Apr 10, 2008

Pet Insurance as an Employee Benefit

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In addition to health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance, some employers now make pet insurance available to employees. A 2007 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 5% of responding companies offered pet insurance as an employee benefit. And ABC News reported earlier this year that providers of pet insurance have seen big jumps in their corporate sales.

Perhaps one reason for the growing popularity of pet insurance is the bottom line: It doesn't cost employers anything to provide it. Employees who sign up for the benefit pay the full cost, but usually get a 5 to 10% discount off what they would have had to pay to purchase it on their own. It's not clear how much this helps pet owners defray the sometimes astronomical cost -- $9.8 billion last year, according to the ABC News report -- of pet health care, however. Because many pet insurance policies are chock full of exclusions, they don't always make financial sense for pet owners. Still, they make it possible for many pet owners to afford life-saving treatments that would otherwise be out of reach.

Undoubtedly, some employees consider pet insurance a valuable benefit. If your company decides to offer it, however, make sure it isn't perceived as coming at the expense of benefits for the human family members of your employees. Don't make the same mistake as Palm Beach Community College, which apparently decided to offer pet benefits -- complete with promotional literature from the benefit provider, saying "your pet is a member of your family" -- only 90 days after deciding not to offer domestic partner benefits. Ouch.

Lisa Guerin

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