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Apr 19, 2024

HR Guide: Choosing the Best Employee Benefit Pet Wellness Plan

Brokers, this one’s for you! Learn the “plays” that create connections and fuel enrollment. Make pet benefits irresistible for your clients and their employees

What’s even better than employee pet benefits?

Employee pet benefits WITH an employee pet wellness plan.

“Pet wellness plans are win-win for pets, pet parents, and vets,” says Dr. Lauren Jones, an experienced veterinarian, animal hospital owner, and Director of Veterinary Medicine at Shepherd Software. “They help pets stay healthier longer.”

Pet Insurance vs Pet Wellness Plans

Unlike human health plans, pet insurance doesn’t usually include wellness coverage. Pet wellness plans are sometimes sold as stand-alone policies but are most often available as optional riders on existing pet insurance plans.

Pet insurance typically covers treatment for illness or injury, including sick visits to the vet, medicine, surgery, and hospitalization. However, pet insurance does not cover preventative or routine care and screenings. You need a pet wellness plan for that.

But even though wellness plans are “extra,” they’re not unnecessary. “A few months ago, my uncle brought in his pet for routine care at our hospital,” says Dr. Jones. “We noticed a small bump and had it tested. It turned out to be a nasty sarcoma, but we caught it early. Without the wellness visit, the cancer could have gone undetected for months!”

Vaccinations, screenings, and preventatives are critical to pet health. As in Dr. Jones’ story, regular check-ups catch minor problems before they spiral out of control. However, the benefits of wellness care go beyond preventing critical illnesses. Dr. Jones explains that regular vet visits:

  • Strengthen the veterinarian-client bond.
  • Increase positive interactions with the pet.
  • Educate pet parents on how to monitor their pets’ health.

Despite the importance of wellness visits, many pet parents skip them because of the price. According to, average pet wellness care costs $448 per year! Pet wellness plans cover those fees and more. “When families have pet wellness coverage, they bring in their pet and do the diagnostic tests,” explains Dr. Jones.

It’s easy to see the value in offering employees a pet wellness plan. The hard part is choosing which one. With so many similar products, how can HR professionals find the plan that best serves their employees?

1. Cost

Pet wellness is an employee-paid voluntary benefit, so price plays a large part in employees’ decisions. Employees usually pay a yearly or monthly fee for the plan and then get reimbursed for allowed services. As with any insurance plan, it’s difficult to compare costs based on the premiums alone. To find a plan’s actual value, you must measure its highest potential savings against its cost.

For example, if Plan A costs $500/yr and offers up to $1000 in annual reimbursements, it’s a better value than Plan B, which costs $450/yr and only offers $750 for covered services.

But it’s not even that straightforward. There’s a host of factors to consider when calculating the cost and savings:

  • The true cost of a pet wellness plan is the base pet health insurance plan PLUS the add-on fee. Plan B may only charge $450 for wellness, but if its pet health plan premium is $300 more than Plan A, it’s still the more expensive option.
  • Are there expense caps or annual reimbursement limits?
  • What are the payouts on covered services? Not all plans offer 100% reimbursement.
  • Are there additional discounts on covered services? Some plans negotiate lower rates with in-network vets.

Another cost-related concern is a plan’s money-back guarantee. Does the plan have one? If so, what are the terms?

But with all the nitty-gritty calculations, don’t lose sight of the big picture. “Pet parents are often skeptical about getting a pet wellness plan,” says Dr. Jones. “But when you show them how affordable and value-packed it is, they get excited.”

2. Coverage

Coverage varies widely from plan to plan. Better plans include most of the following:

  • Vaccinations
  • Spaying and neutering
  • Wellness exams
  • Dental care (screening and teeth cleaning)
  • Routine blood work
  • Heartworm testing and preventatives
  • Flea and tick preventatives

Make sure to read the details. Does the plan cover one wellness exam or two? How many vaccines? How many tests?

Who gets covered is just as important as what gets covered. Do many local vets accept the insurance? Does the vet need to be in-network?

3. Perks and add-ons

In addition to essential wellness services, many plans offer helpful extras:

  • Extra preventative care for puppies and kittens
  • Microchipping
  • Grooming
  • Nail trimming
  • Physical therapy
  • End-of-life remembrance
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Behavioral training
  • Telehealth

Any of these add to a plan’s total value.

4. Customer satisfaction

Will the carrier take care of your employees and their pets? You can research a company’s customer reviews and satisfaction ratings. Signs of excellent customer service include:

  • Online or phone customer support
  • Online reimbursement submission and quick turnaround times
  • Easy to find, transparent information on the website and other marketing materials.

Experience in the employee benefits space is also crucial. A wellness plan tailored to employee groups will offer you and your employees the smoothest, most stress-free experience.

5. Customization

Pet families don’t come in one-size-fits-all, and neither should pet benefits. A young pet, for example, probably needs more wellness services than an older one. Therefore, options are a must to get maximum employee engagement with a pet wellness plan. Top plans offer tiers, covering greater or fewer services with corresponding increased or decreased premiums.

“Consider your pet’s lifestyle, age, breed, and which services it needs,” advises Dr. Jones. “Having choices helps make the plan more cost-effective.”

6. Stand-alone vs rider

A final consideration is the difference between stand-alone plans and add-on riders. Both types offer the same wellness benefits, but the admin is different. On the one hand, riders are convenient because the pet family is already enrolled in the base insurance plan.

But stand-alone plans offer greater flexibility:

  • Pet families can enroll separately from pet health insurance.
  • Employees pay a flat monthly fee instead of a per-pet quote.
  • Since they don’t need to be underwritten, they’re not subject to state insurance laws and regulations.

Are there pet wellness plans that check off all the boxes? We’re glad you asked because Pet Benefit Solutions is unveiling upgrades to our wellness plans! Wishbone Pet Health Insurance now offers stand-alone wellness plans with coverage curated for employer groups.

“We’re thrilled to announce that Wishbone’s wellness plans are receiving an upgrade,” shares Becky Schaen, Marketing Director at Pet Benefit Solutions. “Employees can enroll separately from accident/illness insurance plans, giving them more choices when it comes to providing the best care for their pets. Plus, our easy-to-understand, flat-rate plans offer higher savings potential and fast reimbursement directly to members’ bank accounts. This power-packed solution is a game changer for pet families and is setting a new standard in pet wellness!”

Contact Pet Benefit Solutions and learn how to bring the best in pet care to your employees!

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