While recently chatting with a colleague about how my pup, Bowser (photographed below), was recovering from this year’s knee surgeries, we got to wondering whether the pre-existing condition facet of Obamacare applies to pet health insurance as well as human health insurance.
Though we were 99.9% certain that Obamacare only applies to human health insurance, I figured that, just for the heck of it, I would look into whether or not I could concoct a quick-and-dirty argument that Obamacare also applies to pet health insurance. Unfortunately for Bowser and my other pup, Lola (photographed below), our 99.9% intuition appears correct.
After research and deliberation, I could not think of a way to reasonably argue that the Obamacare pre-existing condition bit applies to pet health insurance. Though there are some animal rights laws in place,1 the law, right or wrong, still does not view animals as “persons.” In most states, the law considers pets to be personal property.2 And Obamacare, of course, concerns persons, not personal property. Not only does extending Obamacare pre-existing conditions to pet health insurance seem legally untenable, it also seems practically untenable.
Under Obamacare, the increased cost to insurance companies of providing pre-existing condition coverage is absorbed by risk-sharing / pooling. In other words, the premiums paid to insurance companies by healthy insureds who typically require less insurance benefits subsidize insureds with pre-existing conditions who typically require more insurance benefits. Risk-sharing / pooling is actually the basic design of all insurance. And, as evidenced by the fact that insurance has been around for hundreds of years, the model can work if the pool is large enough. Given the pool of pets currently insured is relatively small, pre-existing condition coverage under a typical risk-sharing model is doubtless a challenging proposition for the pet insurance industry.
All of this said, however, some pet insurance covers pre-existing conditions…you just have to be willing to log in some Google time to find it, and to pay a bigger premium once found.
1 For example, the Animal Welfare Act. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Welfare_Act_of_1966.
2 See, 4 Am. Jur. 2d Animals §§ 116 and 117 (West, Nov. 2013) (discussing owner recovery rights for pet injuries).