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CA tests next frontier for health reform: pets

AP/Buffalo News, July 19, 2010

While states across the nation grapple with national healthcare reform, a new population of patients is gaining attention in California: Fido and Fluffy. Many feline and canine companions face healthcare challenges similar to those that confront humans. Veterinary care costs are skyrocketing as pet owners are offered a sophisticated menu of potentially lifesaving services, including kidney dialysis, sonograms and chemotherapy. U.S. consumers spent more than $12 billion on veterinary care in 2009, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Yet only about 1% of pet owners have health insurance for their animals. Those who do often don't understand what the policy covers and what it excludes in an industry that has faced little regulation or even attention - at least until now. Democratic state Assemblyman Dave Jones  has introduced a bill that would make pet insurers post detailed information on their websites so consumers can see exactly what is covered and what is not. They could then compare options, just as if they were buying insurance for themselves in a post-health reform world.