Pet insurance is “a mess” and unless the veterinary profession and insurance industry collaborate more effectively, clients face a future of rising premiums and reduced cover, leading insurance specialists have said.

Agria managing director Simon Wheeler predicted big problems unless the veterinary profession begins working closer with insurance providers. Image: Highwaystarz/Fotolia.
Agria MD Simon Wheeler predicts big problems unless the veterinary profession begins working closer with insurance providers. Image: Highwaystarz/Fotolia.

Speaking at a BVA Congress debate on the future of pet insurance, Vetsure managing director Ashley Gray told the audience: “I think this is where I can put my hands up and say, ‘it’s a mess’.

“The insurance market has become saturated and it is very confusing. Our responsibility as insurers, although it is a collective responsibility, is to try, wherever we can, to bring clarity.”

Big problems predicted

Also on the debate panel was Agria managing director Simon Wheeler, who predicted big problems unless the veterinary profession begins working more closely with insurance providers.

Mr Wheeler said veterinary procedures, compared with 20 years ago, were “hugely expensive” and continued: “For every one [expensive procedure] we pay for, it just pushes up the price for run-of-the-mill pet insurance stuff.

“What will happen with pet insurance, if we – vets and insurers – are not working and finding solutions together, is policies will become more restrictive.

“The insurance industry will not disappear, but if price points are hit, [insurers] will cut and trim the cost – as you find with some of the cheaper policies in the marketplace – to fit the budgets with what they’ve been paying.

“The challenge you then face is, as you strip things out of the policy, people’s perception of the value of that policy falls.”

Swedish solution

One solution mooted as a way to slow the rate of premium price increases was to try to grow the market for pet insurance in the UK. In Sweden, approximately 80% of dogs and 50% of cats are insured, creating a situation where, as Mr Wheeler put it, “the premiums of the many pay for the claims of the few”.

But, for this to happen in the UK, Mr Wheeler claimed vets needed to have more discussions with clients about the benefits of health cover for pets.

  • Read more from the BVA Congress debate in the 5 December issue of Veterinary Times.
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