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4 Things To Know About Shelters & Pet Insurance

May 22, 2024, The Association

Tackling access to care, the benefits of partnership & a couple of myths busted

In 2021, Doctor Jim Lloyd, a senior consultant at Animal Health Economics and the former Dean of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, published a study that projected a shortage of 15,000 companion animal veterinarians by the year 2030. United States pet healthcare spending is predicted to increase by 33% by 2030—also the year that pet population is expected to number nearly 102 million dogs and more than 82 million cats.

In light of these stats, it’s important to learn how all members of the pet ecosystem are tackling this situation. The Association’s Katherine Shenar recently sat down with Brian Jorgensen of MetLife Pet Insurance and Atlanta Humane Society’s Michael Robbins for a talk about underexplored partnerships that can change the way shelters help their communities. You can listen to the podcast and, in the meantime, check out these high-level takeaways (and yes, hear some common myths about pet insurance busted).

Just the Facts

…Well, just two really important ones that can help frame the conversation. As reported by MetLife’s Jorgensen, “Our research shows that pet parents are very worried about affordability as they face the rising cost of veterinary care.”

And what might be easing these worries? Michael Robbins shares a piece of data that may contain one solution: “We know that owners of pets with pet insurance are exponentially more likely to take their animal to the veterinarian to be able to provide the care that the animal needs and deserves.”

How Insurance Can Help Tackle Our Biggest Obstacle (Hint: One of the ways is legislation)

“We see it as a three-legged stool,” says MetLife’s Jorgensen when asked how pet insurance can address the access to care issue.

Sustainability: “This really is all about making sure that we’re offering support to providers, and making sure that folks have access to the right providers across the entire spectrum of care,” explains Jorgensen. “Ensuring we have the right number of vet hospitals—maybe a pet owner can find a ton of specialty clinics, but we always ask if there are enough places in the area that offer everyday care.”

Accessibility: “We try to support folks through our vet app, where you can do a virtual vet visit. For people who live in a rural area without easy access, this gives them the ability to engage with the vet right then and there.”

Affordability: Jorgensen reports that they’re constantly exploring benefits to help owners reduce costs through lower prescription and food costs, as well as “lower vet costs across the board.”

Additionally, MetLife and a variety of partners in the field, including Human Animal Bond Research Institute, are working on changing the law to improve access to care. “We moved forward a bill in Congress that is actually going to put pet parents in a position where they’ll be able to use their HSA dollars, for example, to pay for their vet costs and their pet insurance costs pre-tax.”

Now About Those Myths…

There are actually two big ones, shares Jorgensen, and they’re two sides of the same coin. “On the one hand, we hear people say, ‘Hey, my pet’s healthy, I don’t need pet insurance.’ Sure, while we all try to keep our pets as healthy as possible, we also all know that accidents and illnesses occur, and having pet insurance offers stress relief and financial protection.”

The other side of the coin? “People say, ‘My pet has had issues or has been sick, and therefore won’t be covered.’ And the truth is any pet can be covered. And while it may be true that certain pre-existing conditions might not be covered, there’s a whole host of things that can happen to a pet over time, all of which could be covered if an owner had pet insurance.”

The Point of Adoption

For almost twenty years, MetLife has partnered with shelters to offer insurance at the time of adoption. In this way, shares Robbins, “There’s piece of mind for the humane organization, knowing that pet and owner have the benefit of insurance, which also reduces the likelihood that the pet will be returned or rehomed.”

Robbins also suggests another great point of intervention—when pet and owner come into a community wellness clinic or low-cost clinic. “If we can say to them, ‘Before you head for your appointment, here’s what you need to know about pet insurance,’ or  ‘Before you see the doctor, here’s what you could be saving.’ That’s what we’re working toward. These are opportunities for us to get ahead of all of this.”

About The Association
The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement is a cohort of leaders on a mission to champion, advance, and unify the animal welfare profession.

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