Like many veterinarians with a bugaboo about access-to-care issues for pets of all stripes, I really like the idea of pet health insurance. Though the veterinary industry at large is still suspicious of what insurance for veterinary expenses might mean for the future of veterinary medicine (reference veterinary incomes), I’m optimistically gunning for the pet health insurance market to take its place in my world.

Of course I hate the stress of having to fill out more paperwork. I hate having to remove small lumps to ensure their benignity before people can have their pets qualify for a policy. I hate having to fear the possibility of the onerous managed care reality that pervades human medical decision-making. But if it truly means my patients will get better care…who am I to stand in the way of progress?

And that’s the rub…will my patients get better care? Right now the answer is a resounding, “YES!” Those of my clients with pet health insurance policies have yet to deny the treatment regimens I’ve recommended—even if it means seeing an expensive specialist. They’ve ALL been willing and able to make up-front payments out of pocket and rely on pet insurance company reimbursements on the back end. I don’t believe these clients would have so graciously parted with their funds without the prospect of reimbursement.

As Christie Keith on PetConnection says in this week’s popular post on her pets’ health insurance policies,

“Even if I weren’t ahead cash-wise — and I am — I can tell you that my decision-making process has become much, much easier lately. I mentally whack about half off all Kyrie’s vet bills, and all Rebel’s covered ones (he has two pre-existing conditions that are not covered), and in these scary economic times, I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to not have to make my pets’ health decisions with my pocketbook instead of my heart.”

It’s that kind of human reaction to the presence of pet health insurance that I seek when I recommend that my clients do their homework on pet health insurance. In so doing, I believe I’m steering my clients to a new way of thinking about their pets’ health. Even if it doesn’t yield big fruit, as in Christie’s case, it provides the peace of mind required to make sound decisions about their pet’s healthcare…without having to rely on many of the financial entanglements they’d ordinarily confront.

After all, the budgeted expense of a monthly pet health insurance payment is easier on most people than the discipline required to set money aside—which is my preferred approach if you ask the financial analyst in me.

For the record, the realist in me also knows that neither savings or new monthly expenses are likely to hold sway in this economy. But our pets’ healthcare crises take no heed of economic times, unfortunately. Somehow, some way, those bills will get paid…or our pets will feel the brunt of it.

Though you may dispute it with some success, this holds true for veterinarians, too. As I’ve discussed ad nauseum on Dolittler prior to today’s post, we animal medical providers are not immune to the slings and arrows of outrageous vet bills.

Dispute that? Reference the thousands of dollars that flew out of my checking account earlier this year when Sophie’s brain tumor needed radiation therapy.

Reference my Vincent’s expensive upkeep, which I’ve detailed in a post here.

Sure, you can argue that the basics for veterinarians’ own pets’ healthcare are covered with minimal expenses, yet drugs and products are still expensive. And when our pets get really sick only the specialists among us get the best breaks (OK, and maybe the specialists’ girlfriends, too).

It’s because I get such great breaks and still have trouble paying my vet bills that pet heath insurance seems like such an imperative for my clients. If I can’t pay easily, with my better than average income and steep discounts, how can I expect my clients to?

And WHY don't I policy shop for my own pets? Let's just call it inertia. What's your excuse?

It may be that you’re unconvinced of the benefits of pet health insurance. You may be loath to shell out an extra X dollars a month for no certain return. But consider the rising cost of veterinary care (reference the previous post). Can you afford NOT to insure your pets?