Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

More companies offering pet insurance as employee perk

By: SUE MANNING The Associated Press
July 14, 2013
0
photo - This Dec. 11, 2012 photo provided by MGM Resorts International shows MGM Grand poker dealer Dar Reike holds her adopted dog, Alexia, next to her husband, Rick Reike. They adopted the dog, at a company adoption fair last year. However, they decided against getting pet insurance. Through MGM Resorts International, they could have gotten a major medical policy for $25 to $35 a month. With one dog, she would have also gotten a 5 percent discount. (AP Photo/MGM Resorts International, Victoria Gonzalez)
This Dec. 11, 2012 photo provided by MGM Resorts International shows MGM Grand poker dealer Dar Reike holds her adopted dog, Alexia, next to her husband, Rick Reike. They adopted the dog, at a company adoption fair last year. However, they decided against getting pet insurance. Through MGM Resorts International, they could have gotten a major medical policy for $25 to $35 a month. With one dog, she would have also gotten a 5 percent discount. (AP Photo/MGM Resorts International, Victoria Gonzalez) 

LOS ANGELES - Melissa Yoakam jokingly calls her dog Shadow her "car payment" because she pays $250 a month for the 12-year-old's cancer treatments.

She'd pay far less if she had pet insurance, but she didn't take advantage of it when Shadow was younger and when he got cancer it was too late. She uses her experience to convince colleagues not to make the same mistake.

"I should have it but I don't," she lamented.

Yoakam is well-versed in the subject as benefits manager at Chipotle Mexican Grill, which is one of a growing number of companies that discount and subsidize pet insurance as a perk to workers.

The nation's oldest and largest pet insurer, Veterinary Pet Insurance, offers policies at one in three Fortune 500 companies, as well as 3,400 other companies and associations across the nation, said company president Scott Liles.

Other organizations, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, also offer insurance through employers, but the number of people who sign up remains small. California-based VPI has 61 percent of the niche market with only a half million pets insured nationwide. While that represents a tiny fraction of the estimated 165 million pets in the United States, it has huge growth potential as America's animal affection fuels new pet products, services and a higher level of health care.

"Like any kind of health care offering, (pet insurance) is viewed as an employee enticement and retention tool," said Charles J. Sebaski, an insurance analyst for BMO Capital Markets in New York.

VPI offers insurance to companies with more than 100 employees, who can choose payroll deductions or direct billing.

Nevada's largest employer, MGM Resorts International, based in Las Vegas, added pet insurance in 2006 to a benefits package that also includes onsite child care, legal aid and free meals, said corporate benefits manager Melissa Friedman.

Chipotle, based in Denver, began offering the benefit in 2002 because "we knew people were big into pets," Yoakam said. About 100 of the fast-food chain's 3,000 eligible employees get the insurance, a number that's low because a lot of the employees are younger and have other priorities.

Chipotle pays $10 per pet for up to three pets. One pet costs between $10 and $57 a month, depending on coverage plans and deductible. VPI adds a 5 percent to 15 percent discount, depending on the number of animals insured.

The insurance covered 60 percent of the cost of surgery after an employee's dog jumped out of a pickup truck and broke its leg. Another employee saved 70 percent of the cost for knee surgery for her dog, said Chipotle's benefits analyst Lindsey Cushman.

With the cost of health care for humans and pets rising faster than income, pet insurance is relatively affordable, Sebaski said. "If you're willing to buy cancer meds or liver meds or put a pet through a surgical operation to extend their good health and life, those can be very expensive things," he said.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.