Do Any Pet Insurance Policies Cover Pre Existing Conditions – Despite the reassuring name of AKC Pet Insurance, The American Kennel Club is not responsible for the administration, marketing, sale or underwriting of this insurance – at least not directly. Instead, the AKC, the world’s largest registry of purebred dogs, founded in 1884, allows a private equity-backed insurance company called PetPartners (PPI) to sell insurance to new owners of purebred puppies when they register new additions after returning home from their breeders. , thereby using the AKC’s well-deserved branding prominence in exchange for a license fee.
A fine print disclaimer (see above) at the bottom of AKC Pet Insurance’s website (after a long scroll down the page) says in part:
Do Any Pet Insurance Policies Cover Pre Existing Conditions
“AKC Pet Insurance” is a marketing name used by PPI and is not an AKC business or insurance company. AKC does not offer or sell insurance plans. ‘AKC’ and its related trademarks are used by PPI under license; AKC may receive compensation from PPI.”
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In other words, if the owner of a new puppy who just registered the puppy with AKC next enrolls in AKC Insurance, AKC gets a cut. The chance of that is maximized by a marketing campaign where every time a person buys a puppy from an AKC-registered litter and submits the puppy’s AKC registration papers, the AKC has its PPI insurance partner “remind” the new owner to activate the insurance (explained by AKC Pet Insurance/PPI on a subsection of the website aimed at breeders – see above).
“If your puppy buyer forgets to activate,” AKC Pet Insurance explains to breeders on its website, “we will remind them of the benefit with an email one day after registration.”
I was recently reminded that the AKC allows PPI to sell AKC Pet Insurance to unassuming new owners of newly AKC registered puppies when my parents added a new Labrador puppy from a wonderful breeder in Maine who gave them their last lab sixteen years ago . For fees that neither AKC nor PPI would disclose when asked, the registration packets sent home to newly registered puppies include marketing from PetPartners/AKC Pet Insurance. And to put it briefly, AKC Pet Insurance does not provide the kind of insurance that you or I would or should expect from a deservedly prominent institution like the AKC, and therefore good breeders like ours are not to blame for assuming that it did.
AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung did not return emails seeking comment when asked about the AKC’s relationship with PPI or whether he was comfortable with PetPartners’ use of the AKC brand to sell pet insurance that appeared to overstate the value proposition in its marketing of “comprehensive coverage” of pre-existing conditions.’
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Until June 2021, PetPartners, Inc. (“PPI”) was the pet division and subsidiary of insurance conglomerate Independence Holding Company (NYSE: IHC). In June, IHC sold 85% of PPI to a group of investment bankers, who call their entity Iguana Capital, Inc.
Long before I started reporting on the pet industry, including pet insurance, I became a consumer of pet insurance, but it was frustratingly late—too late for coverage of Nellie’s knee injury. It sounds trite, but this wasn’t just any knee injury. Like anything involving Nellie, it was complicated and obscenely expensive. Although I had been informed and fortunate enough to have signed Nellie up for pet insurance when she first came home, many of the insurance products on the market, including AKC Pet Insurance, have limitations, exclusions and waiting periods. Nellie’s damage would not have been covered even if we had bought insurance, in other words. My discovery of Trupanion and having to face the fact that I didn’t enroll Nellie until she was more than two years old – multiple pre-existing conditions, and thousands of dollars in vet bills later – is largely what inspired TCR. How could I not have known, and why did no one else seem to know? And how did the cheaper, less reliable products win over some customers?
PPI’s fine print disclosure that AKC Pet Insurance only lends its name to insurance sold by a subsidiary of a non-pet insurance products conglomerate may not be immediately apparent on the AKC Pet Insurance website. But the headline statement at the top left of the website that AKC is “the only pet insurance company that covers pre-existing conditions” certainly stands out.
