VIN News Recycles TCR’s ‘Moral Hazard Vets’ Insurance Reporting

It is a common practice in professional journalism that even competing news organizations credit each other as a matter of professional courtesy –unless one feels threatened by the other. In a three-part series of reports starting July 7, 2022, TCR offered coverage of Fetch By The Dodo (best known as Petplan but rebranded in light of its partnership with viral video animal blog The Dodo). The story was about its attempt to cut vet professionals out of coverage by declaring them a “moral hazard.” This led to our broader coverage of the issue at hand–the story VIN News has recycled and published one year later this week since our first story.

When TCR unearthed this story, it had real impact: Petplan withdrew the policy within weeks of our first report, which ignited a social media firestorm in the veterinary community.

There had never been any coverage of this issue — and VNS would not be covering it now — if not for our series last summer, which VNS did not cite.

Moreover, can anyone explain why there’s no mention of the AVMA, the vet industry’s main trade association, in a story about insurance carriers denying vets coverage? For more on that, see our report, “VIN News and the AVMA: A Cozy Relationship.”

To refresh everyone’s memory, here’s an excerpt from our report on 7/21/22:

The insurance company, Fetch by The Dodo also known as Petplan, is seeking regulatory approvals for policy exclusions which have the potential to turn the pet insurance industry’s most authoritative, impactful referral channel – the nation’s veterinary professionals – into an enemy of a viral video blog about animals whose founder was involved with People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).  Not surprisingly, TCR’s reporting on The Dodo’s “moral hazard” gaffe and attempt to slash veterinary professionals’ coverage has prompted a social media firestorm.

Last Friday, we reported that pet health insurer Petplan — now rebranded as “Fetch by the Dodo” to reflect its new partnership with The Dodo, the animal-loving viral video blog – had started rolling out an exclusion in its policy that slashes coverage options for veterinary professionals.

A leading pet insurance carrier’s filing documents – the forms an insurance carrier must file with each state department of insurance when a change in policy or rate is requested –  declared veterinary professionals seeking coverage when the provider is an employer or even “business associate” to be a “moral hazard/fraud.”

Why Would Petplan Slash Coverage For Veterinary Professionals?

According to Margi Tooth, the president of Trupanion – the one insurance company to go on the record opposing PetPlan’s move — actuary data shows that veterinary professionals tend to adopt “what we consider ‘lemons’ as their companions,” explained Tooth. “What this inevitably means,” she added, “is that their pets have a higher rate of utilization that the average pet owner.

Consumer Liaison Calls on Regulators to Reject Petplan Filing

Center for Economic Justice (CEJ)’s Birny Birnbaum, the consumer liaison appointed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to sit on the Pet Insurance Working Group and has now called on Illinois and Virginia to reject Petplan’s filings.

“We ask you to reject this exclusion for two reasons.  First, there is no showing that veterinarians, their family members or employees are more likely to commit fraud….”

More bad news for the veterinary profession: The organization one would expect to be most outspoken about the policy exclusion, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the largest trade association for veterinarians, also had no comment for this story. Neither Dr. Gail Golab, the AVMA’s chief veterinary officer, nor Isham Jones, the AVMA’s general counsel, answered requests for comment.

As for the pet insurance industry’s trade association, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the organization is staying out of the debate. Its executive director, Richard Faucher, who is also the founder of little-known pet insurer Toto, issued this statement to TCR:

“NAPHIA does not govern, prescribe, nor comment on any member company’s particular product filing….”

Update: The Dodo Implodes

Nine days following publication, The Dodo capitulated and said the insurer would be formally withdrawing the now infamous statutory filing.

Late Saturday, July 30, Petplan issued the following statement to the veterinary profession vowing to withdraw the policy:

After listening to those who reached out to us, we recognize that this exclusion had consequences on the veterinary community that we never intended. For that reason, we will not enforce the exclusion submitted to state regulators and will immediately begin the process to withdraw it completely.

Quite simply, there will be no changes whatsoever to your coverage, reimbursement or the manner in which you treat your pets.

Full email exchanges, insurance rate filings, other documents referenced here: The Canine Review – Documents – Petplan/Fetch By The Dodo Reporting


VIN News and the AVMA: A Cozy Relationship


VIN News tries to catch up with TCR

Dodo partner Petplan calls veterinary professionals “moral hazard”

Media elites behind Dodo, NYMag, Vox stay silent as insurance partner Petplan slashes discounted coverage for vet professionals

Pet insurance carrier attempt to slash coverage for vet professionals goes mostly unacknowledged as vet trade group stays mum