Columbus resident Liza Hathorn has been looking into acquiring pet insurance for her King Charles Spaniel, Rosie, but the options she has found are expensive.
After hearing about a new law expanding pet insurance from just property and casualty insurance agents to health and life, Hathorn thinks she can soon find a better rate with more coverage options other than what she found.
On average, pet insurance premiums can cost $300 to $600 per year, depending on type of coverage, type of pet and how many pets are covered, according to Mississippi Insurance Department Commissioner Mike Chaney. Pet insurance policies reimburse pet owners for a portion of the costs for veterinarian visits and medicine.
“Financially, it wasn’t going to fit the budget,” Hathorn said. “I think that knowing more about the different plans that they offer is something that will be important because I didn’t realize that there could be so many different options.”
On Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves signed House Bill 2228, establishing a legal framework for pet insurance to be sold in the state and expanding those licenses from property and casualty insurance to include health and life agents.
Chaney told The Dispatch the plan to hatch new pet insurance policies in the state came after several health insurance carriers had expressed interest in expanding to that market. Pet insurance is a very lucrative opportunity for insurance companies in the state, Chaney said, while also providing pet owners more options for local coverage and better regulations on what is covered under different carriers such as Aflac, State Farm and Nationwide.
“It will help those that want to get into that side of the business of health insurance for pets,” Chaney said. “You could buy pet insurance all along during this time without the bill that we had, but it was not heavily regulated. You were kind of on your own if you had a problem.”
Those regulations may include training programs for health agents to offer pet insurance, and insurers will have to disclose what they can and cannot cover regarding hereditary conditions, as well as explicitly disclose what disqualifies a pet from coverage, Chaney said.
The North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s 2021-22 report shows pet owners throughout the country spent about $2.6 billion on insurance and treatment, and about 3.9 million pets were insured, a 28-percent increase from 2020. Chaney believes the market in Mississippi could boom as well.
“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, that’s talking about billions of dollars immediately.”
Local agents can get in the game
But national insurance brands with deep pockets aren’t the only insurers to benefit from the new bill. Local agents in the Golden Triangle will have the opportunity to become licensed through other carriers like Aflac or Nationwide.
Brandt Galloway, a managing partner at Galloway-Chandler-McKinney Insurance in Columbus and West Point, said his life agents may add pet insurance to their offerings once the law takes hold in July.
“Depending on who offers the coverage, we would be licensed for it as soon as they develop the product,” Galloway said. “I would assume that if any of those carriers began to offer it that we would lose relations with them, we’d be able to sell it.”
Jimmy Redd, owner of Redd Family Insurance in Starkville, said he, too, would be interested in expanding into the sector. Still, he needs to do his due diligence before providing it.
“This is really new legislation,” he said. “I’m doing research right now to find what carriers are the best for my clients, what carriers and products are the best. And anyone who wants to can call me and find out more.”
How it works with vets
Brittany Moore-Henderson, a veterinarian and director of admissions and recruitment at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said clinics themselves aren’t normally involved with the insurance companies. However, some companies can dictate what vet you use.
“As long as the client is bringing their pet to a licensed veterinarian, that’s all that matters pretty much,” she said. “So it’s not so much as will it (insurance) be taken at whatever clinic they go to. It’s more of a reimbursement thing.”
Kate Duffy, who has insured her two dogs, Bruno, a miniature Dachshund, and Bentley, a miniature Australian Shepherd, said she receives her pet coverage through her renters’ insurance and pays about $37 a month to cover both. With the new law, she hopes more people will consider getting covered.
With her coverage, Duffy receives an annual wellness check at the vet, three shots and 85 percent of her expenses covered after her deductible. When she brought Bruno to the vet for a checkup, the bill totaled $220, but she received $150 back.
She said she hopes that with the new law, more people will consider acquiring pet coverage because it could save them a lot of money at the vet.
“I would say that pet insurance is something people don’t really think of,” she said. “Like two months ago, Bruno got sick, and it cost us like $600 for that. So, it was great that we had insurance because you don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.