Employees May Soon Benefit from Pet Insurance
If the AVMA has its way, pet health insurance could be placed on a roster of other benefits in the workplace. (Pet Pulse Illustration by Mike Lloyd)
NEW YORK -- Employees may be able to receive health benefits not only for themselves, but their pets, too, if the American Veterinary Medical Association can sway legislators in Washington, D.C.
The AVMA, a non-profit organization that represents more than 76,000 veterinarians across the nation, is drafting a bill to amend Section 123 of the Internal Revenue Service Code.
The amendment would allow employers to include pet health insurance on a list of "cafeteria plans," or adding it to a list of available various health plans and benefits.
Last month, the AVMA's executive board approved its governmental relations commission's plan, which recommends that businesses offer pet health insurance for employees.
Now, the AVMA will focus on drafting and introducing a bill, as well as finding a "champion or someone to push for this bill and try to get some type of legislation passed," Dr. Mark Lutfchaunig, director of the governmental relations commission, said.
Lutfchaunig, who has spent the past few months advocating for this plan, says that rising pet insurance costs, coupled with a tough economy, have made this issue a tangible one for many pet owners.
Pet owners spent a total of $24.5 billion on veterinary care in 2006, a marked increase of 84 percent from 1996, Luftchaunig says, citing the 2007 AVMA US Pet Ownership and Demographics Source book.
While the rising number of pet owners can partially explain the drastic increase, Lutfchaunig says AVMA leaders still think this amendment is long overdue.
"This would allow people to get the proper health care for their pets when they get sick," he said. "Like anything, else, there will be unbudgeted items with our pets that can become very expensive. Pet owners should be able to afford health care for their animals."
A monthly insurance quote could be based on the pet's age, sex, previous health conditions and whether it is spayed or neutered.
The legislation would not make offering pet health insurance mandatory for businesses. It would, however, be listed as a pre-tax benefit.
PurinaCare.com, VeterinaryPetInsurance.com and PetsBest.com offer three of the most common health care plans for pets. The monthly quotes on these sites vary from as little as $15 to $100, depending on the pet's age and health history.
While the AVMA had hoped to introduce and pass the legislation this fall, during the 110th Congress, it will now have to wait until Spring 2009 to get the ball rolling.
Unfortunately, this delay will cost the organization the support of at least one legislator, U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), an AVMA ally who is retiring at the end of the year.
Luftschaunig says he expects other legislators will support the bill's basic premise with little hesitation. Getting them to jump on board with the bill's financial implications -- which will draw from federal taxes -- is a different matter.
"We're in very difficult budgetary times, and this proposal would reduce the amount of taxes taken in by the federal Treasury," he said. "Congress will require cuts in other parts of the federal budget to offset the income lost by this proposal."
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5 years ago
Many companies these days has a set amount of dollars that the employees can allocate among all the available benefits. That way an employee who would prefer pet insurance over long-term care insurance (or life insurance or vision benefits, etc.) would be able to choose and those without pets are not penalized because they would not be using the benefit and could put their money into other benefits.
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