Kristina Heil noticed her company’s new pet insurance options months before she decided to take home a goldendoodle puppy.
“I was like, ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ And so, I just kind of kept that in the back of my mind,” she said.
Heil, a Diebold Nixdorf renewal sales representative, and her husband adopted Cocoa in mid-January. They decided to register for pet insurance not long after.
“Because you just never know what could come up,” Heil said.
Diebold is just one of the latest companies to offer pet insurance to employees. The Timken Co. also added the voluntary benefit at the start of this year, according to company representatives.
“Really, it’s about providing our employees with tools that they need to protect and improve the well-being of themselves, their families and, of course, the pets that they love,” said Natalie Meek, formerly a communications specialist for Diebold Nixdorf.
Doug Nelson, Timken’s vice president of compensation and benefits, also recognized the strong emotional link between people and pets.
“Offering pet insurance is one way we can support that bond,” he wrote via email. “Having this option can help put associates at ease knowing their pets are covered under a plan that offers a range of services.
People in the United States have increasingly paid for pet insurance the past five years, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA). The market’s average annual growth rate was 22.6%.
In 2019, dog and cat owners in the United States and Canada spent $1.56 billion to insure about 2.8 million pets, according to NAPHIA’s annual report released in May.
Heil, who lives in Akron, said she highly recommends pet insurance — as do her friends and Cocoa’s trainer.
She has not yet met the $250 deductible for veterinary expenses but expects to realize benefits in the long term. Although Cocoa is only 7 months old, Heil chose the most comprehensive insurance option.
“We just want Cocoa to have the best care and best quality of life,” she said.
Having insurance gives her “peace of mind,” and the option to enroll through work made it convenient, Heil added.
Diebold and Timken offer their plans through Nationwide, the largest pet insurance provider in the United States.
Ten companies in Stark County and more than 200 companies statewide offer pet insurance through Nationwide, according to spokeswoman Karen Davis. The number of organizations offering Nationwide pet insurance nearly doubled in the past six years.
“According to a study done by Nationwide in conjunction with the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), 90% of employees in pet friendly workplaces feel highly connected to their company’s mission; fully engaged with their work; and willing to recommend their employer to others,” Davis noted.
AultCare began offering Nationwide pet insurance plans last year to provide a “one-stop shop” for benefits, said Director of Retention Mark Rosneck. The insurance branch of Aultman Health Foundation administers Nationwide policies.
Mike Gallina, AultCare’s vice president of organizational development and community engagement, said employer interest in pet insurance was rare five years ago but has become more common.
“It’s nice that they can add it into their suite of many other provisions in their plan benefits,” Gallina said.
The Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group in Akron also reported an increase in pet insurance popularity among employers the past year or two. Liz Watson, the group’s vice president of operations, said surveys have placed it among the top three most requested voluntary benefits.
“It is a driver of growth for the industry because that benefit is being required more and more,” she said.
Watson said employers are recognizing the demand for non-traditional benefits, such as pet insurance, among younger generations. Crum & Forster, which has clients nationwide and is a founding member of NAPHIA, reported the greatest demand in areas with a high cost of living.
“The states where pet insurance is most predominant tend to be those large, coastal states with large, urban population centers,” Watson said.
As an optional benefit, pet insurance plans from Nationwide and Crum & Forster involve no employer contributions.
“The individual, pet-owning employee enrolls in a plan, pays for a plan — either through a payroll deduction-type solution but more often than not, through a direct bill to their personal credit card,” Watson said. “It’s not funded in the same way that other benefits that employers offer are funded.”
Companies that offer pet insurance typically have 500 to 1,000 employees, Rosneck said.
“From a company standpoint, it kind of really ebbs and flows of who wants to add it on,” he said. “The majority of the time, it’s the largest employers within the area.”
Rosneck said that’s likely because it’s entirely employee-funded.
“The larger the volume, typically, the lower the cost,” he said.
People who sign up through employer plans typically receive a price discount for being part of a group. Watson said a variety of plans are available with different annual limits, deductibles and co-pays.
“So it works very much like human health insurance in that context,” she said.
Crum & Forster’s plans cover dogs and cats and, in select states, companion horses.
Nationwide offers plans for dogs and cats and also has an avian and exotic pet plan. They offer reimbursement on eligible veterinary exams, emergency visits, hospitalization, surgeries, diagnostic testing and prescribed medications.
Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323 or [email protected]
On Twitter: @kbyerREP
What’s it cost?
Premiums vary by plan and selected reimbursement levels, but Nationwide provided one example of a market-rate plan compared to one purchased through an employer.
The Whole Pet with Wellness plan — Nationwide’s most comprehensive — for a 1-year-old Labrador retriever in the Canton area is generally $99 a month. If an employer offers that same plan as a voluntary benefit it’d cost an employee $71 a month.
That is a roughly 28% discount by purchasing pet insurance through an employer. The employer-plan premiums also are locked in for a pet’s lifetime and will not increase with age.
The Whole Pet with Wellness plan covers wellness visits and 90% of eligible veterinary expenses, such as injuries and illness.