Today’s Veterinary Business Staff
Mississippi and Washington have become the latest states to adopt laws governing pet health insurance. California in 2014 and Maine in 2022 were the first to enact similar consumer-protection rules.
According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, about 4.9 million U.S. dogs and cats were insured in 2022. While the total represents only about 3% of the nation’s estimated 150 million dogs and cats, sales have risen steadily over the past decade.
Washington’s bill, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, is based on model legislation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and is similar to Maine’s law. Specifics include:
- Definitions: The bill establishes uniform definitions for frequently used terms in pet insurance policies.
- Disclosures: The insurer must alert the purchaser if the policy excludes coverage based on a preexisting condition, hereditary disorder, congenital anomaly or chronic condition. The insurer also must disclose whether the policy has limitations, such as a waiting period, deductible, coinsurance or policy limit, and if the coverage decreases or premiums increase based on claim history, the pet’s age or a change in geographic location.
- Free look: Purchasers have 15 days to get their money back provided they haven’t filed a claim.
- Exclusions: A policy can specify that a preexisting condition is excluded, but the insurance company must be able to prove the condition already existed.
- Waiting periods: They are not allowed for accident coverage.
- Renewal: The insurance company cannot require a veterinary examination in exchange for a policy renewal.
- Wellness programs: The insurer cannot make eligibility contingent on participation in a wellness program, and it cannot market wellness programs as pet insurance.
- Licensing: Pet insurance marketers must complete required training and be licensed by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
Mississippi’s law, which went into effect July 1, is comparable to the model law but does not ban or restrict waiting periods and does not require training for pet insurance marketers.
Three other states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — are considering pet insurance bills.