VPI, Pets Best Founder Receives Lifetime Award

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association honors Dr. Jack Stephens.

Jack Stephens, DVM, who started the North American pet health insurance industry in the early 1980s, has been honored with a lifetime achievement award.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) paid tribute to Dr. Stephens during its recent convention.

“The industry in North America has not just grown and evolved because of Jack’s contributions, it literally exists because of them,” said NAPHIA executive director Kristen Lynch. “The association’s executives came up with the award as a way to recognize him formally and thank him for his unparalleled contributions.”

Stephens founded Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), which made headlines in 1982 when the star of TV’s “Lassie” was enrolled as the first policy beneficiary. Within three years the company expanded from selling health insurance in California to signing up pet owners nationwide.

Today, about a dozen companies insure more than 1.4 million pets across North America.

Stephens left VPI in 2004 and the next year launched a competitor, Boise, Idaho-based Pets Best Insurance Services. He no longer is involved in the day-to-day operations at Pets Best but remains a board member and one of three managers.

“The proudest moment of my veterinary and pet insurance career is experiencing the camaraderie and cooperative efforts of the entire industry to further our goal of providing pet owners with the financial means to always be able to treat their ill or injured pets without concern for the cost,” Stephens said.

NAPHIA owes its existence to Stephens, Lynch said.

“His foresight in driving the creation of NAPHIA has helped the industry to become formally recognized by the media, by professional organizations and the like,” she said. “More importantly, his leadership in forming NAPHIA helped create and entrench a spirit of collegiality among our members that has positioned us to tackle challenges and opportunities that face us—today and in the future.”

Stephens became the first recipient of NAPHIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor that may not be bestowed again for a while.

“There really is no one else at present who would be eligible to receive such an award, so we don’t see NAPHIA handing these out regularly,” Lynch said.

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