Once again, my previous topic conveniently segues into this troubling reality of the state of the veterinary industry in 2015. As stated in my last post, the costs of veterinary services are at an all-time high and they are poised to continue to increase each year. At the same time, the average pet owner’s earning potentially is not keeping pace. Most wages have only increased marginally or even remained static in the past 5 years, another trend that does not seem poised to change in the foreseeable future. At some point, the industry is going to reach an impasse, where veterinarians having to keep up with ever increasing costs of business cannot put a cap on costs of services, while average pet owners will be unable to pay for services due to personal earning potential not keeping pace.
In the past I have called this divergence of quality medicine with the ability of the average pet owner to afford it, the Veterinary Critical Mass. Not an economic expert, I do not know when this will occur, but I do believe it is imminent. If and when it does occur, I have dire concerns for both veterinarians and pet owners alike.
One solution to this problem is to either have a separate pet health savings account that a certain percentage of house hold income is allocated to – generally $50 per month per pet is adequate. The drawback to this approach is that even the most disciplined people may lack the ability to refuse the temptation to tap into such a savings account during certain times, such as when a big unexpected may arise or an irresistible investment opportunity arises.
The most realistic and reliable solution to the problem is quality pet insurance, but American pet owners continue to be incredibly resistant to the concept despite the recommendations of veterinarians to carry it. In Canada and Europe, it is estimated that 60% of pet owners carry pet insurance for their pets. The result is an overall quality of veterinary medicine that rivals that of the U.S., but far less frustration on the part of both veterinarians and pet owners alike; for veterinarians because more often than not may practice the highest level of medicine possible without cost getting in the way of what must be done, for pet owners that may attain the best possible veterinary medical services for their pets because pet insurance enables them to afford it.
In sharp contrast, only 3% of US pet owners carry pet insurance for their pets. I have not actually learned of any consumer studies that explain these discrepancies, but my theory is that many Americans carry a foul taste in their mouths for health insurance from their own broken health care/insurance industry, that the idea of having it for their pets is not a very inviting one. For Canadians and Europeans that have nationalized health care and therefore no experience with private insurance companies, perhaps the idea of insurance for their pets does not have such a stigma as it does for us.
Whatever the cause for the aversion to pet insurance, Americans need to get over it and protect themselves from one day having to put a monetary value on their beloved furry family member when it comes to affording life sustaining veterinary health care. To protect yourselves from bad companies, be certain to read online reviews, find out if there is a parent company (such as a human health insurance company) with a history of not operating in the consumer’s best interests. Ask your veterinarian, as many vets get feedback regarding the quality of pet insurance that pet owners carry.
Thank you for another great year of listening to my podcast, reading my blog, and relying on my website pet information and correspondence. Happy New Year to all!
Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, Chief Editor of the Veterinary Advice and Information Website, Web-DVM, and founder/CEO of Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care.