Pet health insurance benefits for pets and owners


Dr. Wooten: Can you share any stories from your own experience about pets that benefitted in the best way possible because their health was insured?

Mr. Halow: When I was out on a street about a year ago in New York, I met this guy with this beautiful dog and we started to talk and he was telling me how the dog had just had treatment for cancer at a referral hospital, and he had pet insurance and it took care of all that cost. In New York that care almost hit $20,000 for that dog. The dog was doing great. I asked him how the dog responded to chemotherapy. He was like, great; they did an excellent job. You probably know that from your work. That was really a great story.

I have to tell you that if we’re going to keep this discussion real, I want to share with you my experience because I lost my dog Rye this July. A lot of people know that I talk about Rye a lot at conferences, and she was very important to me. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive mast cell tumor and I met with two different oncologists and we were talking about the treatment plan moving forward. My dog is very afraid of going to a veterinarian and she’s very hospital shy, so I had an option to take her to an oncologist and get treatment postsurgically for this mass. Then I spoke to another oncologist and he told me that he didn’t think I should do that. So, I had these two options. Should I or should not? I was really on the fence. Then I found out that the cost of that therapy was going to be somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000, and I have to tell you that that contributed to me saying ‘no’ to the treatment.

My dog passed away; it was a little longer than the timeframe that they had given her. That has always nagged at me. Did I make the right decision? I don’t think anybody wants to walk away from that kind of experience feeling like your decision-making was mitigated by money. It’s so funny … a lot of veterinary professionals don’t have pet insurance because often we get discounts at the practices that we work at, but nowadays there's access to so much care that’s beyond our little general practice, and we're racking up those $5,000, $8,000, $9,000 tickets. I know a lot of veterinary professionals now for the first time in their lives, they're taking pet insurance on and discovering it.

Dr. Wooten: Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m so sorry for your loss.

Mr. Halow: It’s always hard, right? It’s always so hard.

Dr. Wooten: You're a microcosm of a macrocosm of a greater problem within the industry, and there are so many people walking around with that exact same baggage on their shoulders and that’s something that pet insurance could really help with.

Mr. Halow: You think about the chronic drip, drip, drip. It’s like a Chinese water torture that all of us are experiencing every day at practice. Because almost always there’s that thing in the room about how much is this going to cost when we’re talking about services, and it mitigates the quality of the experience every single time. I hate to be reactive in that moment to that and I would rather all of us be proactive about addressing that problem, which would be can we agree, as veterinary professionals—Do we want to promote a particular insurance or a couple of insurance policies here? Do we educate our clients about that? Can we get in front of this problem instead of being reacting to it all the time? I think it might be a better choice for all of us.

Dr. Wooten: Absolutely, when you’re in that exam room and you’re already dealing with somebody who’s freaked out or scared or sad or angry about whatever is going on with their pets and then here comes the money discussion. Pssshh.

Mr. Halow: P.S. It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing. I was embarrassed. Here I am, what am I supposed to tell my colleagues? I’m not pursuing treatment for my dog. You’re ashamed about it. I know that where you work, I’m sure the care is superb, and if I told you no, my dog can’t handle the stress or whatever, you’d be like dude, we’ve got you covered, don’t worry about it.

Ms. Russ: It’s definitely a concern in the room and very much its interesting when you put yourself in the client’s perspective and you have that opportunity when it’s your own beloved pet, and it does remind you of what they're feeling and what they could be feeling whether you’re putting it on them or not. We definitely certainly assure our clients we are not there to judge them, we’re there to provide them options and then we will help answer the questions that they need to make their best-informed decision and one that they can have peace with it when it’s necessary. But ultimately if we can move that out of the discussion and allow them to come in and really hear what we're saying and be able to make those decisions based on what's in the best interest of their pet, and what works in their life and their ideals for their pet. That’s absolutely the way we want to go.

Mr. Halow: We talk about options all the time but typically option A is the best option and the only reason we have B and C is because we don’t have enough money for A. All of us in the room know that A is the better thing to do and B and C is more of a compromise than it is an option.

Ms. Russ: It carries more risk to do B, C, and D and, ultimately, we potentially could be delaying in instituting care or guessing more in those cases. That potentially then makes the prognosis worse.

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