Your Millennials Will Thank You For Offering Pet Insurance

Picture every employee in your organization under the age of 35. Now, picture replacing two-thirds of them over the next four years or so.

Ouch.

This is the enduring reality employers are likely to face, since millennials now represent the workforce’s largest generational cohort and could account for 75% of working people by 2025.

It’s become fashionable to dismiss them as narcissistic, entitled, job-hopping screen addicts who live in a kind of suspended adolescence. A better read would be that they’re image-conscious digital natives who graduated with record student debt, only to find themselves adrift in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Above all, millennials aspire to greatness and remain improbably positive — this despite long economic odds that have fueled some rather curious trends:

  • They view businesses with inherent skepticism — Particularly those businesses they perceive to have no ambition beyond profit motive. This should also not surprise, given the financial sector’s role in the Great Recession, and its resultant impact on their own economic standing.
  • They’ve prolonged “settling down,” opting instead for pet parenthood: Just 27% of millennials are married, compared to 48% of boomers when they were the same age. But on average, they’re 21 and 56% were single when they get their first pet as an adult, whereas boomers were 29 and 54% were married, according to a Wakefield study. No surprise, then, that 82% view their pets as practice for starting their own families!
  • Unlike their parents and grandparents, they refuse to trade loyalty for stability: In the millennial view, it’s incumbent upon employers to earn their loyalty by aligning with their values. This is possible, in part, because they’ve delayed starting families. But it’s also because they value making an impact at a company they believe in, instead of just collecting a paycheck.

Enter pet insurance

SRM Pet Benefits chartPet insurance lies at the confluence of all three of these trends, which in part explains why it’s offered in the voluntary benefits packages of one in three companies in the Fortune 500 — and 9% of companies overall, according to SHRM.

Pet insurance reimburses policyholders for veterinary medical bills arising from unexpected injury or illness. This is especially advantageous for millennials, who may have limited access to credit and savings compared to their older peers.

For employees, pet insurance creates peace of mind. According to a 2008 Datamonitor report, one in three pets will require unexpected veterinary care this year alone, and my company’s (Petplan) claims data shows that every six seconds a pet parent faces a vet bill of $3,000 or more.

American pet parents will spend a projected $15.92 billion on veterinary care this year, and 73% of pet parents say they would go into debt to pay for it. With pet insurance, employees can confidently make healthcare decisions about their pets’ health, instead of financial decisions.

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For employers, offering pet insurance in a voluntary benefits package signals to employees that their priorities are the company’s priorities. It’s an investment in their personal, emotional and financial well-being, not to mention the health of their furry family members. Pet insurance costs the company little to nothing, but could do wonders to earn employees’ loyalty.

Choosing a plan

Benefits coordinators know that selecting the right partners is never an easy task. This is especially true in the pet insurance space, where new entrants seem to be popping up left and right.

I advise employers to start by checking into their underwriters’ ratings with ratings agencies such as Standard & Poor’s or A.M. Best.

From there, websites like Canine Journal or Pet Insurance Review can provide important insight into each provider’s reputation as well as a consumer perspective.

Last but not least, evaluate providers based on a rubric of what truly matters to pet parents. Start with these five:

  1. Chronic conditions: Does the provider cover chronic conditions like allergies, pancreatitis and diabetes as pets age? Thirty to 40% of all Petplan pet insurance claims are for chronic conditions that can last beyond 12 months, and some providers exclude coverage after a certain time period.
  2. Benefits schedules: When determining the amount of reimbursement, does the provider use a benefits schedule? Or is reimbursement based on the actual cost of treatment provided by the vet? The latter is the better value for employees. A provider that uses a benefits schedule is a red flag, and could leave employees paying more out-of-pocket costs than they signed up for. Watch for reimbursement caps. Most plans cap total payouts in same manner.
  3. Veterinary restrictions: Does the provider reimburse for care from any veterinarian? What about exam fees? You want to be sure your employees aren’t restricted to specific veterinarians or locations.
  4. Customer service: Does the provider offer customer service 24/7? How is the customer service rated? Veterinary emergencies can happen at any time, day or night.
  5. Flexibility: Are plans flexible in terms of co-pay, deductible and coverage amounts? The ability to customize a plan is important for your employees, who may have different needs.

Undertaking this due diligence is critical, since your employees’ experiences with the provider can reflect back on the company. By taking the time to understand your employees’ needs, you’ll be in the best position to ensure that those experiences are positive.

Chris Ashton is co-founder and co-CEO of Petplan pet insurance. He holds degrees from Oxford University and an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Chris founded Petplan in 2003 alongside wife and co-CEO Natasha Ashton after their cat Bodey required $5,000 worth of medical treatment.

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