OLYMPIA—For the first time, Washington pet owners will be able to rely on a well-regulated insurance market to cover the health care of their furry friends.
SB 5319, signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee, puts in place protections for insurance customers, requires disclosures about coverage, and establishes a training and licensing requirement for sellers.
“Pet insurance has been a Wild West of unregulated offerings, misleading advertisements, and arbitrarily denied claims, which have done a disservice to pet owners, to their pets, and to the responsible businesses trying to offer a good product but getting lost in the tumult,” said Sen. Derek Stanford (D-Bothell), Chair of the Senate Business, Financial Services, Gaming & Trade Committee and sponsor of the bill. “This legislation sets a floor for quality and consistency between plans in the pet insurance market, similar to the way Obamacare did in the health insurance market.”
In a signal instance of collaboration between regulator and industry in the service of consumer protection, several companies providing pet insurance testified or signed in in favor of the legislation when it was heard in committee.
The law is based on model policy developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. It allows easy comparison across plans by defining key terms and requiring consistent disclosures about coverage, including preexisting condition exemptions, waiting periods, copays, and other exclusions.
The bill also prohibits misleading marketing practices that portray wellness programs, which often cover routine care, such as annual examinations, vaccinations, and dental care, but do not cover more significant expenses, as insurance. Pet insurance policies, on the other hand, help cover larger expenses such as unexpected veterinarian visits, accidents, illnesses, emergencies, surgeries, and prescriptions. Under the bill, insurers are not allowed to require participation in a wellness program in order for a customer to purchase insurance.
Finally, the bill requires pet insurers to be licensed and receive training.
SB 5319 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.