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1st of its kind Pa. pet insurance bill approved without so much as a bark

Pet insurance
Charlie Riedel
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed legislation crafted by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, to protect consumers who purchase pet insurance.

HARRISBURG — Consumer advocates have long warned that people should proceed with caution when purchasing pet insurance due to language that sometimes excludes more than it includes.

Now, legislators are stepping in to further protect “pet parents” — as they’re commonly known in the pet care industry — from the pitfalls of insurance that can leave owners footing the full cost for expensive medical treatments.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed legislation crafted by Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, to address that very scenario.

The bill, H.B. 660, aims to protect consumers who purchase pet insurance to address emergency medical costs should any arise. It now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Schlossberg said the bill was inspired not by a negative experience, but a positive experience with pet insurance.

"It made me want to do what I could to make sure that people did get pet insurance and knew exactly what they were doing when they purchased pet insurance," he said Tuesday.

Millions of insured pets

In a release, Schlossberg’s office pointed to the nearly 4 million pets across the country covered by pet insurance. But according to Forbes, there are more than 5 million insured pets, with about 80% of dogs covered compared to 20% of cats.

The average annual cost of owning a dog is about $1,400, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and cat ownership runs about $1,150.

But those thousands of dollars don’t include out-of-pocket costs for unexpected vet bills, with one in three pets needing emergency veterinary treatment every year.

Schlossberg aims to make sure pet insurance provides the financial support owners believe they're paying for, with H.B. 660 serving as the first law in Pennsylvania targeting pet insurance contracts. It would make sure waiting periods or coverage exclusions are clearly explained by providing a framework for the sale, solicitation and negotiation of pet insurance policies.

Breaking down the bill

Over 15 pages, the bill requires insurers craft policies a certain way, including:

  • Having a notice printed in at least 12-point type included on the first page or attached to the policy. It would give pet owners 30 days to review the policy and return it to the company if they decide not to keep it;
  • Clear disclosure on whether the policy excludes coverage due to a pre-existing condition, hereditary disorder, congenital anomaly or disorder or a chronic condition;
  • Making clear any limitation of coverage through a waiting period or affiliation period, along with any deductible or coinsurance;
  • Outlining the annual or lifetime limit of the policy, and if the insurer will reduce coverage or increase premiums based on claim history, the age of the covered pet or a change in the geographic location of the insured.

"From a broader policy perspective, I think one of the more interesting things about this legislation is that insurers supported it. The big ones, anyway," Schlossberg said.
"They know they can — and in many cases already do — the right thing," he added, emphasizing the legislation targets the companies that don't.

"This is just fine because it protects the consumer," he said.