when all you want is a gas station...

I offer you a story from the NAPHIA meeting in Pittsburgh. It's an example of how we pet insurance CEOs work together in a tight situation.

I had the opportunity to spend a few hours in my car with Steve Popovich, the CEO of Pet Partners (AKC brand of pet insurance). This was the first time I'd met Steve as he's just joined the NAPHIA board, and it seems that in the close confines of a car, we talked a lot about things you'd expect all the way there (I peppered him with questions about the AKC plan and Pet Partners) and on the way back, a lot of things we might not otherwise have done so - religion, politics, and dieting being some of the more unexpected topics we covered.

Gas station Despite being at the opposite ends of the scale on many things (except the dieting), we had a very enjoyable conversation and when we arrived back in Pittsburgh, Steve graciously offered to fill my car up with gas, which I gladly accepted. So, with the empty gas tank light on, I pulled out my Droid and my navigation app, which had successfully got us around up to that point, to guide us to where we needed to go.  

First stop: the first stop indicated was 0.7 miles from the hotel - excellent! But when we got to the location, there was nothing there (and I mean no gas station or even a building). A closer look showed that the location was actually the marketing arm of Hess, not actually a gas station, but still - no building?

Second stop: the next stop was in the other direction and when we got there, it turned out to be an airport park and fly. No luck there.

Third stop: navigation said go to Sams' Club on top of the hill nearby so we went up there only to find this Sam's Club didn't have a gas station and if it had, I realized we'd probably need a membership to fill up and of course, we didn't have one between us.

Detour: while we were up on top of this hill where there were lots of shops and people, we figured we'd scout out the area since there had to be a gas station amongst the many buildings. Actually there are none, zero, zip, nada.

Now the going was getting tricky as the next supposed stops were getting to be several miles away in different directions, rush hour was on, and we were losing confidence in the navigation and quite frankly, just gas stations in general. And of course, we were driving on fumes.

Fourth stop: back to the navigation... we picked the next stop on the list and headed there, only to find ourselves stopped in our tracks, gazing across the bridge at TWO lovely welcoming gas stations on the other side - except that the bridge had a large hole in it and was closed for construction. So cruel!

(now we're thinking back to that conversation about religion and god and the twilight zone...)

Fifth stop: So, we followed the detour - back on to the highway, take next exit right, turn right again and again and instead of ending up right back where we were, somehow, we  were on the other side of the highway at the gas station. (it felt like Escher's staircase in reality)


Except that the pumps weren't working. It turns out the computers had been down for the last 20 mins according to the very apologetic station attendant. Sigh.

We both turned and stared at the last remaining gas station across the road and prayed for success.

Sixth stop: Across we went and drove around the closed pumps to the back to find one of the two available and filled up. Yes!

The whole trip must have taken nearly an hour of driving around.

Meanwhile, no work was getting done. A conf call was getting missed. And Steve and I found out that we make a good team in difficult circumstances.

And if that's not a good sign for NAPHIA and pet insurance, I don't know what is!

PS. Steve sent me this email just yesterday: Hi Laura, My accountant just got a call from AMEX asking if the BP charge for gas in Pittsburgh “really happened”. I thought that was funny. Maybe our journey was not meant to end there. Regards Steve


North American Pet Health Insurance Month is coming up - get your entries in!


I can't believe it's that time again but Pet Health Insurance Month is coming up in September! The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) is sponsoring the event across the US and Canada.

Time to dust off your story telling submit your pet insurance claim stories and nominate your favorite veterinarian for some great prizes, including $1,000 for you and a grant for your veterinarian. You can do it!

Heimdall The 2009 pet insurance story was Heimdall's battle with a rare type of pneumonia that cost more than $10,000.

Last year's winning veterinarian was Dr. Wayne Ingmire of Chicago, IL.

Check out the details over at NAPHIA.org.

Laura Bennett FSA CFA is the new Chair of NAPHIA's Board of Directors

Naphia NAPHIA is the North American Pet Health Insurance Association and at our recent meeting in Las Vegas, I was voted in as Chairman of the NAPHIA Board (Chairman, Chair, Chairperson - it's all the same to me.)

I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead NAPHIA's development at this stage of the organization's maturation - there's a lot to do!

We spent our last meeting setting NAPHIA's long-term strategy and short-term tactics for the next year and have some interesting projects on the go. As part of that process, we spent a lot of time prioritizing our efforts this year to be the most effective for our membership and thus our membership's policyholders, as resources are always tight.

Right now, the NAPHIA board members are focused on two areas:

  • helping the industry process claims faster and with less cost through electronic interface with the veterinary practice management software;
  • benchmarking ourselves against our NAPHIA peers on areas such as pets covered, operational expenses, and growth. Once the data is pulled together (and that's what the project is all about - defining the measures and how they are pulled together by a third party) , each NAPHIA member company will be able to see where we as individual companies compare to the group as a whole and where we can improve the pet insurance experience for our customers.

Our next meeting is in early May in Boise, ID so there's a lot to do before then. Back later!

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