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Veterinarian Technician March 2009 (Vol 30, No 3)

Offering Insurance May Lead to Better Care

by Stacey Oke, Whitney Myszak

    LAS VEGAS — Veterinary technicians play a key role in helping pet insurance gain acceptance, said Gary R. Holfinger, DVM, of the East Suburban Animal Clinic in Toledo, Ohio.

    In a briefing sponsored by the AVMA Group Health & Life Insurance Trust Program (GHLIT) held here at the Western Veterinary Conference, Holfinger said that fewer than 10% of pets are insured in the United States. He added that the rising cost of needed care for pets has created a "stop treatment point" for clients, typically in the range of $750 to $1,000.

    "We have learned to diagnose the pocketbook instead of the pet," he said. However, clients with pet insurance may respond quicker to their pets' problems and are more likely to comply with follow-up care.

    Savings accounts are not good alternatives to pet insurance, said Holfinger, who also is chair of the board of trustees for AVMA GHLIT; in these tough economic times, clients may use their savings for routine care instead of major surgery or illness or spend the savings on nonveterinary expenses.

    Many insurance companies offer plans that vary in coverage, co-pays and claims, Holfinger explained, adding that the choices can be overwhelming to clients. He suggested that veterinarians investigate some of the companies and choose a few they feel comfortable recommending. Then they can place select information in the clinic to help make it easier for clients to make a choice.

    Holfinger also said it is best if the entire staff promotes pet health insurance as an option, adding that often the bond created between technicians and clients is a powerful tool.

    Pet insurance can increase compliance and allow veterinary staff to provide the best care possible. When money is not a factor in the decision to provide care, veterinarians can "improve client satisfaction and improve patient health," Holfinger said.

    NEXT: Petfinder.com and Merial Partner to Provide Power to the Paws

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