For Today's Pet Owners, Health Insurance Has Become Critical

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The current economy may be driving even more pet owners to seek pet health care coverage. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) represents leading pet insurance providers in North America and in this difficult economy the association finds opportunity for the pet insurance industry to protect and insure more pets. Pet insurance has been available in North America for over twenty five years, still only 2-3% of insurable pets are covered.

At a time when our economy is in a crisis and consumers are struggling financially, credit-card companies in too many cases are gouging them, hiking interest rates on customers who pay on time and consistently meet the terms of their credit-card agreements.

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The current economy may be driving even more pet owners to seek pet health care coverage. The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) represents leading pet insurance providers in North America and in this difficult economy the association finds opportunity for the pet insurance industry to protect and insure more pets. Pet insurance has been available in North America for over twenty five years, still only 2-3% of insurable pets are covered. The market however is very strong and has grown over 300% in just the past few years. More pet health insurance providers, a wider range of pet insurance options, more competition, and now the economy, have all played a role in the positive growth of the market.

According to NAPHIA Executive Director, Loran Hickton, "The current economy makes pet insurance critically important for pet health and the financial wellbeing of all pet owners. Pet owners simply don't have the disposable income to cover emergencies or even routine pet health care. Many pet owners have relied on credit cards to cover emergency care, surgery and other unforeseen veterinary care. This has become more complicated and problematic due to the economy. Clearly, credit cards are no longer an option for many pet owners."

"Veterinary bills have been escalating. Invoices well over $1000 are not unusual. This is NOT a budgeted expense and thus most families are totally unprepared and without readily accessible financial resources. We need to find ways that pets can receive the best care possible for the conditions that they have while concurrently insuring that pet owners have the ability to make decisions from their hearts and not from the pocketbooks," according to Peter Weinstein, a veterinarian in California and Executive Director, Southern California Veterinary Medical Association.

Financial institutions are unilaterally reducing lines of credit, raising interest rates and charging additional fees for the use of credit cards. The United States government is stepping in to better protect consumers through tougher regulations on changing the terms and fees of credit cards. During a recent Senate hearing (Feb.09), Senator Chris Dodd, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, stated, "At a time when our economy is in a crisis and consumers are struggling financially, credit-card companies in too many cases are gouging them, hiking interest rates on customers who pay on time and consistently meet the terms of their credit-card agreements."

"While senator Dodd and members of his committee work on legislation to better protect consumers, the current economy and changing credit cards terms make pet insurance more important than ever before," according to Hickton. "As an industry, pet insurance now has an opportunity serve all pet owners and provide needed protection and value. Our pets have become beloved members of our families; certainly most of us want to provide them with the same care we would expect for ourselves. Pet insurance is the means to provide needed care. More pet owners are facing the choice of paying their utility bills or providing care for their pets. Some face a far worse decision: the excruciating choice between providing necessary care or euthanizing their pet."

Research by the American Veterinary Medical Association shows the pets are truly members of the American family. About 60% of U.S. households have at least one dog, cat, bird, or other companion animal. Many have more than one. There are more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S. and nearly 82 million pet cats. Pet owners spent $24.5 billion on veterinary medicine in 2006, more than double what they paid 10 years earlier.

For more information contact the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, call 1-412-319-7730 or visit http://www.naphia.org.

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