I've been working on an audiobook version of my book, "Pet Health Insurance:A Veterinarian's Perspective." I decided to include a sample chapter of the book entitled "Putting An End To Economic Euthanasia" in this episode. Perhaps you've never heard the term "economic euthanasia" before. It is a sad reality that costs pets their lives everyday in this country.
The good news is that economic euthanasia is a problem that is preventable when pet owners have a plan in place to pay for their pets healthcare - wellness care, unexpected serious acute illnesses and chronic, recurrent problems where the cumulative cost can be significant over time.
I hope this episode is able to shine a light on a problem we don't often talk about and encourage both veterinarians and pet owners to take steps to end economic euthanasia. Specifically, the potential role of pet insurance is discussed.
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Very few vets have the Trupanion Express software. This a tremendous problem for people of modest financial means. What can be done to change this?
Posted by: Jazherah MacMornna | 08/08/2019 at 12:05 AM
1) You can contact Trupanion and ask that their Territory Partner for your area call on your veterinarian to make a case for why they should consider Trupanion Express for their practice. That said, I know veterinarians who don't completely trust third party vendors with access to their client database despite the contract specifying limited ways the vendor can use this information.
2) You can ask your veterinarian yourself if he or she is familiar with Trupanion Express. If not, you can share the link to this blog post and/or the link to the Trupanion Express page on Trupanion's website.
3) Share with your veterinarian your concerns about being able to pay up front a large bill even if your pet is insured and see what options they offer for those situations. Your veterinarian may be willing to accept direct payment even without having Trupanion Express. Other pet insurance companies will also do this.
The one advantage to Trupanion Express, however, is the ability to let the veterinarian know within minutes if an illness is covered and how much will be reimbursed along with virtually real time direct deposit to the hospital's bank account when the patient is ready for discharge from the hospital.
Unless you've had a medical record review to determine pre-existing conditions AND your insurer has a claims processor available 24/7, they cannot give your veterinarian the assurances needed to work with you on a large bill and accept direct payment from the insurance company. IMHO this is the biggest need and shortfall of the pet insurance industry. Even if a pet is insured, unless the pet owner has access to a large savings reserve and/or a significant line of credit, pet insurance won't help them for catastrophic accidents/illnesses, which is ironic because that's the primary reason to purchase pet insurance.
That said, many pet owners with the means to pay large bills that have insured pets will tell you that if their pet hadn't been insured, they likely wouldn't have made the decision to use a significant amount of their nest egg or go into significant debt to pay a large vet bill. Again, the elephant in the room is knowing when you make the decision to go forward with treatment whether or not it will be covered by the insurance.
3) Start now developing your own strategy for paying your pet's healthcare expenses. Don't wait until a crisis occurs. Obtain a credit card you'll use only for pet healthcare. Ask your vet what options they offer. Open a dedicated checking/debit account and deposit a set amount into it each paycheck. Calculate your likely annual wellness care expenses and add your annual deductible if you have insurance. You could even add your annual premium along with a little extra. Break this down into amounts needed to be deposited in the account each payday. If your pet remains healthy, funds will grow in the account and you'll be in a better position when something major occurs.
If your pet isn't insured, buy a policy that will at least cover a catastrophic illness that has a lower premium. But, be sure you cover what you cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket. If you can't afford to pay a larger deductible yet, start with a lower deductible and as funds grow in the account or your premium increases, you'll be able to raise the deductible and lower your premium.
Posted by: Doug Kenney | 08/08/2019 at 08:48 AM
First, sorry I didn't get back to you. I've been in the hospital. Thanks for the advice.
By the way, do you know if any of the insurers offer a discount for Service Dogs? The puppy I'm getting will be trained to assist me with certain tasks. I've heard some companies do this, but haven't seen it on any of their websites.
Also, in case you didn't know, 4 Paws insurance is apparently defunct. At least, it appears that way on their site.
Again, thank you for this wonderful podcast and for your kind advise.
Posted by: Jazherah MacMornna | 09/24/2019 at 01:28 AM
Not sure about discounts to service dogs. That's something you'll have to ask each company that you feel comfortable with insuring your pet.
Posted by: Dr. Doug Kenney | 09/24/2019 at 02:22 PM