That’s because no pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions, including the AKC, as careful readers will discover if they notice the asterisk at the end of that headline, which takes a careful reader down to the bottom of the page where AKC Pet Insurance (PPI) wriggles out of that promise by disclosing, “Pre-existing condition coverage requires a 12-month waiting period.”
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Here’s how Nationwide Pets’ one-time chief actuary Lori Weyuker explained why coverage of pre-existing conditions by pet insurance companies is so unlikely, cited in 2018 in Contingencies
“Insurers in the pet insurance industry need to ensure that the ongoing risk is sustainable,” Weyuker said. Pet insurance, which is a purely optional purchase, “would run into huge anti-selection [meaning owners would wait for a pet to have a condition before buying] unless there is a protocol to deal with pre-existing conditions in pets” if it was business, she said. And the still-nascent pet health insurance industry is relatively unregulated — compared to human health insurance, which has pre-existing condition coverage generally mandated under the Affordable Care Act.”
States that if condition X occurs during the 365-day pre-existing condition waiting period, it is not eligible. Only “Processing that occurs
” is qualified. Thus, even PPI’s own fine print appears to indicate that it will not cover conditions that the sellers told TCR in three separate conversations with different representatives.
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And here’s the kicker: PPI executives refused repeated requests to discuss any of our questions during more than two weeks of trying to get help clarifying the policy language. Put another way, it’s remarkable that no one, including PPI’s press secretary, would discuss PPI’s coverage in direct conversation. As for PPI’s leaders, we were met with total radio silence. In other words, if some of PPI’s executives felt that AKC Pet Insurance’s policy fine print supported its marketing claims, including promises of “comprehensive pre-existing condition coverage,” those executives did not share those sentiments with The Canine Review. They refused numerous attempts to discuss specific issues about pre-existing condition coverage.
Above is a screenshot from AKC Pet Insurance in fine print. Again, no meandering language about the “waiting period”.
In three conversations with AKC Pet Insurance sales agents, we were told that the 365 day waiting period does
Requires the pet to be asymptomatic for the condition to be eligible for coverage. But then again, that’s not what the fine print seems to say.
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Of course, it could also be that we have misunderstood the fine print, and that the sellers have accurate information. But TCR has no way of knowing because no leader or spokesperson at PPI will discuss the policy in a direct conversation. Only the sellers will talk about it if we call them undercover. And again, what they say seems to contradict the fine print.
To hear how the company’s salespeople explain the policy to consumers, The Canine Review conducted these conversations without identifying us as the media. (The press ethics rationale is that this constitutes consumer reporting; the scenario is analogous to a restaurant critic who does not identify his affiliation. By default, once we identify ourselves as reporters, we are no longer in a position to experience the service or product as consumers.)
EB: That’s what I’m confused about because your website – I thought no pet insurance company covers pre-existing conditions ever. So I don’t understand— Agent: The majority don’t. We have recently updated all terms and conditions so that we could. EB: When you say there is a 365-day waiting period, what is the purpose? Agent: Right. Let’s say, um, I mean, in the allergies example, if my, if, for example, my dog had no symptoms of allergies for 365 days, she could conceivably be covered for her allergies. Agent: So, for the particular condition of the first year, if you submitted any claims, it will not be considered reimbursable to you. You must have the policy for the whole year, but when your policy is renewed with us, any future treatments or diagnostic measures recommended by your vet for the allergic condition may be considered reimbursable to you. And it will only be subject to the deductible and reimbursement rate you choose. EB: So even if, even if it says in her records that she’s been diagnosed with allergies, she can get coverage. Agent: Right. It would only take a year before we start paying it back.
Both David T. Kettig, who joined Iguana Capital, Inc., which bought a controlling stake in PPI as CEO in 2021, and Lane B. Kent, PPI president, declined repeated requests to talk about the policy.
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PPI would only provide an email from press officer Amanda Trcka, who did not include phone contact information:
Our product does not have a “cured period” meaning
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