Gaby Hinsliff, a writer for the Times newspaper makes the amusing remark that in veterinary circles the dog is known as a “frequent flyer” because they eat almost anything with the consequential ensuing veterinary visit for “foreign bodies” in the gut or some other gastric health problem.
Her dog has recently been to the vet and the bill was enormous – “the cost of a small second-hand car” – but she didn’t have to pay; the insurance company did. If she had to pay would her dog have received the same extensive treatments?
Even veterinarians who are the best and who work to the highest standards of integrity will be tempted to explore the most cutting edge treatments when the magic words “yes, he’s insured” are mentioned.
The $64,000 question though is, “is the treatment really necessary?” Was there a less invasive but less profitable treatment available? There may not be any downsides financially but the patient has to go through the process. When a cat or dog is insured there are three main “players”; the cat owner, the vet and the insurance company. The patient is in the middle of it all without a say in the outcome.
When a cat or dog becomes geriatric there comes a time, regrettably, when even the most expensive treatments are merely prolonging the inevitable or “padding the bill” as Gaby Hinsliff calls it.
At the other end of the spectrum, judging by the proliferation of veterinary websites and online consultations there is a huge body of people who can’t honestly afford to take their cat or dog to the vet in a timely manner. Some cat owners do all they can – and I totally understand why – to avoid that dreaded vet visit. The cost is a major barrier. The uninsured pet is potentially under-treated. When there are choices to be made, pet owners paying for treatments at the vet’s clinic will often make decisions based (at least in part) on the cost – the opposite end of the monetary spectrum to the insured cat or dog.
I have described the two ends of the spectrum. The middle ground is best. The truth is there will always be distortions in health care due to financial pressures. Health is closely linked to money.
Photo (modified) by Brian Walker on Flickr