Saturday, September 27, 2008

Those vet bills...

Lets talk about something serious for a bit. Vet bills are insanely expensive. Because there is no insurance*(there is but it's different - more on this later) for your animals like people have, there is nothing keeping the veterinary prices in check. Effectively vets have a monopoly and can charge $40 for a nail trim and if you don't have any other options, you're stuck paying it. Nail trims are easy, what about more extensive procedures like vaccinations, sutures, dentals, bloodwork, surgery, emergency care, hospitalization, etc etc etc? The prices get pretty damn awful.

Now I'm not blaming veterinarians here, running a clinic is not cheap. The economy is not having an easy time obviously, prices are rising and vet clinics have to keep up just like any other business.

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a plan in mind in case your pet should need unexpected care. Same goes even for routine maintenance - if your pet is healthy enough to only need a visit once a year you might forget how expensive the bill is until you see it in your hands again.

I can give an example from my own experience. One fine morning in February Perry came down with Hemorrhagic gastro-enteritis ("HGE" - blood in the intestines). We rushed him to Animal Medical Center in Manhattan and he wound up staying in the ICU for 24 hours recieving fluids and medication. We have no idea what caused it and it went away as quickly as it came. By the next day when he was home, you'd have never known that the little dog was so sick earlier.

I was hit with a bill for two thousand dollars. I never expected it. What helped me get through was Care Credit. I was approved on the spot and was able to pay the bill with it. The way it works is basically like a credit card. You charge your entire bill to your CareCredit account. And then CareCredit gives you three to six months to pay them off the full price. It is interest free as long as you pay the monthly bills on time. And believe me, it is easier to put two thousand dollars aside over the span of six months than coming up with the money up front. In fact I highly recommend this option.

Last night we took Perry to AMC again (in fact this is my inspiration to write about this topic). He didn't eat all day and in the evening he was hunched over in pain and started to scream. He did it several times within about twenty minutes, so we grabbed him and drove to the hospital. The doctor did not find a thing wrong with him. He was perfectly relaxed and showed no signs of pain. I asked to do an x-ray. The x-ray showed nothing out of the ordinary, no signs of anything. I had the vet go over him once again. Nothing. He was wagging his tail and happy to head out of the hospital. Made a total liar out of me. When we got home, he ran over and ate his brother's dinner and was happy like nothing happened. Apparently he just needed to go for a stroll. I'm glad that it was nothing (he was screaming like his insides were about to implode or something, I swear). But I'm now $300 poorer. With Care Credit, I will be able to make six payments of $50 rather than giving the hospital $300 out of pocket. Still stings but its easier.

Now lets talk insurance. I mentioned before that animals don't get insurance - that's not true. In fact pet health insurance is quite popular in Europe and getting more widespread in the United States. However the way is works is very different from "people insurance". In very basic terms, with health insurance for people you pay a certain amount when you go to a clinic - lets say $25 - and the insurance company covers the rest of the bill. I'm idealizing a bit, but that's the basics. With pet health insurance, you go to the clinic and have your procedures done. You pay the whole bill. Then you send a copy of the bill to the insurance company and they'll decide whether they give you money back or not. Sometimes they cover nearly the whole bill. Sometimes they only give a small fraction and it feels more like a discount than any real help. The coverage you get depends on your package, whether your pet has pre-existing conditions, etc etc.

Sometimes pet health insurance is worth it. Sometimes its not. I've thought about it a lot and personally chose not to go with it for my animals. For the amount of money I'd be spending per month (we have four pets), there is no guarantee how much of the bill they would actually cover, especially in emergency situations. I personally feel that its more efficient to take that amount of money every month and put it away in a seperate bank account where i can reach it whenever necessary.

However, i do urge you to reseach pet insurance to see if perhaps it will fit your situation. The Pet Insurance Review website has everything you want to know about pet health insurance, including people's personal insurance stories. There is a full list of US and Canadian pet insurance companies, as well as the right questions to ask and where to get insurance quotes. The site is not affiliated with any company so they should not have any bias. Read on!

In case you didn'catch them, here are the websites i mentioned, again:
-Care Credit
-The Pet Insurance Review


Liz (made in lowell) said...

Thanks for this very helpful information! Here's hoping your pets stay healthy :)

Ruth said...

Very informative post. I'm glad your pets are all well. :)

kim* said...

i need pet insurance bad. my vet never offered it to me either hmf...

Giftbearer said...

Very good article! I have both insurance and CareCredit on Carmella and it has made what could have been an impossible situation managemable. A friend almost talked me out of getting pet insurance but it was a good thing I got it anyway because when Carmella's bills started really getting high it was the only way I could pay for it, as my income is very low. The insurance I have is with a company called PetCare and they have quite a range of coverage. Check out for their rates and various plans.

Aroma Fields said...

Great post and your photos are adorable!

star said...

great post! i didn't even know about care credit. i'm definitely going to look into that! i live in queens and the nearest vet is SO expensive!

dreameyce said...

In my home, the big bills ONLY come when we're strapped for cash... having hidden money, not used for anything but animal health is IMPORTANT (Even if care credit/a credit card or something)

I'm glad 'drama king' was OK! Maybe it was just a gas bubble he got rid of!

Buddies said...

I must declare an intetest - I sell pet insurance. The advice here is sound. Shop around, there's a wide choice of policy out there. Always read the small print and ask questions if at all unsure.

Kylie B said...

Oh wow thanks for that, Yes Vets can be soo expensive!

Beth said...

You forgot to mention one thing. Most pet insurances flat out Will Not Cover pets with exsisting health problems. We have VIP insurance (the policy is covered by my husbands work) and couldn't get Crack covered because of her bacterial infection. Haiku we applied for the day we got her, to avoid denial because of a heart condition.
My thought being if you have a pet or intend to get a pet whos breed has a history of medical problems, even cross breeds (ie, cockapoos etc), look into insurance and get it as soon as you aquire your new pet. Don't let that breeder selling you a $1000 doodle tell you that all health problems were "bred out".
Our insurance covers vaccines and part of the visit too, so the monthly expense doesn't seem so pointless. Plus, imagine all the things that happen to puppies, hernias, surgery to remove socks, stitches from playing with the kitty...all kinds of things can crop up before older age ailments, especially something unknown and scary like with Perry.

Oops. I'm rambling again! Insurance frustrates me, since most people wait until they need it to get it, and by then it's too late. Thanks for bringing this important topic up!

jan said...

Well written post on not a favorite dog subject. I love my vet, but $40 for nail trim and $35 for anal glands is absurd when my groomer does it as part of her service for far less.

I think they would get more takers if the price was more reasonable. And yes, I know they have state of the art facilities, but nail clippers and fingers are hardly state of the art.:-)

I love your art work.