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AAHA Pet Insurance Seal of Acceptance

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The number of U.S. pets covered by health insurance has more than doubled since 2002. Encouraging insurers to offer affordable policies that will cover a greater number of pets, the American Animal Hospital Association is planning this fall to begin awarding a Seal of Acceptance for policies with high deductibles ($500 to $1,000) and meeting additional conditions.

Owners pay veterinary bills with a combination of savings, credit cards and health insurance. "If they choose health insurance, we feel it is very important that insurance companies offer a high-deductible policy, which brings the cost down so more people can afford the care,'' said Thomas Carpenter, DVM, and AAHA Past President.

Studies have shown people can usually pay vet bills in the $500 to $1,000 range. But many pet owners are forced into debt or decide to euthanize pets when faced with major veterinary expenses. Many medical treatments like joint replacements, laser surgery, chemotherapy, radiology and dialysis were not available for pets until recently. Costs can skyrocket into the thousands for a serious condition.

Seal of Acceptance conditions:

  • The high-deductible policy must provide equal coverage, benefits and exclusions as do other insurance policies offered by the provider.
  • Insurance policies must be underwritten by companies with an A.M. Best rating of B+ or better.
  • The company must be licensed in all 50 states, or in the process of becoming licensed in all 50 states.
  • A specific insurance policy, rather than the company, will receive the seal and policies will be reevaluated annually.
  • The owner of the policy must be able to see the veterinarian of their choice.

"One of the main reasons for allowing pet owners to choose their veterinarian is we feel this relationship is the cornerstone of care. It builds trust. If you interrupt that relationship, care can worsen,'' Carpenter said.

The AAHA Web site will offer consumers a guide to buying insurance to avoid making mistakes. "The main pitfall is we don't read the policy,'' Carpenter said. "There's a lot of variability in exclusions ... for certain breeds or for pre-existing conditions.''

Policies with the AAHA Seal of Acceptance will also be listed online. It is important to note that AAHA does not sell insurance.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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