Senator: Mississippi pet insurance bill isn’t ‘ruff’ to understand

Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

More Mississippi dogs, cats, reptiles and birds may soon be insured against costly medical bills thanks to legislation that passed in the state Senate Wednesday.

Senate Bill 2228, by Sen. Walter Michel, a Republican from Ridgeland, would create “a comprehensive legal framework within which pet insurance may be sold” in Mississippi. The bill would amend Mississippi law to would allow health and life insurance agents to sell pet insurance, not just brokers licensed to sell property and casualty insurance.

The pet insurance industry had annual premiums of about $2.8 billion in 2021, up over 30.5% from 2020, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. About 4 million pets are insured in the U.S.

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Insurance companies are advocating for pet insurance bills across the country so they can offer consistent health coverage for animals, Michel said.

“When your health insurance agent is in the home of parents talking about selling insurance for the family for Bobby and Suzy, they can also insure Buddy and Fluffy,” Michel said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Dogs and cats would be the primary recipients, but some insurance plans also offer coverage to reptiles and birds.

“It’s not real ruff to understand, Senator,” Michel said, drawing a smattering of laughter in the chamber after a colleague asked for clarification on what sorts of procedures would be covered.

The insurance policies mostly cover ailments such as broken bones and cancer. Injuries that are expensive to treat, such as a torn ACL in dogs, might have a one-year waiting period under most policies, Michel said. The legislation does not apply to life insurance for pets.

Brokers would be required to disclose whether their plans exclude animals who have preexisting health conditions or other chronic disorders.

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney would have the authority to regulate the industry. After passing the Senate, the bill is headed to the House.