May 22, 2023
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee signed Washington state’s new pet insurance bill, Senate Bill 5319, into law in April.
What’s it mean for you? More protection and less confusion.
The bill, based on model legislation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, adds protections for pet owners, requires insurers to disclose information about coverage, and establishes training and licensing requirements for sellers.
SB 5319 establishes uniform definitions for terms frequently used in pet insurance policies. The defined terms include chronic condition, congenital anomaly, hereditary disorder, orthopedic, preexisting condition, renewal, veterinarian, veterinary expenses, waiting period and wellness program.
If your insurance policy includes any of these terms, the company is required to use the definition cited in SB 5319 and make that definition available on its website.
If you’re purchasing pet insurance, the insurer is required to let you know if the policy excludes coverage based on preexisting conditions, hereditary disorders, congenital anomalies or disorders, or a chronic condition. If there’s any other exclusions, the policy must include specific language to that effect.
Your insurer also must let you know if your policy has any limitations (like a waiting period, deductible, coinsurance, or policy limit), and if your coverage reduces or premiums increase based on your claims history, your pet’s age, or a change in your location.
After you purchase a policy, you have 15 days to change your mind, return the policy and get your money back — provided you haven’t filed a claim.
Policies may have exclusions for preexisting conditions, and the burden to show any condition already existed falls to your insurance company — not the pet owner.
Waiting periods aren’t allowed for accident coverage. Policies can impose waiting periods (up to 30 days) for coverage of illnesses or orthopedic conditions, but they can be waived with a medical examination.
Your insurance company can’t require a medical examination for a policy renewal.
Wellness programs are usually subscription-based and help spread out costs for vet check-ups, vaccinations, and, in some cases, necessary specialty foods. A wellness program is different than an insurance policy. Your pet’s eligibility for insurance can’t be tied to participation in a wellness program, and insurers can’t market a wellness program as pet insurance or market a wellness program while selling pet insurance.
Anyone selling pet insurance must complete the required training and become licensed by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024.
May 22, 2023