By: Dr. Jack Stephens
In the United Kingdom it has been reported that 15% of dogs and 4% of cats-or 19% of U.K. pets-have pet health insurance. Yet, in the United States we are just approaching 2% of all pets being insured, which leads to the question: Do the British love their pets more than we do?
I am repeatedly asked why there are not more pets insured in the United States. Having been the pioneer of pet insurance in the U.S. and sitting here as a bonded pet owner with my Chihuahua in my lap as I write this, I have firsthand experience to both pet insurance and the joy pets bring to our lives, and I can definitively state that the British do not love their pets more than Americans do, even if one uses the acceptance of pet insurance as a measurement. There are actually several theories I have as to why pet insurance is not as common in the U.S. as it is in the U.K.
Pet insurance in America has larger obstacles to overcome than in Europe, beginning with the individual regulatory requirements for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Insurance regulations and financial qualifications in America are more onerous and have set higher financial standards, even for pets.
In Britain, pet insurance is unregulated, making it easier to start and operate a pet insurance plan. In the U.S. the financial and regulatory requirements set some high hurdles for companies to jump.
Second, there is more competition in the U.K., which increases awareness of the service, provides more features, options and price ranges from which a consumer can choose.
A third difference is the maturity of the field itself. Pet insurance started initially in 1946 with Dog Breeders Insurance (DBI) in the U.K., whereas I started pet insurance in the U.S. in 1982. The reason these dates are relevant is because the current 27% compound annual growth pattern of pet insurance in recent years is similar, demonstrating a much higher acceptance of the concept than the actual numbers show.
The fourth-and I believe biggest-reason for the enrollment difference is “risk transfer,” or the fact that pet care was simply not that expensive compared to most Americans’ disposable income, until recently. This is certainly not the situation now. Previously, most veterinary expenses could be managed through discretionary income. This has changed dramatically, though, with the increasing acceptance by pet owners of more sophisticated-yet more costly-care.
More and more often, people in America refer to their pets as family members, which means that their care and well being have a higher priority than a dog or cat who is considered “just a pet.” That is a good thing.
Pet insurance is simply one method that allows pet owners to budget and always be prepared for their pet’s medical expenses. Other methods are tapping your savings, borrowing, foregoing other expenses or worse yet, credit card debt. Budgeting with affordable monthly premiums is a better method. At Pets Best Insurance we are proud of our part in helping pets always receive the care they need and protecting your pocketbook, despite the cost.