John Lewis has become the first pet insurance provider to say it will not enforce a £200 “penalty” for non-urgent referrals outside the RSA preferred referral network.
In a statement, a spokesman for John Lewis Pet Insurance said: “The RSA referral vet network has been established to give customers access to a trusted network of vets that provide a high standard of service and value for money.
“However, we do understand in some cases where the primary vet recommends a referral practice and circumstances dictate our nearest network partner is not suitable, we will allow our customers to make a choice without being penalised.
“If the treatment in question is covered under the policy, there will be no additional fee charged, regardless of whether they choose to use a network practice.”
Brands that do charge the £200 are MoreThan, Tesco and Argos. One retailer that partners with the RSA – Marks and Spencer (M&S) – has still not signed up to the network.
The John Lewis decision has been welcomed by Vets for Choice, a coalition of eight referral practices that oppose the RSA preferred referral network model, which, they argue, could restrict a primary vet’s duty to refer an animal for the best medical treatment.
A spokesman for Vets for Choice said: “While we are still opposed to the idea of the network as an unnecessarily restrictive measure in general, John Lewis’ stance is clearly a positive step in restoring customer choice.
“Those with John Lewis Pet Insurance who wish to use a vet outside of the RSA model will never be hit with unfair and unexpected penalties at the point of referral. Customers and first opinion vets should always be able to use the vet they feel offers the most appropriate care for their animal without fear of financial penalty.
“How easy it is to choose non-preferred practitioners under the John Lewis claims process remains to be seen and we will continue to watch this closely.”
- For the full article, including a response from RSA, see the 5 September edition of Veterinary Times.