Columbus resident Lisa Hathorne was looking into getting pet insurance for her King Charles Spaniel, Rosie, but the options she found were pricey.

After hearing of a new law expanding pet insurance from just property and casualty insurance agents to health and life, Hathorne believes she can soon find a better rate with more coverage options than what she found.

On average, pet insurance premiums can cost $300 to $600 annually, depending on the type of coverage, the type of pet, and the number of pets covered, according to Mississippi Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. Pet insurance policies reimburse pet owners for a portion of the costs of vet visits and medications.

“Financially, it wouldn’t fit into the budget,” Hathorn said. “I think knowing more about the different plans they offer is important because I didn’t realize there could be so many different options.”

On Monday, Governor Tate Reeves signed House Bill 2228, which establishes a legal framework for pet insurance to be sold in the state and expands those licenses from property insurance and casualty insurance to include health and life insurance agents.

Chaney told The Dispatch that the plan to introduce new pet insurance policies in the state came after several health insurance companies expressed interest in expanding into that market. Pet insurance is a very profitable opportunity for insurance companies in the state, Chaney said, while also providing pet owners with more options for local coverage and better regulations on what different carriers like Aflac, State Farm and Nationwide cover.

“It will help those who want to get into this aspect of the pet health insurance business,” Chaney said. “You could buy pet insurance all this time without the bill we had, but it wasn’t very regulated. You were kind of on your own if you had a problem.”

Those regulations might include training programs for health agents to offer pet insurance, and insurers would have to disclose what they can and cannot cover for hereditary conditions, as well as explicitly disclose what pets are denied coverage, Chaney said.

A 2021-22 report from the Pet Health Insurance Association of North America shows that pet owners across the country spent about $2.6 billion on insurance and treatment, and about 3.9 million pets were insured, up 28 percent from 2020. Chaney believes the market in Mississippi can also thrive.

“We’re not talking about a few million, we’re talking about billions of dollars,” Chaney said. “Let’s say you insured a million pets in Mississippi. The average cost of that pet was $400 a year, and that speaks to billions of dollars right away.”

Local agents can get in on the game
But deep-pocketed national insurance brands aren’t the only insurers benefiting from the new bill. Local dealers in the Golden Triangle will have the opportunity to obtain a license through other carriers such as Aflac or Nationwide.

Brandt Galloway, managing partner at Galloway-Chandler-McKinney Insurance of Columbus and West Point, said his life agents may add pet insurance to their offerings once the law takes effect in July.

Brandt Galloway

“Depending on who is providing the coverage, we will be licensed for it once the product is developed,” Galloway said. “I suppose if any of these companies start offering them, we lose ties with them, we’ll be able to sell them.”

Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reid, owner of Redd Family Insurance in Starkville, said he, too, would be interested in expanding into the segment. However, he needs to do his due diligence before submitting it.

He said, “This is really new legislation.” “I am doing research now to find which carriers are the best for my clients, what carriers and products are the best. Anyone who wants to contact me and find out more.”

How does it work with vets?

Brittany Moore Henderson

Clinics themselves are not usually partnered with insurance companies, said Brittany Moore Henderson, MD, a veterinarian and director of admissions and staffing at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. However, some companies can dictate which vet they use.

“As long as the client brings their pet to a licensed vet, that’s all that matters,” she said. “So it’s not about the insurance (insurance) of which clinic they go to. It’s more than just compensation.”

Kate Duffy plays with her dogs, Bruno, right, and Bentley, in the dog park at Lowndes County Football Complex Tuesday on Fifth Avenue North. Duffy, who has pet insurance, believes that with the passage of HB 2228, more people will have access to pet insurance coverage, which was previously limited to property and casualty insurance agents in Mississippi. The bill establishes a legal framework for the sale of pet insurance in Mississippi and expands insurance companies from property and casualty insurance companies to health and life insurance agents. The law goes into effect on July 1. Grant McLaughlin/Dispatch Crew

Kate Duffy, who insured her two dogs, Bruno, a miniature German Shepherd, and Bentley, a miniature Australian Shepherd, said she receives pet coverage through renters insurance and pays about $37 per month to cover both. With the new law, you’re hoping more people will consider coverage.

With her coverage, Duffy receives an annual health check-up at the vet, three shots are covered and 85 percent of her expenses are covered after deduction. When I brought Bruno to the vet for a checkup, the bill totaled $220, but she got $150 back.

She said she hopes that with the new law, more people will consider getting pet coverage because it can save them a lot of money at the vet.

“I would say pet insurance is something people don’t really think about,” she said. “Like a couple of months ago, Bruno got sick, and it cost us $600. So, it was great if we had insurance because you never really know what’s going to happen.”

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