Real life

Pet health insurance is a scam

14 September 2019

9:00 AM

14 September 2019

9:00 AM

‘The reason vets are so expensive now,’ explained the vet in her snazzy green uniform, ‘is because we can do so much more.’

I was standing in the waiting room of the veterinary practice with the silly name: the corporate, expensively branded chain vet I said I would never go to, but have to when the sensible Israeli chap I prefer is booked up.

I tried to say nothing but sadly this wasn’t possible. ‘Yes, but that doesn’t make doing more right, does it? I mean, putting wheels on a dog, is that right?’

She looked back at me askance. She had her RSPCA magazine on the coffee table. I suppose it won’t be long before it’s an offence under the Animal Welfare Act not to put wheels on a dog. You’ll be charged with failing an animal’s needs if you refuse to give a dog a heart transplant or kidney dialysis or a sex change if it squats instead of cocking its leg.

We were arguing because she had asked if I had insurance after I brought Cydney in shaking her head. I suspected a grass seed was lodged in her ear, which would be the second this summer. Last year both Cyd and Poppy had them within a few days of each other.

I asked this vet to check her thoroughly because she wasn’t shaking her head as much as last time and so maybe it was something else. She put Cydney on the table and began looking for her ear examination tool, which was hanging up right next to her. She ignored me pointing to it and wandered out the back. I could hear her asking her assistant, so I called out: ‘Excuse me! Your ear thing is here!’ The assistant came and took it and handed it to the vet as she came back in.

‘Ah! Thank you!’ said the vet, as though the assistant had performed a miracle. I was perturbed. ‘It was on the wall here,’ I said. She ignored me. ‘Now, let’s see.’ And she put the tool in Cyd’s ear. ‘No nothing in there,’ she said. But as this was a vet who had not been able to find her otoscope when it was right in front of her I decided to ask her to look again.


‘Nope. Nothing at all. I’ll check the other ear.’ And she did. ‘No. Nothing in that one either.’

‘So what else could it be?’ I asked. She stared back at me blankly and shrugged. In the end, I agreed to have her admit the dog and look more closely under sedation.

And it was then that the discussion ensued about the estimated £200–300 cost (a few months ago the same thing was £180) and whether my insurance would cover it.

As she extolled the virtues of expensive policies I said: ‘I’ve been into all this and I’m afraid I think it’s a scam. Before we all had insurance, vet fees were dramatically lower. Explain that.’

Which is when she said: ‘The reason vets are so expensive now is that we can do so much more.’

I gave up and left Cyd to have her procedure. A few hours later, the receptionist called: ‘She’s all ready for you to pick up and everything is fine.’

‘Oh, that’s great. So you found a grass seed?’ I asked.

‘No,’ she said. ‘We didn’t find anything.’

When I got to the surgery and they brought poor Cydney out, I asked the girl on the desk: ‘What now?’

‘Oh, I’m sure she’ll be fine,’ she said breezily, before announcing the bill was £135.

That night, cosying up to us on the bed, Cyd was still looking uncomfortable. The builder boyfriend held her and examined her. And after a few minutes he shouted out: ‘That’s what’s wrong!’ A tick was embedded in the cartilage of her ear. We photographed it before taking it out, and the next day I went back to show the vet.

The receptionist said: ‘Oh dear. And what tick protection are you using?’

‘No. That’s not the way this conversation is going to go,’ I said. ‘My dogs are bang up to date on their tick protection. They get the most expensive product on the market. And I check them daily. This tick and how I missed it is unfortunate. But what I’m here to talk to you about is how you missed it. And how come vets can do so much nowadays and yet in this case did so little?’

The vet came out of her consulting room and started apologising. She offered me 10 per cent off future treatments. I guess 10 per cent off a dog liver transplant or artificial leg is quite a chunk of money so I said I would take it, just in case I lose my mind.

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