How often have I scribbled posts on the virtues of pet insurance, only to be chastised by you, dear readers, for your inability to consider it a practical alternative for those who live paycheck to paycheck the way many of us increasingly do (gasoline, Summer camp and orthodontics, anyone?).

If the goal of pet insurance is to save your pet’s life in a crisis, you say, pet insurance helps you not at all when you’re standing in front of the receptionist with an estimate you must pay before services are rendered.

Consider my Sophie Sue’s recent visit to the regional specialty hospital. Though I received a hefty professional discount for its services, I was still unable to pay my [nonetheless sizable] bill in full without calling for backup (i.e., I borrowed money from a friend).

In this case, you inform me, pet health insurance would not have helped me. The only thing that could have delivered me from the evils of nonpayment, you argue, is a friend with a sizable savings account.

Well…not always…if what I’m told is true. I’ve been informed that some pet health insurance companies will work with pet owners so they can be pre-approved for a procedure and the hospital paid at the time the services are rendered.

If it works this way, I’m sure it’s a nightmare to organize. And it sure won’t help at midnight in the ER. But what else can the financially-overextended among us do?

Last week I had lunch with a Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) representative to discuss new insurance products on the horizon. She was sanguine on the prospects for high-deductible insurance from every pet health insurance carrier before too long. And she answered my question on your issues vis á vis immediate reimbursement.

It seems most insurance companies have indeed identified this as a problem. Though the delayed-reimbursement mode is currently the norm, pet health insurance companies are considering new ways to reimburse veterinary care providers more directly.

Ideally, your midnight emergency would involve a call to the pet health insurance company, which would assure your veterinarian that you are covered for up to X dollars for the kind of emergency on your estimate and that they promise to send a reimbursement check in X days.

Two problems: 1-Some vets don’t like it—it smacks of managed care and introduces more complexity into our billing practices (though we’re still getting paid in a timely fashion so I don’t know why we would mind). And 2-pet health insurance companies fear the fraud and administrative vagaries that may accompany this.

So you see, dear readers, life as a cash and credit-strapped single mom still promises to be difficult when it comes to pet health expenses, regardless of my pet health insurance status. Though I look forward to the innovations that will surely come and make things easier, for now I guess I'll still have to rely on the kindness of strangers...and my backups…