‘Ruff’ times make pet insurance an attractive benefit for employers, employeesAs the cost of providing traditional benefits has risen sharply in recent years, so too has employers’ interest in elective benefits. These employee-pay-all options allow organizations to maintain an attractive benefits package at little or no cost.
By: By Rebecca Bentz/J. J. Keller & Associates, Superior Telegram
As the cost of providing traditional benefits has risen sharply in recent years, so too has employers’ interest in elective benefits. These employee-pay-all options allow organizations to maintain an attractive benefits package at little or no cost. While big-ticket offerings like life and disability insurance might be the most sought after, another prospect is making its way onto employers’ voluntary benefits radar: pet insurance.
Insurance for pets?
The number of employees who own pets is on the rise. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, 72.9 million U.S. households own a pet — an all-time high. Approximately 40 percent of these households own more than one animal.
Just as employees’ medical care costs have jumped in recent years, so too have those for their furry (or feathered) friends. Veterinary visits — routine and surgical — top the list of greatest expenses for owners of all types of pets excluding fish, according to the American Pet Products Association survey.
In 2011, pet owners spent approximately $12.2 billion for veterinary care, a significant increase from the $8.2 billion spent five years ago.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, Americans increasingly view their pets as family members. Pet owners are now more likely to make their pets’ well-being a priority, and thanks to recent veterinary medical technology advances, are able to do so.
Kidney transplants, MRIs, chemotherapy, hip reconstruction, and other expensive procedures and treatments are no longer just for humans. For many individuals, no cost is too great to extend their pet’s life or otherwise improve its health.
How does it work?
Pet insurance typically is offered as part of a voluntary group benefits portfolio. In these cases, employees are able to select which benefits they want (e.g., auto insurance, pet insurance, disability coverage) and purchase them directly from a vendor.
Pet insurance is not only a cost-friendly option for employers to offer; in some cases, it can cost employees less than purchasing similar insurance through the individual market. Certain vendors provide discounted rates for purchases made through an employer-offered plan. Pet insurance also is typically portable from job to job.
Some pet insurance providers offer additional add-ons, such as payroll deduction or pet health education. Many also offer discounted rates if a certain number of employees purchase the benefit.
But don’t wag your tail just yet. There can be some drawbacks to employer-provided pet insurance.
While the number of companies offering pet insurance is on the rise, the majority of those doing so are larger employers. Certain insurers require employers to have a minimum number of employees in order to offer the benefit. This means limited options for smaller employers.
Additionally, only a fraction of employees may choose to sign up for the benefit. Employers can learn if their workers are interested in pet insurance by conducting an employee survey. If a large number of employees do not own pets or indicate that they would be unlikely to partake of the benefit, the employer might be barking up the wrong tree.
The bottom line: Pet insurance, like other employee-pay-all options, allows employers to offer benefits that workers want at little or no cost to the organization.
Rebecca L. Bentz is an associate editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, www.jjkeller.