In a statement issued to The Pet Insurance Guide this morning, The RSA Group have said that despite what their recent letter to vet practices said, policy conditions have NOT changed!
They have also apologised to their customers and the veterinary community for any confusion their communication caused.
RSA Letter to Vet Practices
The RSA Group are the underwriters for More Than, Tesco, M&S, John Lewis, Argos and Homebase. On 22 May 2015 they wrote to vet practices in the West Midlands and the North West to inform of “important changes to policy conditions“.
The letter said that if vets needed to refer pets which were insured under their policies on a non-emergency basis then their customers should be asked to contact their insurer before any appointment was made.
The RSA letter went on to explain “We will then agree which of our preferred specialist or referral practices our customer should go to dependant on individual circumstances” and then said that if the customer did not get in touch or they have not agreed to the visit this could mean “the customer suffering a financial impact“.
On 4 June the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons issued a press release expressing their concerns about the letter
“Whilst pet insurers may maintain a list of preferred veterinary service providers, depending on the terms of their policies, they should not take on the professional responsibility of the veterinary surgeon who has the animal under his/her care. Veterinary surgeons remain the most qualified people to decide what is in the best health and welfare interests of their patients.”
The RSA Group Statement to The Pet Insurance Guide
This morning we contacted The RSA Group for some clarification about these changes. In addition to answering our questions the RSA Group issued this further statement.
“Rising claims costs over recent years are threatening the sustainability of affordable pet insurance provision. To ensure we can continue to offer value for money insurance cover and our customers receive the best level of care for their pets, we are looking to create a network of preferred referral veterinary surgeons across the UK.
“We are currently engaging with veterinary practices in two regions to explore their appetite for working with us and to identify how we could best create a nationwide referral network, similar to existing healthcare models. We are seeking to protect our customers and the veterinary industry in the medium to long term by controlling costs and helping to minimise the scale of premium increases.
“It is important to note this is a pilot and we have not made any changes to customer policies. A number of our policies already state that a customer should contact us before receiving referral treatment. Customer claims will continue to be honoured as long as the customer is adequately covered by their existing policy. We apologise for any confusion our communication has caused for our customers and the veterinary community.
“Our overriding objective is to create sustainable and affordable pet insurance products that provide customers with choice and access to the right treatment for their pets.”
Policy Condition Changes
It is important to note that The RSA Group state that they have not made any changes to policy conditions despite the original letter to vets practices advising them of “an important change that we are making to our policy conditions”!
So nothing has actually changed! As the statement says a number of their policies already require the policyholder to get pre-approval for non-emergency referrals.
We did a brief check of current policy documents this morning and could only find this requirement in the More Than policies. However if you have an RSA policy we suggest you check your existing policy documents carefully to see whether their is any requirement to get pre-approval. In answer to one of our questions The RSA Group said
“There is no impact to customers from the regional pilot project we are running. We have not made any changes to customer policies and customer claims will continue to be honoured as long as the customer is adequately covered by their existing policy.”
Other Pet Insurance Companies
In a response to a tweet from @vetandy enquiring whether they had any plans to “start directing where clients can be referred for specialist care” Petplan UK tweeted “At present, this is not something we are looking at, we would rely on your vet to refer specialist care / treatment.”
Animal Friends have issued a press release confirming “Animal Friends has no current or future plans to penalise or restrict customers who require veterinary referrals to specialist clinics.”
Stay Informed About Pet Insurance
We certainly couldn’t disagree with The RSA Group’s view that the sustainability of affordable pet insurance is under threat. There are likely to be many changes to pet insurance over the next few months and years. Like our facebook page to stay informed about how these may affect you and your pets.