Do pet healthcare insurances have a future in the Netherlands?
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In the Netherlands, only 4% of pets are insured. To determine why these numbers are so low, what the benefits of pet insurance are and whether there is a future for pet healthcare insurance in the Netherlands, three target groups were questioned during this research: insurance companies, pet owners and veterinarians. Combining the insights gained from questioning these groups, gives different perspectives and insights into the possibilities of pet insurance. First of all, insurance companies have negative experiences when it comes to lack of transparency in the veterinary sector, but in return, their own market research leaves much to be desired. Better market research might help them gain more insight and they need to keep in touch with the veterinarians in the field much more actively, in order to know what is going on in the workplace. Secondly, the attitude towards pets is shifting. Pet owners do not see pets as a property any more, but as a member of the family, which might explain why pet owners are spending more and more on their pets and why they are willing to pay a lot of money on medical care. However, they have yet to see the need of taking out an insurance for their pets. Their main concerns are that they think it is too expensive, or because they set aside money for pet/household emergencies themselves. What a lot of pet owners not realise, is how expensive a veterinarian procedure can be and what the benefits of an insurance can be in such instances. Also, the awareness that medical costs can overcome every pet at every moment, is important in the conviction that there are benefits in having pet healthcare insurance. To inform pet owners on insurances, insurance companies can benefit from the role that veterinarians play in the lives of pets and their owners, since they are more likely to take out an insurance if it has been advised by their veterinarian. This is a triple win, as the veterinarians will not only help the insurance companies, but also themselves and the pets their treat. Financially seen, an insured pet brings in more money, and visits a clinic more often. But practically, it also means that pet owners seem to be more willing to start a treatment instead of refrain from it due to financial considerations. The downside of more insured pets is that insurance companies could gain too much influence in the veterinarian work field and will have a say in which treatments will be offered in clinics and which will not. However this seems to be unfounded, because Swedish veterinarians stated that they did not have the feeling that they are limited in their work, even though the insurance companies in Sweden are much larger than in the Netherlands. This is where the KNMvD (Royal Dutch Society for Veterinary Medicine ) steps in: they have to keep the veterinarians’ interests in mind, by keeping a close eye on the developments and play an active role in them, so the veterinarians can keep exercising good medical care without being side-tracked by other factors. As said before, the first steps in the reshaping of the pet insurance field in the Netherlands will have to come from the insurance companies themselves. They have to convince the veterinary sector of the benefits of pet healthcare insurances and as soon as they have accomplished that, they can commonly inform the pet owners on insurances. To do this, a concrete plan will have to be made, in which communication and cooperation should be focus points. Only then will pet healthcare insurances have a future in the Netherlands.