Columbus resident Lisa Hathorne is looking to get pet insurance for her King Charles Spaniel, Rosie, but the options she’s found are expensive.

After hearing about a new law expanding pet insurance from just property and casualty insurance agents to health and life, Hathorn figured she might soon find better rates with more coverage options than what she found.

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

“Financially, it’s not going to fit the budget,” Hathorn said. “I think knowing more about the different plans they offer is something that would be important because I didn’t realize there could be so many different options.”

On Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves signed House Bill 2228, establishing a legal framework for selling pet insurance in the state and expanding those licenses from property and casualty insurance to include health and life agents.

Chaney told The Dispatch that the plan to create new pet insurance policies in the state came after several health insurance carriers expressed interest in expanding to that market. Pet insurance is a very lucrative opportunity for state insurance companies, Chaney said, also giving pet owners more options for local coverage and better regulation of what’s covered under Aflac, State Farm and various carriers nationwide.

“It will help those who want to get into that side of the health insurance business for pets,” Chaney said. “You could always buy pet insurance during this period without our bill, but it wasn’t very regulated. If you had a problem, you were on your own.”

These regulations may include training programs for health agents to provide pet insurance and require insurers to disclose what they can and cannot cover regarding hereditary conditions, as well as clearly disclosing which pets are ineligible for coverage. Chaney said.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s 2021-22 report shows that pet owners across the country spent nearly $2.6 billion on insurance and treatment, and nearly 3.9 million pets were insured, a 28-percent increase from 2020. Chaney believes the market in Mississippi could grow as well.

“We’re not talking millions, we’re talking billions of dollars,” Chaney said. “Say you insure a million pets in Mississippi. The average cost of that pet was $400 a year, which is immediately billions of dollars.”

Local agents can get 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 be licensed through Aflac or other nationwide carriers.

Brandt Galloway, a managing partner at Galloway-Chandler-McKinney Insurance in Columbus and West Point, said his life agents could add pet insurance to their offerings once the law is passed in July.

Brandt Galloway

“Depending on who offers the coverage, as soon as they develop the product, we’ll be licensed for it,” Galloway said. “I would assume that if any of these carriers started offering it that we would lose the relationship with them, we would be able to sell it.”

Jimmy Red

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 am currently researching to find out which carriers are best, which carriers and products are best for my clients And anyone can call me to know more.”

How it works with vets

Brittany Moore-Henderson

Brittany Moore-Henderson, a veterinarian and director of admissions and recruitment at Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said clinics typically do not engage with insurance companies. However, some companies may dictate which vet you use.

“As long as the client is bringing their pet to a licensed veterinarian, that’s all that matters,” he said. “So no matter which clinic they go to it (insurance) will not be taken. It’s a compensation thing.”

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

Kate Duffy, who insures her two dogs, Bruno, a miniature dachshund, and Bentley, a miniature Australian shepherd, said she gets her pet coverage through her renter’s insurance and pays about $37 a month to cover both. With the new law, he hopes more people will consider getting covered.

With his coverage, Duffy gets an annual wellness check at the vet, three shots and 85 percent of his expenses covered after his cut. When she 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 that pet insurance is something that people don’t really think about,” she said. “Two months ago, Bruno got sick, and it cost us like $600. So, it was great that we had insurance because you never really know what’s going to happen.”

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