MetLife Enters Pet Insurance Business

Posted: 9 December 2019 11:18 pm

Veterinarian treating a dog.

In what seems like a reversal of the company’s recent contraction of its life insurance business, MetLife has purchased Indiana-based PetFirst Healthcare.

Since the mid-1980s, individual life insurance policies in the United States have fallen 45%. Despite MetLife spinning off its agent-based individual policy business in 2016, sagging profits have driven MetLife to diversify in what some may call a peculiar way.

On Thursday, MetLife announced that it has purchased Indiana-based pet insurance company PetFirst Healthcare LLC. The purchase, made for an undisclosed cost, is a foray into an insurance market that is one of the fastest-growing.

“We have proudly focused on developing products and services to meet the growing and evolving needs of pet parents across the U.S.,” PetFirst Chief Executive Officer Katie Blakeley said to WISH-TV 8. “With MetLife’s tremendous reach and resources, we see a strong opportunity to help more pet parents get access to pet insurance and alleviate the potential financial burden of a sick or injured pet.”

MetLife plans to offer pet insurance through its group benefits distribution channel starting the summer of 2020. Previously, PetFirst offered individual plans through pet shelters and humane societies.

Pet insurance is structurally similar to standard health insurance policies, where the insurance policyholder would pay an annual premium and would contribute a deductible or a co-payment at the time of treatment. Nationwide Mutual Insurance is the nation’s largest provider of pet insurance currently.

With only 2.3% of America’s pets insured, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, MetLife likely sees the recent acquisition as an opportunity for growth. “Today’s employees have an increasing expectation of their employer to support their lives holistically, and offering pet insurance provides our customers’ employees additional support against unexpected out-of-pocket pet health expenses,” Ramy Tadros, president of U.S. Business for MetLife, added to WISH-TV 8’s report.

Since 2016, MetLife offers life, dental, vision, disability, and other insurance in the US through employers’ group benefit programs.

While veterinarian costs are nowhere as exaggerated as health care for human patients, it may be wise to have a pet insurance policy. This is particularly true if your pet is prone to health problems, such as purebred dogs. While some insurers may not extend coverage for older pets and for pets with pre-existing conditions, pets that will require more care — such as bulldogs — can be insured at a higher premium.

It is important, however, to ask about specific coverage, as some policies may not cover genetic-based issues. Some policies, as well, are primarily accidental coverage, which may be beneficial in high-accident areas.

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