement and greater transparency also should reduce client anxieties.
Giving Pets the Best Care Possible
Pet insurance still has a long way to go in the United States, as only about 4% of dogs and cats are covered. The market is seeing positive improvements with products, simplicity, transparency and consumer experiences.
As the percentage of insured pets rises, the ability of all veterinary teams and clients to give pets the best possible care becomes a greater reality. That’s a future we should strive to build.