The Hottest HR Perk These Days? Health Insurance for Pets

By / Oct 3, 2017 (thodonal/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Pet insurance has become a popular employee benefit among thousands of companies—in part because of the increasing sophistication of medical offerings for dogs, cats, and other animals.

Health insurance for humans is, of course, the bedrock of any employee benefit package.

But human companions aren’t being forgotten about either this year, as organizations far and wide jump head first into open enrollment season.

Pet health insurance is growing in popularity, with thousands of companies offering the service—a fee that can come in handy when medical issues sideline a canine companion or a feline friend.

Nationwide, the largest pet health insurer, says 5,500 companies and organizations use its offering, which has helped take some of the sting out of a major expense for many pet owners.

“According to the American Pet Products Association, pet owners spent nearly $16 billion on veterinary care in 2016,” the company’s Scott Liles, who serves as its vice president and chief pet insurance officer, said in a news release this week. “Since 68 percent of Americans own at least one pet, more than two-thirds of employees may be shouldering sizable pet care costs. Pet insurance can help employees offset these veterinary expenses.”

The amount being spent on vets is climbing because medical treatment is often just as sophisticated as it is for humans. A June article in The New York Times notes that CT and MRI scans are often used as medical procedures for pets, as are surgical procedures and treatments like chemotherapy.

Dr. Tracey Jensen, a former president of the American Animal Hospital Association, told the Times that the rise of pet insurance speaks to the willingness of many owners to help their pets however they can.

“Pets today occupy a special place in people’s lives,” Jensen explained. “They’re family members, and their owners don’t want to cut corners on care.”

That said, the offering is still relatively rare. Just 1 to 2 percent of  the nation’s 90 million dogs and 94 million cats are insured in this way.

But one sign that the sector is on the rise is the existence of an organization to support it. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association, founded in 2007, says that it accounts for 1.6 million insured pets in the U.S. among its 20 member brands. NAPHIA says that it saw the number of insured pets increase by 11.5 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Rick Faucher, the group’s just-appointed president, noted in a news release last week that many new companies were joining the pet insurance field.

“The growing maturity and continued stability of our industry is reinforced by new entrants, and I will be welcoming them into the fold and the collective spirit that we share at NAPHIA,” he stated.

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