Almost eleven years ago, Alan and I got a wee tiny Papillon puppy. We also got insurance for our new kid, just in case something went awry along the way. The entire time we lived in Scotland, we never made a claim.
This dog insurance company was founded in Britain, but they had branched out to America, so it was an easy transition when, a few years ago, we moved to Oregon.
Shortly after arriving, however, Ozzy got really ill, ended up at Death's door and was in intensive care for almost a week. He recovered and has remained a happy, healthy little dog ever since. We filed the one and only claim in ten years for this emergency, the company reimbursed a goodly portion of the bill, and everyone moved on.
Two years ago, the company changed carriers/underwriters. I will refer to these Greedy Bastards henceforth as the GBs. The first year they took over, the premium skyrocketed from $325 per year to nearly $450. I called, disputed this incredible rise--to no avail--and was forced to change the policy to a lower premium, with less coverage and a higher deductible.
Last year the GBs upped the ante again. The nearly $450 escalated to $580. I called again to complain. I believe at this point I might have mentioned what I thought of the GBs and their price gouging. Again, I had to drop the coverage to reduce the premium.
July 2013 arrives. It's doggy insurance month. I can honestly say, my jaw dropped when I saw the charge for this year. Heading toward $700 now and I am so outraged I can hardly dial the phone. This time I was told the increase was due to Ozzy's age (he had turned ten in January), and the possibility of future problems. Never mind that he's healthy, immunized, and only been ill once in all those years. I disagreed most vehemently, blustered about age discrimination, the shocking way this new carrier only cares about money and not the beloved pet...yada yada. The GBs could care less.
I consider my options, weigh Ozzy's health against the likelihood of future illness, talk to my sister, the BFF and anyone else who would listen to my harangue...and decide to cancel the insurance. My thoughts were--barring catastrophe--I could manage most vet emergencies myself. After all, the teeth cleaning, well-dog checks and immunizations aren't covered by insurance anyway.
Wednesday, this week, Oz was scheduled for his annual teeth cleaning. Because he's a tiny thing, I always do the pre-op stuff to make sure he's fit for the anesthesia and won't croak whilst unconscious. Going about my day, I'm surprised when I get a call from my vet. He says there are some problems with Ozzy's heart and he wants to get X-rays on his chest and do a few extra blood tests. He tells me not to worry, this is just a precaution, come at 3:00 to collect Ozzy and we'll talk then.
Stomach lurching, heart pounding. What does this mean? How did we go from an easy teeth cleaning to something that sounds pretty ominous?
Without belaboring the minutia of the 3:00 meeting, I'll just cut to the chase. Ozzy has a significant heart murmur, which on the X-rays show his heart is sort of...stretched on one side like pulled taffy. This weirdness is affecting his lungs where fluid is clearly visible in the left one. Results on the blood work won't be back from the lab until Friday (today) but in the meanwhile, Ozzy has to take these little yellow pills for his lungs.
The vet calls me this morning and I dash to the clinic to meet with him and discuss the diagnosis. Turns out, my poor wee boy has a serious heart condition that, without meds, will surely kill him. He has to take three different medications--for the rest of his life--though in a month, when we go back for an evaluation, there's a slight chance we can drop it down to only two. I've already seen a real difference in his appetite and energy levels with just the little yellow pills, so who knows how much better he will feel in a month? Sometimes what we mistake for age-related changes in an elderly dog...is really something else, and possibly treatable.
The three prescriptions, over the course of a year, will cost almost to the penny, the exact amount of the cancelled insurance premium.