AVMA alters pet-insurance position


Schaumburg, Ill. - The AVMA revised its policy on pet health insurance after the Council on Veterinary Service found GHLIT's white paper too prescriptive.

SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — The AVMA revised its policy on pet health insurance after the Council on Veterinary Service found the association's indemnity arm, Group Health and Life Insurance Trust's white paper "to be more prescriptive and specific than an AVMA policy should be," according to AVMA.

The council also said that the provision calling for veterinarians to educate clients about pet insurance implied it was the practitioners' responsibility to help owners decide how to pay for services.

Therefore, the group recommended the Executive Board change AVMA's policy, which it did.

In November, the Executive Board approved Guidelines on Pet Health Insurance and Other Third Party Animal Health Plans, which will serve as the association's only policy on pet health insurance.

According to the new policy, pet health insurance programs should allow animal owners the freedom to select a veterinarian of their choice and allow for referrals, allow each veterinary facility to establish its own fee structure and reimburse the animal owner, in a timely manner, for fees previously paid to the veterinarian, among other things.

The complete revised policy is posted online at www.avma.org; click on "Policy" under the reference bar and then on "Insurance, Pet Health."

Even with the new guidelines, the insurance issue remains a murky area for many veterinarians, muddied further by infighting between insurance groups, the AVMA and others.

In July, GHLIT announced a partnership with Pets Best Insurance, which irked competing insurance agencies, including Nestle Purina PetCare Co., as evidenced by comments made by Dr. Kent Kruse, vice president of Purina operations, to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN). Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) also expressed concern about the deal.

Pets Best Insurance founder Dr. Jack Stephens said at the time that the goal of the partnership was to educate veterinarians and consumers about pet insurance and was not meant to exclude any companies.

Along with the criticism AVMA has taken for seemingly promoting a private insurance company, questions also have been raised about the hiring of GHLIT CEO Libby Wallace, who is the daughter of Dr. Bruce Little, retired AVMA executive vice president, and a Pets Best shareholder.

The veterinary profession continues to try to bolster interest in pet health insurance, as evidenced by the new pet-health insurance guide for veterinarians released in January at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, titled "A Veterinarian's Guide to Pet Health Insurance."

The guide, put out by Brakke Veterinary Practice Management Group and commissioned by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI), is meant to "provide an objective overview of pet health insurance and to help veterinarians and staff answer basic questions about it from clients.

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